Hey guys, I’m back!
So much has changed since I last wrote here. I got a new job! Boy 1 is now The Teen. The Toddler is now in junior school. The Girl is 5. America is governed by a circus peanut!
Seeing as we’re all caught up, I can get down to the serious business of parenting chat. Now that my kids are older, I have discovered the joy of play-dates. I don’t really remember The Teen having them when he was Boy 2’s age. Maybe it wasn’t a thing in East London at the time. Maybe I was so mired in dealing with a baby that was unreasonably demanding that I’ve blocked entire years from my brain. Actually, I do remember one. I didn’t know what to do with myself so I took Baby Boy 2 to the cat rehoming centre and we got two kittens.
Play-dates have become a fixture of our lives now. Like any other cynical asshole parent, I mocked them. ‘Why’s it called a play-date? What loser kid needs his parent to arrange a meeting to play with other kids? Huh, when I was a kid, we’d just play at our friend’s houses!’ (I never played at other kids’ houses nor did they play at mine. Not only was I a cynical asshole, I was a liar as well.) Everything about play-dates annoyed me. It seemed yet another middle-class, needlessly complicated part of modern parenting.
Play-dates start off like this: your child breathlessly rushes in from school or after-school care and tells you all about their Very Best Friend. You know all about the games they played, their favourite foods, their pets’ names. As any parent knows, kids change best friends more often than Donald Trump changes his positions on everything. However, there comes a time when you hear one particular name. The stories about this kid become more and more fantastical. (“Joe has a trampoline that can bounce to the moon. I wish I could go to Joe’s house!”) It’s time to consider a play-date.
Play-dates are generally arranged by casually accosting the parent on the playground. While your children are practically tethered to each other, you have no idea who the parents are. Boy 2 usually trots on to his section the playground without giving me a second glance. His schoolmates’ parents could be emus for all I know. You are now in the position of looking for a person that vaguely looks like your kid’s friend.* If you’re lucky, your kid will point out the parent. Usually, they’ve run off to play with their bestie, leaving you to look around like you’ve been stood up on a date. Finally, you locate the parent and you have a conversation that goes something like this.
“Hi! Joe and Jack really get along, don’t they? Jack never stops talking about Joe. Hey, why don’t we get them together to play soon?”
You are talking and walking so quickly (because you both have stuff to do and you’re speaking awkwardly to someone you don’t know) that you nearly don’t hear them say “sure.” You exchange numbers promise to text soon. You both realise you don’t know each other’s names. You put “Joe’s Mum” into your phone. You are likely in her phone as “Jack’s Dad.”
Sending those texts is a minefield. You want to sound friendly and casual, but not overly familiar. Do you use emojis? Do I put an ‘x’ at the end of the text?! I can’t kiss Joe’s Mum! You send a polite, emoji-free text with no kisses. You receive a polite, emoji-free text with a kiss. You fret over whether you are a rude ass for not putting a kiss in your text. The date is chosen and you’re relieved.
Boy 2 had his first on about a month ago at our home. I did the regular checks: allergies, food preferences, any health issues. Once we were clear, Boy 2’s best friend, a Pixar cute little boy in a knit hat came over with Pokemon cards. He and Boy 2 shot upstairs and played. They played with The Girl. The Teen played with them for a bit. They sat in the top bunk and read.
It was bliss. I’m telling you, I was never more relaxed. There was no bickering, no tattling, no “he’s breathing on me!”. I got housework done. I watched what I wanted on TV. I drank hot tea. They just wanted drinks and Haribo. Pixar Kid never took off his hat.
I’m a convert to play-dates. I’ll enthusiastically host them. Will they all go as well this one? Possibly not. There’s always going to be some kid that is a little bratty, may break something, will cry or something similar. (It could your kid!) Despite those risks, play-dates are worth it- if only for the hot tea and the chance to watch Judge Judy in peace.
*The Girl look nothing like me. She has her father’s entire face.
The pants are taking different direction this go round. I’m not going to blog about my kids or the stuff they do. I’m going to blog about myself and I’m going to be serious.
