Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Other People's Kids

I love kids. I have loved kids since I was a kid. My brother was born when I was thirteen and my sister when I was seventeen (by the way, this may be the best teen pregnancy prevention strategy in the history of ever). I love babies, I love toddlers, I love preschoolers and big kids and tweeners and teen-agers (provided they don’t live in my house).

But sometimes I come across a kid who is not acting right and I am faced with a dilemma. We’ve written a bunch of open letters to parents about watching their kids at the pool or the playground. And I wrote yesterday how I get all weird and stabby when other grown ups criticize my children, even if it’s only an imagined criticism. Obviously, a teacher or coach or a real problem is exempt from that. I mean, if something is actually wrong – I need to know to about it. But if you’re being a jellyfish and trying to zing me, or you’re a complete stranger with parental hovering issues – please just keep it to yourself.

Let’s be honest though, sometimes you have to say something. I had to speak to a little dude last week at the playground who was waving a ginormous stick at my baby’s head while his mom texted. I used a very nice voice and he complied right away and then gave me a big high five. When his mom looked up I told her: “Your son is a great listener! And what nice manners!”

And my baby picked up the stick and started waving it around. Awesome.

The stick example was too easy, though. Other people’s kids can annoy you, antagonize you or even make you spitting-cherry-pits-moonbat-crazy. Don’t get me started on how badly I wanted to square up on a 5 year old who was an abusive bully to my friend’s son for a year. And no one did anything about it. Not the parents, the school and least of all the kid himself. I know that he was only five, but he was a really mean kid and it made me so angry that he was being allowed to behave so horribly to other children and the only consequences were for the kindergartners that got a stomach ache every time they thought about going to school.

A couple of times, other kids have bullied or picked on my own children and I have had to work really, really hard not to flip out. I had to remind myself that there have been times when it was my kids that were behaving badly. In fact, mine always seem to act up at the worst possible time, too. And the worst, for me, is with friends. Seriously son, you have to pick now to teach Kate's boys how to run screaming through the pews after church? That’s nice.

When there’s an issue with a friend’s kid – it’s just the worst. Because we all know that if the kids can’t get along and play nice, the friendship is going to suffer eventually. At some point someone is going to have say something. It could get weird and judgey. And I get all twitchy and nervous. It’s like being transported to a old episode of 90210 when everyone decides they hate Brenda and I am Brenda.

Actually, I think one thing may be worse than the friend issue. Yesterday, someone left a comment that said: “Be glad you aren't part of a blended family. I would never say anything negative about other people's kids, except when other people's kids live in my house. It is walking a tightrope everyday.” Oh, even YESSER. To the mommies and daddies having to walk that tight-rope every day, I tip my hat. And my t-box.

I decided to write about all of this because last week I flipped out for no good reason. I was being really oversensitive to something that was no big deal. And then a few days later, I quietly smirked at a friend’s kid who is frankly, a lot weirder than mine (and that’s saying something). It made me pause and do some thinking. I have behaved badly when friends said things about my kids. I have said things to friends about their kids when I should have kept my mouth shut. I need to stop being a hypocrite.

Here is my pledge:
  • I will not say negative things about other people’s kids, even when they are being wretched little schmidt-weasels.
  • I will not think less of a kid who is simply doing normal kid things, no matter what. Even if I watch him pick a winner and then eat it. I will merely gag and then hand him a Kleenex.
  • If our kids are being turds to each other, I promise not to take sides. I will recognize that they are both being momentarily awful but are actually really sweet little monkeys.
  • If your kid is mean to my kid, I will still love them and remember that you are a good mom. Please do the same the next time Hawk throws a soda can at your kid’s head or my toddler sets fire to your house.
  • If my children teach yours to say “whore” or yours teach mine a dance routine to “California Gurls”, can we just agree that it’s society’s fault?
  • I will try to keep my mouth shut about unimportant things but please know that this will be really hard for me because I have no filter and also, I’m bad at not talking.
  • Even if your kid smells like feet, if he wants a hug from me, he’s going to get one.
  • If the time comes when I have to say something about your child that I know you won’t like, I will do so as gently as I can. I will not be Simon. I will be Paula. I will be just as crazy and I will hate every second of knowing I’m making you feel bad.
  • If I see your kid being a monster and you struggling to keep it together, I’m not going to jellyfish you. I’m going to do the opposite. I have no idea what that is, but I’m going to do it.
  • I’m going to remind you how amazing your kids are on their worst days and celebrate with you on their best days.
  • I’m going to tell you again and again that all those things that make them difficult to parent will help them be amazing adults. That being stubborn, smart, creative and clever are characteristics you can’t teach.
  • If it involves changing a poopy diaper, I’ll do it. But I might throw up.

Lydia B. Coupon

(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2010

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