I just was not done with the self-righteousness and the possible hypocrisy. I had to pretend that I am a saint and write a damn
Most of my local friends have kids, so I am often subjected to other people's parenting. When I was pregnant with Connor, I thought this was kind of cool. The idea of having a network of other parents and other kids around was nifty, like some sort of communal hive wherein the females would trade recipes and diaper-rash cures while the kids ran around holding hands and sharing toys in a series of cute moments. (Perhaps I confused “communal hive” with “sappy Laura Ingalls Wilder TV spinoff.”) I was very excited. I think this lasted all of… oh, say six months, from when Connor was 10 months old until he was maybe 16 months old. Before that, I was too overwhelmed with new-mommyness to deal with people outside our little family much, and after that I was just flat horrified with modern parenting.
I've done childcare professionally for a number of years, and I made sure to learn about taking care of babies and toddlers before I popped one out. I did this. I made decisions based on information I gained from reputable sources, and then I put them into practice and kept them on the rotation. (Unless they did not work, of course.) I spend time with my kid. I try to be consistent with him. I listen to him, and I respond so that he's confident he has my attention. I talk to him and read to him and feed him reasonably healthy food and bathe him regularly. I buy him nice clothes and wash them regularly. I make valiant efforts to keep our house clean and non-hazardous, even if we'll never see tidy or neat in this lifetime. I make sure he knows the rules and can understand why they're in place. (“See, if you run in the house, you run into things and get hurt.”) I make sure he gets enough sleep and water and exercise and quiet time.
It sounds like a lot, and who am I kidding, it is a lot, but it's not unbearable. It's not pointless or a waste; my toddler is not “too young” or “too stubborn” or “too dumb” to understand our home and his place in it. He's not “at that age” where discipline doesn't work, because there is no such age. He's not “in a phase” where we just have to let him eat crap and stay up all night and scream and scream, because that phase does not exist. No child I have ever spent extensive time with (and believe me, there have been a lot) has ever actually gone through any sort of stage or period or phase or age that required just giving up and not caring. There are disciplinary techniques that do not work; there are children who need more or less attention; there are ways and means of caring for a child that are not really effective; there is never an excuse to just say “fuck it” and ignore or mistreat your kids.
So (after a slight digression about what a model parent I am, because of course for all this righteous annoyance to work, I have to be a saint myself) why do all the parents I know seem to operate on these assumptions? Why is the prevailing attitude of parenting one that says, “God, kids are really just hellacious little heathens and there is nothing I can do about it”? Is it suddenly uncool to be interested in your kids? I was berated (berated!) by my mother-in-law once, when she asked me what I wanted for Mother's Day and I said that I wanted to spend the whole day with Connor. Am I supposed to be begging and pleading for someone, anyone, to take my kid for a while so I can do stuff for me? Am I missing a point, somewhere, when my friends start the never-ending refrain (“I would kill for just two hours without my kids, they drive me nuts, why can't I have a break”) and I do not feel the same way?
I don't think so. I don't think I'm the one who's getting this wrong, somehow. People keep telling me that it's different for me because I'm “lucky,” because I “got a good kid,” as if Connor just popped out all disciplined and intelligent and well-behaved and sweet. Well, yeah. He did start out pretty great. So do most kids. The continued greatness doesn't just happen, though. Parenting is not a luck-of-the-draw proposition; it takes work and energy and time. It takes attention and focus. It takes interest and love and regularity. It takes commitment. It's something you do, not something you either have or do not have.
My friends bring their kids over when they come to visit, and I end up feeding the kids because their parents “don't want to” go get them food when it's dinnertime. Is it any wonder, at that point, that the kids are screaming and fighting and making messes everywhere? Maybe your kids are annoying you because you are too disinterested even to feed them. Maybe if you take care of your kids and give them attention, they don't live in a state of near-meltdown. I recently quit babysitting for a three-year-old whose mother never bathed him because she “didn't have time.” She only saw him for about 15 minutes a day — took him straight to daycare in the morning, transferred him to me at 1:00 PM, and took him to a babysitter at night where she left him until well after he was asleep. This woman was constantly complaining that her son would not potty train, saying that he was “in a defiant phase” and “at a resistant stage” and these were the reasons he wasn't potty trained. Well, no. Your son is not potty trained because you have not bothered to train him. Your son is not potty trained because you have not even taught him what a potty is, because you are too busy wheedling people into watching your kid to spend a couple of hours teaching him to flush.
Is this normal? I am very curious about this whole thing. Is it normal to let your four-year-old daughter pull down her pants and take a shit on the slide at the park without bothering to walk her to the potty or clean up the mess (on her or on the slide) afterward? Is it normal to allow your 13-month-old son to dismantle a computer in somebody else's home, and an hour later complain about how he “gets into everything” and you “don't know why”? Maybe my mother is right. Maybe I am too uptight. Maybe my child is going to be scarred for life because I taught him to put his toys away and not throw things at people. Maybe all this textual disapproval and scathing judgment is inappropriate. I am pretty sure it's rude at the least, but it's so hard to say nothing. It's a good thing that LiveJournal exists, huh?
It's really long and probably both annoying and boring. Sorry.