I generally hate when someone latches on to a hot news topic and writes a blog or article titled “I am (insert person or event). I hate them because they are usually full of shit and miss the point completely. However, after a pretty heated Twitter exchange that included the comedian Ava Vidal and another guy, I immediately felt I needed to write this.
It was about Rachel Jeantel, the close friend of Trayvon Martin, the black teenager murdered by George Zimmerman last year. I’m not going to go over the murder because unless you’ve been living on Mars or have no idea of current affairs, you’ve heard of this case.
Rachel Jeantel has been testifying about the last moments of her friend’s life. I can’t imagine what this girl has gone through; first hearing in real time her friend’s life being extinguished for no fucking reason at all, being called to testify about it and later facing ridicule for her weight, appearance, her alleged lack of intelligence (despite being fluent in 3 languages)and her demeanor. She’s committed the cardinal sins of being overweight, dark-skinned, and the worst crime of all, ghetto.
The word ghetto is what prompted me to write this post. You see, some well-meaning white person tried to tell me that ghetto was not code for black. “Anyone white or black can be ghetto,” he said. I suppose he had no fucking clue who he was tweeting to.
You see, I’m from the ghetto. I spent the early part of my life in the Woodlawn area of Chicago, before I moved to the Washington Park area. This area had been rough for a while– my grandmothers and great-aunts said it was called the “Bucket of Blood” in their youth. My area was your classic ghetto area; burned out abandoned buildings, vacant lots strewn with weeds, backyards were grass long stopped growing and zombiefied drugs addicts wandering around in search of crack and heroin. It seemed like a place where hope goes to die.
People find it hard to believe that I’m from the hood. Not you, some say, with your love of vintage dresses, your Cath Kidston addiction,your appreciation of Scandinavian pop music. You’re so well-spoken (vomit) and well-traveled–you couldn’t possibly be from the ghetto. You’ve actually done something with your life! You’re not like those ghetto girls.
I am exactly like one of those ghetto girls. I’m not ashamed of where I came from. I’m actually proud of it. Not in a “keeping it real, never forgetting where I came from” way, but just that I had a fucking great time growing up.
As much as people would like to think the ghetto is just like The Wire (and in some cases, watching that program was like watching a documentary), it wasn’t like that the majority of times. Our area was filled with good people. People that worked hard. People like my friend Monica’s mom who worked long hours and studied in the times she wasn’t working to get a college degree (she is a successful social worker now.) People like my parents (yes, there are two-parent families in the ghetto.) There were homes filled with aunties, cousins and grandmas that kept the families together and kids out of trouble.
It wasn’t an awful life growing up on 58th and King Drive. We lived across the street from a beautiful park, a couple of blocks from a communal swimming pool and a field house that had all sorts of activities laid on by the park district that cost nothing. When I was younger, I rode my bike and roller skated on the tennis courts that had no nets. My younger sister and I would make use of the many playgrounds that were housed in the park– the best being the adventure playground that was a bit further in the park than the others.
What I remember most about growing up are the seemingly endless summers. We’d be up at the first crack of light to eat breakfast and then tear off into the park for hours on end, if my parents didn’t have anything lined up for us. My sister and I would play for hours on end– sometimes taking sandwiches with us so our play would be undisturbed. If we were feeling truly adventurous, we’d keep walking east until we hit the lakefront, and then we’d play on the beach. We’d sometimes walk up to my dad’s job and visit him in his office. He’d buy us lunch at Morrie’s Deli and then we’d walk back home. It was pretty goddamned idyllic even though many people don’t associate idyllic with ghetto.
My teenage years, though fraught with the usual angst-ridden bullshit that affects teenagers of all socioeconomic backgrounds, wasn’t terrible either. The bike rides around the tennis courts were replaced with hanging out on the basketball court, watching cute boys that looked like Trayvon Martin practice their jump shots and silently hope that one of them would pay attention to us, though we’d die on the spot if one of them actually spoke to us. We sat on back porches talking shit. We sat on balconies and stoops talking shit. We sat in bedrooms, imagining what it would be like to be married to one of the singers from Bell, Biv, Devoe or later on, Jodeci. We made mix tapes of all of that seriously amazing early 90s R&B. We danced to house music, filled our school notebooks with song lyrics and worshiped Mary J Blige as our deity of ghetto girls everywhere. What wasn’t to love about 90s Mary J? She rocked that blonde weave, those combat boots and baseball jerseys. She looked like us. She sang songs that us 14 year-old girls found incredibly real. We loved TLC because these girls looked like the girls we hang out with.
