It has been one of those weeks.
I have a million things buzzing around in my mind at the moment-career path, relationships, lines for a play, and the constant wonder about what day is it-but there is one thing that has been on my mind a lot lately…
And more specifically-their PARENTS.
To assist me, the ever talented Robert Downey Jr. will help me narrate with his diverse facial expressions:
What was I talking about? Oh yeah. Children. And their parents.
A) Not Everyone Wants Kids
Every married couple ever has been asked that age old question-“When are you going to start having kids?” I have been guilty of asking it myself even! It’s a basic question, and most are simply curious. It’s the answers a couple gives that people feel they have the right to judge. Family, friends, fellow married with children couples and even single friends just smile when a couple says “We are waiting a few years,” or chuckles when a couple says “We actually aren’t planning on having kids ever.” Those couples are then bombarded with statements like “Oh, you won’t be able to wait that long!” or “You will change your mind!” That might be true. A couple on the five year plan may break down by year two, and the couple that claimed they would never reproduce welcomes a daughter into their lives five years later. But. Not. Everyone. Wants. Kids.
Some couples want to focus on a career or travel or have five dogs in lieu of kids. Is that what I personally want? No. Is that what you personally want? Maybe not. But is it wrong to feel that way? No. As the Apostle Paul once said, not everyone should get married. Same goes for child-bearing: Not everyone should (or wants) to have kids.
B) Not Everyone Even Likes Kids
I know this may be hard to believe, as an individual who loves children, but not everyone likes kids. Maybe they didn’t have much experience with children because they didn’t have siblings growing up or never baby sat. Either way, like how not everyone likes dogs or how some people really dislike telemarketers, some people really just do not like kids. Some day, those same people may change their tune, but for the time being, if a friend invites you to her wedding and requests to not have children present: don’t be offended, and realize she is just trying to be respectful to her other guests. Will having five kids at a wedding make for a non enjoyable time? Probably not…unless those kids are bothering other guests in a way that goes above and beyond the understandable curiosity and wind up being disruptive and disrespectful to the guests. Which leads me to my second next point…
C) The Fine Line About Boundaries
I currently work in retail, and I can’t tell you the number of times where I have become frustrated by the families that come in. Most of the times, I am not frustrated with the kids, but with their parents. If I was a kid, and I was going along on a boring errand, I’d have a hard time resisting the urge to explore and play to my heart’s contentment. I have no problem with kids playing hide and seek among the dresses, or making funny faces at themselves in the mirrors.
I don’t mind the kids that ask me questions or even the kids who sing and dance on the stages near the rooms. When I get frustrated is when this behavior escalates to a level where it is bothering other customers or they are putting themselves in potential danger or downright not being respectful…and their parents COMPLETELY IGNORE WHAT THEIR KIDS ARE DOING.
I remember one time I sitting at the front desk, greeting customers, when these three kids wandered up to the front by the heavy metal and glass doors. One girl, smaller than the other two, was trying to run out the door (trying to get away from the other two kids, who didn’t know her, who were picking on her and trying to pick her up and pushing her down…the first thing that bothered me, but I stayed in my chair). I just knew someone’s fingers would get pinched in that doorway, and was worried that little girl might get through both sets of doors and wander into the parking lot where a car might not see her and hit her. So I calmly went into maternal mode, and walked over to the doors and stood between the kids and where they were trying to go. I said, “Come on, I don’t want you to get hurt. Let’s go back over here.” It was at that point, the point I intervened, that the mother of the older two kids finally made an appearance and an interest in her kids. She had been on the cell phone, looking at dresses, COMPLETELY IGNORING HER KIDS. I could understand if she was discussing things with the bride regarding her daughter’s flower girl dress-but no-the bit I overheard she was talking to someone not even going to the wedding and about their weekend plans. The second I stepped in, she then walked over and got herself involved (and left shortly after, giving me attitude when I asked if she planned on trying anything on-giving me the impression she was either embarrassed or offended I told her kids to do something)
This is the kind of thing that I see on a regular basis, and it upsets me. I can understand if you can’t find a sitter, or want your kids their because their aunt is getting married and they are just as excited as you. More than okay! But! Don’t ignore your kids. If you want to look at pretty dresses and not have to chase your kids around the store, bring them toys or coloring books to keep them preoccupied when they lose interest or make it known you won’t tolerate misbehaving. If you discipline your child for being unreasonably naughty, I won’t think ill of you-I will respect you more than if you just let them run amok with no boundaries what so ever.
On that note, remember again that not everyone likes kids. And as much as I would love a kid walking up to me as I try on my wedding dress and tell me I look like a princess, not every bride wants a three year old’s opinion…especially when she wanders into her fitting room and tries on her shoes. Some will find it adorable and endearing-while others will get upset with their consultant, wondering why kids are running about at a bridal shop like it’s a playground. Boundaries people. Boundaries. Respect and boundaries.
