Over the course of the past two days, there has been a really interesting dialogue in the Carolyn Hax column of the Washington Post about having adult conversations when toddlers are afoot. Yesterday a woman wrote in about how she drove two hours with her toddler to visit her sister, who has no children, and she spent the visit chasing after her toddler in the sister’s house to avert disaster and the destruction of the sister’s house, leaving no time for real meaningful adult conversation. The sister without kids went on to chastise her for being unable to give her attention, let alone control her toddler. According to the sister without kids, she’s seen plenty of moms handle their toddlers and have perfectly normal adult conversations.
Uh huh. Bite me, sister, is what I would have written in response if I were Carolyn. Aren’t we all such great parents, until we actually become parents?
Anyhoo, as we all would guess, there is now a firestorm of comments from both those with children and those without, warranting a follow-up column in today’s Post.
Here’s the rub, I find the comments from those without children to be fine, whatever, until you are personally managing and in charge of a toddler, you cannot possibly know what it is like and how the notion of an adult conversation beyond some sentences, constantly interrupted, is impossible. I actually don’t pretend to expect the other adult to understand it. I deeply appreciate it when they are patient and bear with me and keep their patience with my curious kid. But they can’t know what it is like. I couldn’t have known what it is like until it became my world.
It’s the parent who also has children who passes judgement that enrages me. Either their precious cherub is still too small to behave this way – so they have no f’ing idea what kind of ordeal is speeding right into their world, or they somehow lucked out with a toddler who is just obedient and sits still and isn’t disagreeable. For those of you laughing and spitting your coffee over your computer at this notion, trust me, it can happen, I’ve seen it a few times and am still annoyed, envious and generally irritated that that is their reality. I just figure we all get ours some day, so at some point that miracle kid will act out, even if they’ve made it several years into life being an angel. But as parents, why the judging? Why the assumption that you are a fabulous parent and the one with the curious and boundary-pushing child is somehow less than you? Why the belief that their kid is a monster and yours an angel? Why? This is what I find unacceptable.
Carolyn points out in one of her responses that what many people forget is that the parent of this curious-challenging child is the one who is the most desperate of all for a break, for some adult conversation, let’s be honest – for their kid to sit still for one freaking minute- but their job is to remain patient and continue setting boundaries – thus rendering meaningful, uninterrupted, adult conversation – impossible unless the child is sleeping and a babysitter is hired.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the constant, daily challenges that DD1 presents not only beat me down but they make me far less judgmental. Maybe sheer exhaustion and no more patience does that to a person, but the bottom line is this – the challenging child is nothing if not humbling.
So like – why do other people just assume that as a parent, we would actually rather be chasing around a kid, than having an adult conversation? Or that somehow we have failed because our kid is restless? Perhaps the hard truth is until you’ve walked a mile in those shoes, you can’t really get it, but I doubt it.
Maybe other parents just feel better about their own parenting and their ability to produce perfect progeny, if they judge parents with challenging children? I mean – isn’t this the reason we watch shows like Super Nanny and Nanny 911? Everyone says they watch it to learn discipline techniques, but really, isn’t it also to watch those train wreck families and feel better about yourself and your family?
All I know is I long for the day when adult conversation is possible. When the kids can go down to the basement and play and duke it out and I can sit upstairs and have some wine. And I’d like to think my colorful and curious children are just making me a more interesting person, along the way, by keeping me on my toes.
If anything, maybe they are giving me years of conversations to save up for the future, because lord knows I have almost no time for adult conversations now.