We wore hair weaves and fake ponytails that we sprayed with glitter or colored electric blue or magenta. We wore airbrushed shirts with our names on them, OPP jackets and Cross Colours. We loved boys that wore Karl Kani and Jordans. We got our first kisses from gangly boys who gallantly turned their hats backwards so they could kiss us without obstruction.
We were aspirational. We would talk about making sure we got accepted into the same colleges after high school so we could always be together. We watched television shows like A Different World and Living Single and we wanted to be just like those smart, successful, stylish and funny black women we saw on those programs. We dreamed of moving out of our areas, becoming professionals and having all the trappings that a successful life has to offer. We never stopped dreaming. This is one of the reasons that I fucking hate “ghetto” being used as a pejorative. There is no ghetto mentality. It is a place where a lot of people are simply forced to live thanks to institutional and outright racism. It is a way of making sure black people know their place. I have heard of Beyonce, Kanye West and Barack Obama being called ghetto–three of the least ghetto people you can possibly imagine. If you call a white person “trailer trash” or “chav” (the UK equivalent) you are talking about a specific type of person. You can label someone ghetto just because they are black.
Some of us made our dreams a reality and some of us didn’t. The reasons for this are varied and complex and should be tackled by someone a whole lot smarter than I am. Rachel Jeantel is only 19 years old; barely a whisker on Father Time’s beard. She has so much time to do whatever she likes with her life that is is completely unfair to label her as a piece of trash as many have done. When I was 19, I was enrolled in city college and making steps toward a career in the industry where I currently work. I never thought for a moment that I would end up living in a prosperous UK suburb and deciding which part of France I’d like to visit for this year’s vacation. That dream is available and achievable for Rachel and every other ghetto girl out there.
To all the Rachel Jeantels, the Latanyas, Nikkis, Shakitas, Trinas, Carmalitas, and Tashas out there in the ghettos throughout America , don’t let people put you down by calling you that. Speak the way you speak because what you say is important and you deserve to be heard. You are nobody’s goddamned stereotype and fuck anyone, black or white, who tries to put you down. You are entitled to be treated like the beautiful, complex, thoughtful human beings that you are. You deserve to be teenage girls and not held to bullshit adult standards. You are products of your environments, as am I, and that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. You may have to work extra hard to get them, but the rewards are there.
*An extra-special message for all of the black people making fun of her:Fuck you all the most. You should be thoroughly fucking ashamed of yourselves because let’s keep it real; a lot of y’all have cousins, aunties, grandmas, sisters and mamas that look and sound just like Rachel. Yeah, I said it.*
There’s a lot crap swirling around the media regarding the challenges around parenting (actually, it’s around mothering). In the USA, there’s been the so-called “Mommy Wars” and here in the UK, the always helpful Daily Mail featured an article on women who can’t deal with the pressures of work so decide to take a year off and have a baby. Cue Liz Jones appearing on This Morning gnashing her teeth and railing against maternity leave. (This is the one and only time I will mention Liz Jones. If you are unsure of who she is, Google her. Make sure you have a large tumbler of gin by your side.)
Politicians, especially in an election cycle, will bore on endlessly about “hard-working families” (last time I checked, my husband and I are the only working family members. The kids and the cats do fuck all,) and how a mother’s job is both the hardest and most important job ever. This statement always makes me laugh bitterly, seeing as so many women are quitting their jobs because the cost of childcare is pricing them out of work. For full-time working mothers like me, balancing work, childcare commitments, school and activities is about as easy as the Cirque Du Soleil performing their repertoire on ice. Blindfolded. If a mother’s job was so important, then there would be ample provisions for affordable childcare. I’m also sick of dads being left out of this, seeing as the vast majority of dads love and work just as hard as mothers do. Many men would take on the job on a full-time basis if they could afford it.