D) Your Kids Aren’t As Cute as You Think They Are
Facebook and social media sites are certainly changing the way proud parents show off their mini mes, what with Instagram, smart phones, and every single convenience of the digital age. You don’t even have to attach photos to an email anymore-just upload a picture of little Helga on her first trike to your news feed and Aunt Lydia in Spain or Grandma in Colorado can see it right away. No one has to wait for family reunions to see photos from the past year-they can see the progression of their nieces and nephews in real time. I often wonder what these toddlers will think when they are our age and have much of their life documented on the web:
With all that said, the modern age has changed the way parents go about this…and possibly for the bad. Now, I admit that I enjoy watching a cute video of my friends’ kids as much as the next, and I get excited seeing photo updates like their first jump in a pile of leaves or video of their first, hearty laugh…
Or they have mastered this at age one…
I’d be lying through my teeth if I said I didn’t enjoy it…to an extent. Like with anything, “everything in moderation,” and not all, but some of my friends seem to think six or seven photos a day is moderate. Granted, my cousin takes a lot of her daughter-but that doesn’t bother me as much because a) she takes actual good photographs of her daughter and b) her daughter is sensationally adorable. Not to be mean, but not everyone’s kids are extremely photogenic…or to put more eloquently, their kids aren’t caught in an extremely photogenic moment. I get it. You are excited, you want to show the world this little person you made with the assistance of their spouse, and family love being caught up on the latest. Just remember not everyone loves your kid like you do. As much as I hate to admit it, I’ve changed my settings for a few friends so I don’t get their news feed updates anymore. I like staying up to date with my friends’ lives…but seeing every second of their children’s lives is exhausting, which brings me to my final point…
E) Don’t Forget You Aren’t “Just a Parent”
Being a parent is a wonderful calling to fulfill, and it takes more love, sweat, tears, and hard work than almost anything else. You sacrifice your sleep, your time, and your well being for this little person you helped bring into the world, and that is quite admirable, and something I highly respect. Something I’m not ready to do. Something I sometimes can’t imagine how people do it and do it as well as they do.
With that said…remember that being a parent is not your only role in life. It is a big part, and should be a big part, don’t get me wrong, but don’t forget or neglect other roles-being a loving spouse, your other family, and your close friends. I get it. Once a couple gets married, they would rather spend time at home together watching TV then meeting up with a group of their single friends who talk about all their relationship problems or their dating friends who don’t understand married life-I get it-you enjoy relaxing with your special someone. You like the solidarity and quiet and peacefulness of being with your soul mate instead of your crazy (and sometimes needy) friends. And once kids enter into the picture, that occasional Friday night with your group of friends becomes even more rare due to your crazy schedule-and, as it should be-your kids and new family become number one. You should focus on that, especially in the early years of your kids lives-but don’t forget your loving spouse, who took on the role of staying in the work force while you took the role of manning the home front with the young-ins. You both are working hard for the common good of your family, and aren’t just a super parenting team…but lovers. Don’t forget your friends, the ones that even though you might not have much in common with anymore, still love you and want to be a part of your life. It doesn’t have to be much (a lot of us understand that you just don’t have time to spare because kids are great-but they are exhausting in multiple different ways-and we don’t want you to neglect them either, as seen in point C) but even a random text about a funny memory you shared years ago annually is more than enough. Because one day your kids will be out of the house, and you’ll be sitting around one day, wondering what ever happened to your good friend so and so.
I understand that that’s a part of life, and you can’t hold on to every single friendship you held dear in high school or college. Still, treasure the ones you hold dearest, even if you have your arms full of diaper bags and stuffed animals.
With all that said, I feel it appropriate to make it known that first and foremost, I love children. I do, and I hope to have one (maybe more) someday. I also do love a lot of my friends and family members’ children as well, and do enjoy getting to be a fly on the wall to their lives and the milestones they hit with each tooth and new vocabulary word. Finally, please keep in mind I am only twenty-three years old, not married, and not a parent.
I read an article awhile ago about a parent responding to someone who wrote in wondering why her friend never had time for her anymore. I enjoyed the article, and it opened up my eyes to what some of my friends and family are dealing with on a daily basis. While this may have come off as harsh or mean at times, I was merely trying to give perspective on how I see it through my eyes. If anything, so that the next time you wonder why your friend hasn’t liked your photo of Baby Hank’s fifth loose tooth or why the sales lady at the department store seemed to rush you out of the store at check out, I hope you just remember this blog post, smile, and relish in the fact that we have no idea…but when you get home you put Little Vicky in a time out for scribbling all over the wall in the dressing rooms, call the babysitter up so you can treat your spouse to some one on one time Saturday, and text your good friend “Vicky scribbled all over the wall at the store again today-reminded me of the time in college you did the same thing-but with paint and you had permission. Miss you and hope things are going well.”