Deep dark parenting confession: I don't like other people's children.
Now now, let's not be hasty. There are plenty of great kids out there. I love some of my friends' kids almost as much as I love my own, and I've met a handful or three at the grocery store that seemed like pretty alright cats I could tolerate at a barbeque for like, a whole half an hour.
Deep dark parenting confession: I don't like parenting other people's children.
Imagine with me, if you will, a hot afternoon at the local pool. You've brought your child/ren and yourself there to cool off and practice some swimming, and SWIM YOU WILL. Nearby, a herd of unattended children of similar age are flopping around in the water, some of them passably well and others concerningly not well, but no one is really watching so what the hell, it's probably fine.
As the only adult in a fifty-something foot radius, they immediately latch on to you like thirsty leeches in a blood drought, desperate for contact with some kind of authority figure who might give two craps about their lives.
"WATCH ME SWIM! I CAN DO A HANDSTAND!" And you smile indulgently and nod. Yes, yes, children, that's all very nice. I, a random stranger, am impressed and amazed. Now please try not to die near me while I supervise the only one of you I actually care about.
Of course it doesn't end there, because children are morons who don't know how to take a hint. Your polite half-attention is met with increasing demands. "COME OVER HERE." "DO THIS." "IS THAT YOUR KID? THAT KID IS SO GAY." "I'M GOING TO SPLASH YOU IN THE FACE HA HA."
And this is the point in the scenario where I become torn, because I generally believe in being kind to children, but I am not game to sit around and make nice with a bunch of little shits. Is that mean? Maybe that's mean. Maybe I am a terrible, horrible, no-good person, but I don't want to hang out with your precious brat in my spare time.
I am kind to other children, always, for I hope that another parent would always be kind to Jude. I have no problem laying down the rules to ANY child in the name of safety. But am I required to spend time with your awful child, unattended or otherwise, and make out like I'm having the time of my life? No, no I am not.
How far is one obligated to go towards tolerating obnoxious children before shit goes bad? Do you give a few gentle remonstrations? A firm, motherly reminder of the rules? YELLING? CAN WE YELL NOW? CAN YOU GET AWAY FROM ME? BECAUSE YOU'RE REALLY QUITE HORRIBLE, AND KIND OF AN ASSHOLE.
...And also six.
To complicate matters, there's always that ONE parent at the park that shows up and plays with every lonely child and manages to look fucking happy about it, like it's a cool summer breeze and not miserable toil beyond all belief. LOOK, I GET IT, YOU'RE A MODEL CITIZEN. I DON'T DESERVE TO LIVE IN YOUR COMMUNE. MESSAGE RECEIVED.
(I have a lot of yelling in my heart. Bring headphones. )
I'm one of those hyper-liberal hippy types, so even though that guy is making me look bad, I'm not opposed to the idea that we're all part of a greater community of parents. In a dream world we would all patiently minster to unattended children, providing gentle guidance in the rules of society.
However, in the actual world where I live this concept is infinitely more complicated. Parenting stray children is: A) generally fairly ineffective on a long-term basis, B) occasionally not appreciated by the actual parent, should they deign at some point to make an appearance in the general vicinity to threaten and/or assault you, and C) NOT MY IDEA OF A GOOD TIME.
It takes a village to raise a child, but what if the children in that village are jerks? Are you allowed to tell them to get lost? BECAUSE I NEED TO KNOW. PREFERABLY BEFORE I GO TO THE POOL TONIGHT. GO HOME, CHARLIE.
The Grumbles is both a loving human mother and a filthy potty mouth, because yes! Those exist! She shares stories and photos from her life at www.grumblesandgrunts.com, and you can find her on twitter making jokes about butts as @thegrumbles.
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