Yes, parenting is hard. It’s hard mentally, financially, physically and emotionally. It gets easier physically, financially and mentally, but it’s always emotionally hard. I said earlier that you make an immense emotional investment in someone who may or may not pay off. You will not ever have a relationship this intense and one-sided. This may sound harsh, but your kids don’t have to love you or even care for you. You on the other hand, have to love and care for them in order for them to survive. Let that rattle around in your head for a while.
It isn’t that hard though. (For the sake of argument, I am not talking about parents of disabled children, disabled parents, children with serious illnesses, single parents, children and parents with learning challenges, bereaved parents or other serious issues than can make the family dynamic extremely difficult.) Once you strip out all of the things that are beyond your control, parenting is as hard as you make it. I’m probably going to be kicked out of the parenting club for saying this, but I’ve had harder jobs that I was actually paid for. I pay out to be a parent and still happily take all of the shit that comes with it.
I listen to some people (not my friends, mind. They are amongst the most chilled out parents I know) and all of the bullshit and running around they do and I can’t help but wonder why they are doing it. Again, I’m not talking about your usual work/school/childcare routine that makes up most of your parenting duties. I’m talking about stuff like one woman I know who had her child in 5 or 6 activities a week on top of just normal school. She’d spend a good half hour on the phone arranging who was going to ferry the kid from this place to that one. Then she would complain when the kid didn’t want to do one of the activities. Could you blame the poor mite? That kid had a harder schedule at 9 years old than I had at 30.
It’s easy to get caught up in thinking you have to do so much shit when in all honesty, you don’t and your kids won’t go to seed because you didn’t take them to African Spiritual Mask Making every Saturday at 10 a.m. I remember (back when I had just one kid,) a childfree friend of mine asking me if I did baby sign language with my baby. “Leslie, it’s amazing! Your baby can tell you what he wants without crying!” I told her no. She reiterated the whole “no crying” thing. I told her crying didn’t really bother me enough to go to a class and learn to sign. Besides, I said, he’ll learn to talk soon enough and kids don’t shut the fuck up once they start speaking. I’m enjoying the silence.
You can easily fall into a pattern of believing that you have to spend all of your time and your child’s spare time doing something “productive.” Never mind that if you have small children, everything they do is productive. They spend their time figuring out how the world works and how they fit into it. Sadly for you, their voyages of discovery means increased cleaning bills or replacement of electrical or pricey items. My aunt told me that my older cousin discovered how gravity worked when he dropped her expensive gold watch from their 14th storey window.
There’s a good chance that you will hate all of this shit that you are “supposed” to do. I hate cooking with children. (The activity, not baking them into pies.) I have children’s cookbooks. I have a “proper” mini baking set complete with a little rolling-pin, tins and such that are the same as my full-sized one. I have more sugar strands, edible glitter and other fun baking stuff than the law allows. I don’t let my kids near it. You see, instead of a smiling, well-coiffed mother in a Cath Kidston apron surrounded by adorable tots with dots of flour on their noses, I am shouting at The Toddler to stop pouring chocolate syrup on the cat and telling The Eldest for the millionth time that I know he doesn’t like cheese and I am not going to put cheese in anything he will eat. He has never, ever let me forget the time I put cheese in mashed potatoes. Gardening is another thing that should be fun but in reality isn’t. The mini gardening tools I got from Tesco are cute as a button. What isn’t cute is seeing your toddler eat mini-spade after mini-spade of dirt– especially when you have two cats that leave bird parts strewn around the garden.
Despite all of that, I don’t find parenting hard. There so much fun stuff to do with kids whether it is having an indoor picnic, watching terrible kung-fu films with them, or just deviating from the norm. Blow your kids’ minds by being slightly subversive — eat desserts for dinner or jump up and down in your own bed. Have a well-earned break from parenting. Sometimes you have to be a Fraggle instead of a Doozer.
There are lots of things I hate about parenting. Most of them include the unholy “S” trifecta of shit, sick and snot, with the odd bloody bit thrown in. I hate Thomas the Tank Engine with a fucking passion. I hate all of those Disney “tween” shows starring a plethora of pubescent, precocious pissants. I hate that I have to wait until both of my sons are asleep so I can watch something other than Thomas the Tank Engine or those Disney twats. There are two televisions in my house and chances are I won’t be able to watch either of them.
