Parents – we’re the worst.
The other night I was out with my girlfriends, enjoying an after-work glass of rosé and a chat, when we were interrupted by the happy squeals of children.
It’s not the kind of thing you expect (or want) to hear while you’re relaxing in the back garden of a bar, but in Brooklyn, unfortunately, it’s not that uncommon.
My friends – did I mention they are childfree, unlike me? – and I looked over to see a little girl turning cartwheels on the stairs while a small boy chased her around, screaming. A cluster of adults stood nearby, blithely sipping their drinks and laughing. These children must have belonged to at least one of them, but no one seemed the least bit concerned as these short humans darted between busy servers loaded down with trays of food and drinks.
I mean, other parents are the worst. Obviously.
Here’s the thing: most of the time, I don’t really feel like a parent. Maybe it’s because I became a parent quite young, when I was practically still a kid myself, but I just can’t identify with most of the other parents I meet.
These parents waited until their careers were well-established before they had children. They’re still married, for the most part. And they seem to either be fussing endlessly over their precious children or letting them turn cartwheels in crowded bars. In fact, they somehow manage to do both at once.
Case in point: I bet if my friends or I had told those kids to go and sit down, their parents would have threatened to have us arrested for daring to speak to their special snowflakes. At the very least, they would have posted an indignant rant about us on their Facebook wall. Me, on the other hand? If my kids are acting up in public, please, do me a favour and tell them to knock it off. It takes a village.
But I often find myself wondering, honestly – why do I feel so alienated from my fellow parents? And why do I walk around with this giant chip on my shoulder? Sometimes I think I’m the real asshole.
For example, the first time I went to a parent meeting at my older daughter’s middle school, I frantically yanked her aside and whispered in her ear, “do I look as old as all these other mums? Tell me the truth!” She rolled her eyes at me. “No, mum, don’t worry. You definitely don’t.”
See? The other mums never yank their kids around, and they certainly don’t ask them questions that indicate they’re judging other women by how old they look. They exude an air of calm and confidence, they are mindful about the way they touch their children, and they read books about the appropriate way to speak to their daughters at every developmental stage, so as to help them become well-adjusted young women who are sure of their self-worth and not needy.