We’ve all had them – those conversations where you nod vaguely, then later you think: “But why?”?
This was mine.
A close mate, who doesn’t have children, had caught up with a mutual friend. It didn’t go well.
“You know what it’s like when she’s got the kids,” she said, lowering her voice to a level where I had to lean so close we were almost necking. Her eyes darted from side to side like one of those freaky ventriloquist dolls. “They never leave her alone. They drive me insane – not that I’d ever say that to anyone. God help me if I had an opinion about someone’s kids.”
And I nodded and we moved onto other things. Then later I thought “But why?” Why can’t she – and I, for that matter – have an opinion on kids? Or at least an opinion we can express?
You can watch the times our kids made us cringe below. Post continues after video…
News flash: I don’t have children, but I do have opinions about yours. Cue the howls, sharpen the nails, prep for battle.
Here goes. My opinions about your kids include, but are not limited to:
- Their manners;
- Their friends;
- How they treat people they know;
- How they treat people they don’t;
- Random comments they make;
- The number of hours they spend playing computer games;
maybe probably definitely …
- How they dress.
Because here’s the first news flash of the day: everyone has opinions, even if they don’t say them out loud.
Here’s the second: just because I don’t have kids, it doesn’t mean I’ve been living in some weird parallel universe, where everyone’s a grown-up and all people under five feet tall are just a bit vertically challenged.
And here’s the third: not all of my opinions about your kids are bad.
I might not have kids, but I’ve known quite a few of them since the day they were born. I’ve shared houses with them. I’m a God-mum. Hell, I actually was a child once.
I don't live in a vacuum. I'm like everyone else out there - I have feelings and values and things I think are right and things I don't. And sometimes, between politicians and bad-boy tennis players and Taylor Swift, they'll attach themselves to your children.
I voiced the opinion that I could have an opinion on kids this morning and, sure enough, I was howled down by every mum in the room. Their basic argument was this: you can't have an opinion about something if you haven't experienced it.
Because in the same session a LOT of people had opinions about Johnny Depp. Surprisingly few of them had experience as a celebrity A-lister whose dogs had been confiscated by the "cruel" Australian government.
Even more had opinions about Kelly Osbourne, even though no-one's dad had allegedly played up with a hairdresser whose phone number they then subsequently published to the entire freaking world.
And they were screamingly vocal about the bloke who'd put chili on his girlfriend's tampon. I can only pray to God no-one will EVER have to experience that.
Who has the greater right to an opinion on children? A mum of one child? A dad of four? A professor who's devoted a lifetime to researching teens? None - or could it be all - of the above?
I'm pretty sure if my opinion is positive - your daughter is smart, your son is kind - you won't have a problem with my opinion. So is what's really being said: "I don't agree with you, so shut the eff up?"
Truth is, I think what I heard in that room this morning was fear. Fear that in the pressure-cooker world of parenting, they'd missed something. Fear their kids aren't quite up to the impossibly lofty standards imposed by some invisible force that says those kids have to be brilliant, sporty, musical, beautiful, just plain better.
Fear they've... failed.
Has it got to the point where our lives are so horribly pressured that an infinitesimal eyebrow raise is enough to send us over the edge?
I worry it is. But I hope it isn't.
So if I voice an opinion - whether it's about children or Johnny Depp - hear me out. Tell me what you think. You never know, we might have a conversation.
And even a person with no kids can manage that.