I hate potty training a toddler. Oh my god do I hate it. I’d honestly rather go to jail. The Toddler needed to pee while we were in the park the other day*. I get him to the bathroom and he announced he couldn’t use it because the toilet was dirty (in fairness, it was gross). Cue me running home carrying a squirming 3-year-old like a rugby ball and screaming “JUST HOLD THE PEE IN YOUR DINKLE, WE’RE ALMOST HOME!” After he complimented me on our washroom hygiene (“our toilet is nice and clean Mummy. Not like that dirty toilet with poo in it,) he decided he didn’t need the toilet after all. He then went on for about 15 minutes about the dirty park toilet. This from a person who would happily pee through his through his trousers because he was too caught up in an episode of TTTE.
Watching crap television, dealing with various bodily fluids and resisting the urge to teach your child to use a litter box in favour of potty training blows, but they are over fairly quickly. You find little coping mechanisms too. For instance, The Toddler often asks me to play with him, but he does not allow me to touch any of his toys. He gives me one building block to play with. I have to sit on his bed holding this block and as sure as night follows day, he will need said block and take it from me. I use this “playtime” to catch a nap. Result!
Your parenting mettle will be certainly tested when your child starts school. Throughout the baby years and the toddler years, you are pretty much in control. Your child is in the loving care of you, relatives, a childminder or a nursery that is staffed primarily with young women full of energy, sing-songy voices and bouncing ponytails.
Your child will be mixing with Other Children and it scares the shit out of you. Not only are the Other Children mainly unfamiliar to you, there will be Older Children as well. Older children mean the possibility of bullying raises its ugly, festering head.
Your fears are likely assuaged in the first few years of formal education. There are loads of teachers around, the older ones are kept apart from the younger ones in most larger schools, and the older kids generally ignore the infant school aged children. More than likely, a group of clucky older girls will fuss over a kid they think is cute and watch over them. When the Eldest was in Year 1, (aged 5-6) a group of 11-year-old Year 6 girls shrieked to me how cute he was. They would tell me every time they saw me on the playground, in the supermarket, in the park. Why they couldn’t tell me in a tone of voice that would not attract every dog in East London is beyond me.
It gets a lot scarier when your child enters the middle part of schooling. Your kids are less protected by teachers and mean kids are much more sneaky with their shit. Your kid, like my eldest, may be small for his age, awkward, unworldly. They are unlikely to want to run to the teacher for every insult, slight or worse every push, shove or slap. I experienced horrible bullying throughout school, as did my husband, and we are both hyper-vigilant about it. (I really hope some of the people who did bully me somehow read this. You suck as human beings. )
My son did get picked on at the last school he attended by some older and bigger boys. To his credit, he held his own verbally and told the teacher every time those boys bothered him. It was fairly low-level name calling, but there was one kid who was physically aggressive and domineering. He was truly a menace, so much so when I spoke to the teacher about this kid, the teacher said he was a deeply unpleasant child.
The rational parent in me felt sorry for this kid. He had a shitty home life. A few of the kids that annoyed my son had crap lives. I totally understood why these children acted out and picked on the my son and his friends.
The maniac parent in me wanted to tear that kid’s throat out as if I were a rabid hyena. The irrational side of me wanted to write a glossary filled with insults and creative swearing that I would teach to the Eldest on a nightly basis. Of course, I did neither. I was the Bigger Person and told my son to either ignore the bullies; or tell the teacher if one of them used their fists.
Like every other parent who was socialized properly, I shake my head and tut at parents that fight other parents, confront children on the playground and get into fistfights as pee wee soccer games. We all have a rational, maniacal and irrational side– we tend to keep that shit under wraps so we stay out of jail. It’s hard to be a decent parent if you are locked up. Most of us also don’t lose our shit when we are dealing with difficult situations and we have to ensure that we exercise self-control in front of our children.
