On being the parent of “that kid”

When Michelle and I first talked about having kids we had many concerns about being “those” parents.

You know “those” parents. Those parents are the ones who let their kids run rampant around the restaurant, throwing food and being a nuisance. Those parents are the ones who wander down the aisles of the local supermarket with a screaming toddler in tow, annoying everyone with their crying kid rather than taking their kid outside to calm down. Those parents are the ones with the baby on the airplane that won’t be quiet; those parents are the ones with the kids who make a mess everywhere.

Those parents. You know, those parents? The parents who, along with their kids, annoy you?

We really didn’t want to be those parents.

We really didn’t. We wanted to be sensitive to the people around us, whether they were friends at a party or strangers who were out at the same place we were getting a bite to eat. I think we were both worried about Connor’s first flight; we had both been stuck on flights filled with non-stop screaming before and really didn’t want to be the ones inflicting that other people.

Thankfully, in this regard, we’ve had very few issues. In the two plus years since he was born I think we’ve only had to leave a handful of places because he was melting down. Flights have actually been a breeze; we got very, very lucky in that Connor was a heavy sleeper if you gave him a bunch of formula and all of the flights he went on as an infant and young toddler he slept through the take offs and landing (now he finds takeoff and landing fun). We’ve actually received compliments and thanks from passengers for how well-behaved he was. The few times we’ve had to leave a place or a gathering went without drama. The latest was a friend’s wedding when Connor started to get emotional because he couldn’t be with Michelle (who was in the wedding party; I go thanked by the bride (who was also the woman who introduced Michelle and I) for leaving the ceremony, especially in the light of another parent who didn’t when their kid started to freak out.

However, no matter how well a child might normally be there are going to be exceptions. Maybe the moon is full, maybe they drank the elixir, maybe Mercury is in retrograde, who knows but something will cause any well-behaved child to become a total monster or unstoppable tear and scream factory.

And you know what? I didn’t get that. I mean, I kind of understood it, but it takes being a parent, of loving that terrible beast who won’t behave, because they are young and don’t yet have the tools to simply deal with the way the world is or because they’re just raw emotion in a tiny human body, to really know what it’s like. You really don’t know what it’s like until you’re the one pushing the cart with the crying kid because that is the only time you have to get that shopping done otherwise there’s no food in the house. It’s not always because the person is a terrible parent (I certainly hope that’s the case regarding me) or because the kid wasn’t raised right but just because some children, especially little kids, are just like that. I didn’t know. But I know now.

What got me thinking about this topic was this pretty fantastic article about Matt Walsh’s interaction with a young mother struggling with a screaming kid and a young fan of his show who made some rude assumptions. I think it was good of Walsh to come to her defense. Sure it would’ve been the easy road to just write her and her kid off as bad parent/crappy kid, to just roll his eyes at her and mouth “I know, right?” back at the fan, but he didn’t. He allowed empathy to dictate his actions, to not judge that woman based on the actions of a kid who, because of the limitations of being a kid, may not have been able to behave any better than he was. Sure, he could’ve been behaving poorly, sure she could’ve been a bad mother, but, then again, maybe not. Looking at that mother and kid I don’t know what I would’ve thought. Hopefully I would’ve theorized that maybe the kid was just tired or stressed and not made a judgment about the kid or the mom. On the other hand, maybe not, I’ve certainly been guilty of uncharitable thoughts about parents and kids in the past, and Matt Walsh’s blog post got me thinking about that. Isn’t it better to think better of someone in the absence of any evidence to the contrary? I think so.

I mean, it’s not like my kid is any less a child than that woman’s. Just last night he was crying inconsolably about how he wanted Toothless the Dragon from How to Train Your Dragon to be his friend (at the end of a very long day).

The blog post definitely gave me something to consider and I hope in the future I’ll be a more understanding. I certainly would hope that other people might give me the benefit of a doubt in a similar situation.

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3 Responses to On being the parent of “that kid”

  1. spideyj says:

    It’s unfortunate that Matt Walsh is a misogynistic douchebag (eg: http://themattwalshblog.com/2013/06/29/an-open-letter-to-wendy-davis/ ) because it is a good post. I think part of the problem is that most people (Americans, anyway) don’t spend a lot of time around kids; thanks to my being the oldest of five, my time in Botswana (where children are expected to be included pretty much everywhere and so you get lots of exposure to them) and my years of working with kids, I totally get this as a non-parent. It’s hard for me to remember how most people don’t have those experiences and so it’s the whiny non-parents that I get the most annoyed with.

    One of my exes would tense up whenever a child came and sat near us in a restaurant and it made me super angry at her (though I never said anything because I wanted to preserve relationship harmony). I kind of wish that everyone were given some kind of training or background in this so our society wouldn’t be so hostile to children and their parents…

    • mattmarovich says:

      “It’s unfortunate that Matt Walsh is a misogynistic douchebag (eg: http://themattwalshblog.com/2013/06/29/an-open-letter-to-wendy-davis/ ) because it is a good post”

      Ah, I’m not familiar with him beyond this post. A broken clock and all that…

      “I kind of wish that everyone were given some kind of training or background in this so our society wouldn’t be so hostile to children and their parents…”

      See, I can kind of get it in part. I don’t understand the hostility to kids (this is a huge problem with a percentage of the “child-free” community who can be aggressively hostile toward kids and parents) but I can understand not particularly liking being around children. Children can be loud, boisterous, and messy and considering I know some adults who fit that bill, and whom I’m not particularly fond of, it makes sense that some people might not want to be around them. However, if that’s the case it’s should be on the individual as their personal preference, rather than a negative judgment on the children or their parents.

      • spideyj says:

        Yeah, I figured you were unaware or you probably would have mentioned it. I only know because one of my friends linked that piece the other day when she realized.

        “However, if that’s the case it’s should be on the individual as their personal preference, rather than a negative judgment on the children or their parents.”

        Agree completely. And have since concluded that this is something I’ll be filtering for in dating partners because I found her attitude rather distressing.

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