One Day Your Kid Will Turn Six
A couple years ago I was invited to a child’s Birthday BBQ.
I know, and it’s totally on-me for actually going. But I’m curious about how people I knew at their drunkest are doing as parents. And it’s not that I don’t like children, it’s that I don’t like groups of children… or groups of parents…or groups for that matter - but I digress…
I go to this birthday party and I learn something very interesting about my friends.
Since my generation is such late bloomers, we are surprised that we are finally able to talk about the curse of home renovations, the absolutely overwhelming process of buying a new car and feeling awkward about hiring assistance, “Can you believe we are old enough to have assistants?”
Yes, I do. I need one desperately. You’re lucky you can afford one. Your #humblebrag isn’t lost on me. You knew this day was coming. And you knew that you were going to love it. So stop pretending that you’re shocked that you’re moving up in the world. Privilege is something to be aware of not ashamed of — but that’s a different blog post.
These humble-brags don’t stop at home ownership, new car purchases and job promotions. They are at their most dire when they are talking about their children. My friends think that their kids are so lame, but they can’t stop talking about them.
Don’t get me wrong, they love the shit out of them, it’s just they’re proud of their kids ‘average-ness’. “Lil Johnny just flunked his swimming class, he’s a tadpole again this year, I’m glad because he has to learn that things aren’t just going to come easy.” “Susie is still working on her yellow belt, she’s struggling with all her friends moving up without her and I keep telling her, she’s only four, she should be happy with how much she’s accomplished.” I get that it’s a reaction to the countless articles about how helicopter parenting ruined whole generation of kids with endless praise. The want their kids to grow up like them, with scraped knees and Stand By Me-like adventures under their belts.
No doubt raising children is an immersive act. And that being a parent is one of the most difficult and rewarding experiences that we can participate in. Tomes have been written on the subject, popular culture is obsessed with the experience. So even if you’re playing up your child’s average-ness, I can still hear your obsession with your child. One, because no matter what you’re saying you’re still talking about your kid. Two, because you haven’t told me anything real about yourself. And third, you haven’t asked after me.
This is torture for most childfree people observing their peers perform parenthood at child-dedicated functions. They don’t care about what’s happening in your life because they can’t relate to it. And we’re too smart to fall for the “anyway, kids are so boring, what’s going on with you?” because the moment we open our mouths we know your eyes are on your kids and we’re going to get cut-off with, “Oh, hold on a second. I think Ashley has to pee.”
I too have a job that is so immersive that when I’m in public I have a hard time talking about anything else. But it’s because of my lack of community amongst my peers that makes my experience unique.
Parents talk to other parents and can relate to what they are saying, or they are information gathering. I get that because I can talk with my writer friends about insane details of a movie for hours. When we talk to someone who is doing something that is polar opposite to what we are doing, it’s shut-down mode. The difference between the child-free and a parent is their eyes dart over to the responsibility. And because kids are in a constant state of needing something, boom, Auntie G’s life is fun and glamorous and easy and Tommy is thirsty.
I have lost many good friendships because of the fact of social behaviour. However, apparently this is just temporary.
At that same BBQ I was reunited with that friend who had kids before everyone else. Her youngest is now six-years old and she greeted me with a strength and warmth that made me cry. I’m not joking. She made me cry just by saying ‘hi’ to me. She mentioned that she had been busy, and was sorry she wasn’t in touch, but had been following my adventures on Facebook and couldn’t be prouder of everything I have accomplished. Cry. Holy Shit. Cry.
This simple act of acknowledging the fact that I exist as a person, with my own struggles and my own commitment to my life’s work was so rare in this situation that it made me an emotional wreck. All she simply said was, ‘I see what you are doing, and it is so important.’ And in that moment, she made me feel like I was dedicating my life to something that was unique.
When I asked her how she was doing she didn’t downplay a thing. Her kids are fine, work is fine, she is happy, she’s still in love with her husband, the house is good. She is content. We chatted and caught up, asked each other questions. She never stopped being in awe of me and I never thought her parenthood was boring. I even interacted with her adorable but very shy kids and they made me laugh and I made them laugh.
And then I put two-and-two together. Her kids are in school full time. They are becoming more and more independent. They don’t need her as much, and she doesn’t need them as much. She is returning to the friend I made all those years ago after the focus on love, marriage, house, car and kids. She is going back to being herself. And that behaviour that the rest of the group is going through is only a temporary transition — the adolescence of parenthood.
So, my warning to those with children under five is twofold: watch out, one day your kid will be six OR don’t worry, one day your kid will be six. Just be sure that before that happens, take your child-free friends out for a cocktail or two. Talk to them about what is happening in their lives and realize that it’s just as important as your childrearing. And that way you don’t have to downplay it to make them feel like they aren’t missing out on something. Because I assure you, we don’t think that we are.