It’s just that being the bigger person sucks a lot of the time. We tell our children nonsense like “bullies never prosper.” This is complete and utter bullshit. We all know, work with, have dated a festering asshole who seems to sail through life; merrily spreading their venom along the way. We know sweet people who never seem to be able to catch a break. Yet we lie to our kids about what life is really like. Not me. When The Eldest complained about his tormentor for the billionth time, I looked him straight in the eye and said “son, some people are assholes, some people are angels. You’ll never make an asshole into an angel.” (This works best if like me, you have a semi-drawling Midwestern accent.) It probably wasn’t the most eloquent way of getting my point across, but I was so frustrated at some kid making my kid’s school life a misery. It prevented me from going all hyena on that kid.
The Eldest is no shrinking violet when it comes to sarcasm and verbal sparring. When some kid teased my son for not knowing about football fact, The Eldest did a slow clap and said “oh, well done you.” When another kid teased him about his Pokemon watch, my son retorted, “it’s too bad that you’re just too poor to have one.” Because I am the Bigger Person, I told The Eldest that it wasn’t nice to say such a horrible thing to that boy. Secretly, I was pleased. Yes, it’s hypocritical, but the best parents are hypocrites.
*This blog post was started in August last year. The Toddler is now potty trained and has graduated to the “big toilet.” Applause all around!
Jeez, I’ve been away for a while. I had this wonderful idea that I would be able to go back to work and blog like a demon. Wrong, wrong wrong. Oh well, shit happens.
Friendships are strange things when you become a parent. You have friends that you have known before you had kids and friends that you make afterwards. Within those groups you have subsets– friends of yours that knew you before you had kids and they too have had kids; friends in that group who never had kids; and child-free friends that only know you as a parent; and other parent friends.
There are people you would never have dreamt of befriending, but because your kids are in the same class/scout troop/cult, you end up somehow becoming their friend. Sure their tastes are so diametrically different from yours it’s a wonder you don’t break out into a rash, but your kids like each other and you can forgive them serving you cherry Lambrini. Wine is wine, right?
There are people who are so goddamned awesome that you are happy you logged onto that forum, attended that childbirth class, or went to baby yoga because you wouldn’t have met them otherwise. You start thinking, “wow, we have so much fun even though we are settled with kids, could you imagine what we would have been like if we met before kids?” (Actually, had you met before you had kids to calm your crazy, it’s likely your stories would have involved a police chase, a really bad tattoo or a dodgy guy called Vincent*)
Friendships become weird when you become a parent. You are pretty restricted in what you can do for a long time and that restriction isn’t always down to the age of your children. Time poverty is the biggest restriction. When you have kids, you don’t have time to do anything. Yeah, I know there are millions of books on how to manage your time as a parent. However, when you realise it’s been a month since you picked up a book that wasn’t Goodnight Moon, those books are pretty useless. Last November, my husband and I realised, much to the horror of my friend the Gorgeous A, that we hadn’t been out alone in two years. We don’t have parents or any close relatives near us that can take the kids and we don’t have friends with children. We also have no time and no energy.
If you want a decent night out, you end up paying someone £60 just to leave your house.We always fed, washed and put the kids to bed before we left so we essentially paid someone £60 to watch satellite TV, eat biscuits (my husband has this thing about providing an array of biscuits for the sitter. We usually only have Rich Tea) and use the laptop. If you have friends with kids, at least you can split babysitting costs. So due to economics, you tend to stay in a lot. You convince yourself there is nothing better than watching reruns of Father Ted with a Marks and Spencer’s “Dine in for £1o” deal for two (“we get WINE!” my husband enthused). You tell yourself that you are too old for going out anyway and that the town centre is too full of “young people” and music is shit. What’s better than cranking up the Spotify and listening to a playlist of songs from the 80s and 90s? There’s nothing wrong with that, but it is if you do it all the time. You can lose touch with reality a bit if your social life takes a nosedive.
This is where your child-free friends come in. They come to provide that welcome dose of reality your sorry parent ass sorely needs. Harping on about youth today? Your child-free friend will happily remind you of one of your “antics” from your past. Your parent friends won’t do this even if there is video evidence of you acting a goddamned fool because if you both knew each other before you had kids, chances are they were right along with you.
