Is it OK not to like other people's children?Thursday, October 06, 2011
Failing With Gusto
Before I had children, I was a kid fanatic. I loved them - especially the babies. That fresh from heaven smell, those sweet tufts of hair, the toothless grins…it was pure gold. I would sit on the ground (back when my knees still worked) and play with them for hours on end. I was an eager babysitter who frequently volunteered to give new parents a night out on the town so I could get my baby fix.
I was a camp counselor and Sunday school teacher.
I read parenting magazines.
And I couldn't wait to one day have a baby of my very own.
Fast forward seven years. After having three consecutive sons in 40 months, my tune has changed. I now get very surprised looks whenever someone tries to sic a baby on me:
No thanks. I'm good.
Oh, I just had a Mike's Hard Lemonade and I certainly wouldn't want to drop the little darling on her head.
This one smells. Got another? (When someone hands me a freshly pooped baby in hopes that I'd change the diaper).
I don't babysit. I don't gush. I don't hold. So stop asking. Many experienced mothers can relate, but it seems a lot of men and new moms don't quite get it. They figure you've got a uterus, so naturally you'd want to hold their screaming and puking tot as you wear your new Eddie Bauer sweater that you bought with a 20 percent off coupon and only after it went on clearance.
Sorry, but I paid my dues. I wore stretched and stained clothes for years. I ate lukewarm food at parties. I took three kids to OBGYN appointments and pap smears. I worked and shelled out most of my income to babysitters. I traversed icy preschool parking lots with an infant and two toddlers. I woke sleeping babies to handle school, work, and doctor appointments. I know it's hard, but I got nothing left. I feel like Shel Silverstein's "The Giving Tree." I am just an old stump.
Now there are naturally some exceptions to my anti-kid stance. If you have a remarkably well-behaved kid, I thaw a little. If your kid has a good sense of humor, he can stay. Nieces and nephews are given a little extra leeway and consideration as well. I won't make them cry. On purpose anyway.
So how did a one-time kid enthusiast become so anti-kid?
For me, I think the love that I feel for my own children and the endless work involved have sucked me dry. Each day is a battle to instill civility, manners, intelligence and kindness. It is truly the hardest job I ever had, and I feel like a miserable failure most of the time. Before I was a mother, I liked the idea of babies. As a mother, I now prefer the idea of my grown children calling me up one day to thank me for helping raise the Harvard-educated, philanthropic leaders of the civilized world.
My blog, my dreams.
I spoke with an older friend about my lost infatuation of children, and she assured me that my pro-kid heart would indeed grow back one day (kind of like when the Grinch spied little Cindy-Lou Who in the corner on Christmas Eve).
When? I asked.
I just couldn't imagine ever being anxious to wipe a nose, change a diaper, or hold a screaming newborn ever again.
She smiled, winked, and answered mischievously:
Just in time for grandchildren.
Oh crap. I forgot about that.