My friend Lisa, though she’s ever only known me as a parent, regularly gives me a kick in the ass when I’ve gone a bit too “mom” at times. She can tell me when I am being too overprotective and over-thinking shit too much. For example, my husband let our 10-year-old son take the bus two stops to school. By. Himself. I was absolutely horrified. In my mind, my sweet, innocent son climbed aboard a bus full of paedophiles wielding needles and pit bulls. The driver would be a junkie that was cooking meth while drinking and driving. No responsible parent would allow this! Lisa brought me swiftly down to Earth by reminding me I live in the suburbs and the boy was going two stops. She also threw in the fact I used to take the El on the south side of Chicago by myself when I was his age.
That’s the other thing about child-free friends that’s great– they don’t tend to judge you and they certainly don’t compete with you in the parenting stakes. Remember, I write this blog from the perspective that the parents who read it are not absolute morons; your child-free friends should have nothing judge. They don’t care that your kid is 3 when he was finally potty-trained. In fact, my friend Karen was shocked that you actually have to train a kid to use the toilet. “You actually have to teach them to use the toilet?Don’t they just go by themselves?,” she asked in all seriousness. If you don’t have kids or are not around them in any capacity, you won’t know this kind of thing.
Your child-free friend provide you with a welcome boost of self-esteem that is sorely needed when you are up to your eyebrows in snot from all of your kids being sick at once, or when your eardrums have been shredded from your baby’s nonstop wailing. They let you know it’s not your fault the kids are sick and that the baby won’t stop screaming. They say great stuff like “You manage to keep three people alive and healthy. I couldn’t do that shit!,” or “Fuck that, I can barely get myself ready in the morning, but you get three kids ready, yourself ready, and you get to work on time!” Child-free pals, from the bottom of my raggedy heart, you don’t know how good that feels. Seriously, it’s a real morale booster because as a parent, you tend to feel like you are constantly making mistakes.
There is a downside to child-free friends though. They buy your kids better and more expensive toys and clothes than you ever will. They take them to nicer places. They do really cool shit with your kids that you can’t possibly do because as a parent, you are not cool. Child-free friends actually buy shit from the concessions stand at the cinema instead of sneaking in shitty candy and fizzy drinks from Poundland or DollarWorld. They would never, ever bring fruit to eat during the movies. You continue to listen to our kids ramble on when us parents have ceased to hear words; just a high-pitched hum.
Child-free friends of mine, I will never tell you to have kids if you have chosen not to. Your lives are full and complete. I will personally scalp any parent who would dare tell you differently. I’m way too selfish to give you guys up.
*My friends and I had a discussion about the name Vincent and it turns out all the Vincents we knew turned out to be totally skeevy. Including Van Gogh.
I’m writing this blog on behalf of my childfree friends, who outnumber my friends with kids. My real job is in the media and in the bit I work is not particularly rammed with parents.
My good friend Posh Helen is primarily the reason behind this blog post. She had a horrific experience with the kind of parent that gives the rest of us very bad names. The mother bemoaned the lack of free childcare facilities at a tech conference. Helen made the excellent point that the woman’s partner should look after the child if the mother wanted go because it’s not a human right to drag your kid to a conference. Not only that, it would make the cost attending these conferences prohibitive for single women such as Helen. (Crèche workers have to be paid. Even the crèche was run by androids, I assume they’d need oil or an IT guy to keep them ticking over.) The mother then accused Helen of not being a woman (because of course every woman feels the same way when it comes to children as do all men) and then, displaying a level of douchebaggery that would win a gold medal, said that Helen was “just bitter that no one loved you enough to give you a baby.” Just fucking wow. This woman is convinced that her child is going to be a world-famous scientist. I don’t know about that, but if I were a betting woman, I’d get pretty short odds that this kid will grow up to be a pain in the ass.
Newsflash to parents: Your kids aren’t special. They are not unique. They are not awesome. They are ordinary human beings that are no different to the billions of other human beings on the planet. They are special to you and your partner. If you have siblings that also have children, your kids aren’t even special to their grandparents.
You can enroll your kids into every programme, activity, class or enrichment thing you can and your kid is going to end up pretty ordinary and do ordinary things. They may develop a talent for something, but chances are they’ll enjoy it for a while and go on to something else. If you’re lucky, they’ll have a nice hobby that keeps them occupied and if you’re really lucky, they’ll have this nice little hobby as an adult. If you were born with a rabbit’s foot in one hand, a four-leaf clover in the other, and a horseshoe up your ass, your kid’s hobby, talent or intellect could make them rich and famous.
Your child is not gifted– not like you think they are. They are likely smart, some might be advanced for their age or intelligent. But gifted people are rare– extremely so. In all of my life, I’ve met one gifted person and she has mental health problems. There are a finite amount of gifted people in the world and the odds are highly stacked against your child being one. Your kid is not going to be this guy. Sorry.
I know you are thinking, “jeez Leslie, why are you being such an utter bitch about my children?I I’m only trying my hardest.” I promise you I’m not, because I feel the same way about my kids. As much as I think my children are the best things in creation, I realise that it’s just me and their dad that think that way. We have days or weeks even, where we find them annoying as fuck. It’s not a stretch for us to think that people who did not give them life feel the same way.
Parenting is supposed to change your life, but that doesn’t mean you turn into a great big whopping douche. I absolutely adore children and not much they do irks me. (My own children excluded. They know just how to fuck with me and it generally begins when I am just about to sit down to write.) However, some parents could make me hate children with a passion I reserve for racists, homophobes and most Chicago Cubs fans. You see, I don’t do competitive parenting at all and when a person starts rattling off all the shit their kids do or how little Ciabatta and Clytemnestra are doing in their advanced Sanskrit manuscript writing class, it feels as if they are gearing up for the parenting comps. After they tell you about how utterly amazing their offspring are, competitive parents give you a little look that almost dares you to top what they are doing. If you, for instance, tell the competitive parent that your child spent the winter building a boat and then sailed said boat around the world using an astrolabe, a tiny flicker of panic will flash up in their eyes before they try to top you. If you are like me and say you spend your weekends going to Forbidden Planet, watching Regular Show and dancing around to Tears For Fears, they give you a superior smirk and then go on about how little Oregano is doing a summer cookery class with Jamie Oliver.
I remember what I was like before I had kids and I really liked that person. She was cool and interesting. She may have had to step aside when the kids came along, but she didn’t cease to exist. There are things about me that have vastly improved since I had kids– I’m (finally) more responsible, I’m a lot more thoughtful and I’m a lot more patient and relaxed about stuff. Of course, those are all very good things and contribute to being a good parent. However, unless I want all my friends to either be my children or the type of douchey parent I’m writing about, I’d better retain some of my “before children” aspects of my personality.
My life does not revolve around my kids. It never will. I will always do what’s best for them, love them, care for them and attempt to give them the best start in life that I can. When it’s practical, I put my children first. (I don’t think children should always come first. It’s one of those things that sounds nice, but in reality is almost completely impractical.) My children are not my projects. I want them to take advantage of as much as they can. If they express an interest in something, then I will support them to the hilt. I’ll expose them to as many things as I can. I want them to do things in the hopes that they will have a constructive outlet. I don’t want them to do things because I think it will give me parental bragging rights. People who schedule their kids within an inch of their lives because they “only want the best for their children,” deserve to be cock-punched. Who, besides a psycho says “I want the absolute worst for my kids?” Even fucked up parents don’t usually mean to fuck up their kids. They are sadly sucked into a vortex of chaos.
Just like your children aren’t prodigies, you aren’t suddenly imbued with magical qualities because you have children. There are people I know who were bastards before they had children and after they had children, they were still bastards. Don’t be a smug prick about your kids. You certainly won’t be doing yourself or them any favours. If you want to raise an entitled, selfish, whiny little brat who will be unable to cope in the real world. keep telling them how special, unique and amazingly awesome they are. If everyone is special than unique, then no one is.
There’s nothing wrong with being ordinary. The Eldest, as lovely as he is, will not be troubling MENSA ever. I could bankrupt myself by hiring the best tutors money could buy and it wouldn’t make much of a difference. I just want him to work to his best potential. As long as he’s happy, I don’t care if he’s a cardiologist or a carpenter when he grows up. I want children that are kind, charitable and honest. Anything on top of that is a parental bonus.