Despite the fact that I could quote Cape Fear ALL DAY LONG and just pretend I’m having a conversation with my toddler —
“I can out-learn you. I can out-read you. I can out-think you. I can out-philosophize you. And I’m gonna outlast you! ”
— that’s not what the title of this post refers to.
This post is about Other Parents and the way they use their experiences to scare you.
I’ve complained about people without kids giving me advice about how to raise mine. And I’ve complained about parents who judge parents. But I haven’t yet complained about parents who use their negative experiences as a bludgeon.
Everybody knows parenting is hard. Some parents have more help than others and some children are more easygoing than others, but regardless of the specifics, every parent faces challenges. It’s the nature of the gig.
I have no doubt in my mind that despite how difficult my kid has been for the past three-plus months and despite all of my bitching about his terrible twos, Mom and Buried and I have had it easier than a lot of other parents out there. That doesn’t mean we’ve had it easy; just easier than parents with more than one kid, or than single parents, or than the parents of these kids. I’m also positive that we’ve had it harder than parents with nannies, or than parents with free babysitting or than parents who own a private jet. On the Objective Scale of Parenting Difficulty, we probably fall somewhere near the middle.
Of course, there is no objective scale of parenting difficulty. Because it’s all relative.
One of the ways your life changes when you become a parent is that you suddenly start mingling with and talking to a lot of other parents. It just happens, by virtue of the new landscape you have wandered into and a need to find like-minded people with whom to share, commiserate and bitch. You run into them at daycare, at doctor’s offices, at the playground and they all have kids at varying stages (newborn, toddler, tween, teen, living in their basement, etc.) and they all have advice or anecdotes or aspirin to offer.
God knows we do, even after less than three years.
But when Mom and Buried and I encounter younger parents, or new parents, or impending parents, we are usually very careful to avoid acting like our experiences are some kind of standard. And the one thing we never do? Warn them.
“Wait until he turns three!”
“Wait until he turns seven!”
“Wait until he turns thirteen!”
What is the point of such nonsense? We already have the kid; are you trying to make us trade him in?
The way I see it, if you’re threatening other parents with the struggles that are yet to come – and you’re not actually offering a solution or a tip beyond BE AFRAID! – you’re doing it for one of these reasons:
1) You’re just joking but don’t realize its obnoxious.
2) You think you’re being helpful by “preparing” them for something that’s utterly impossible to prepare for (everyone knows about the terrible twos; it doesn’t make it any easier to weather them).
3) You’re bragging about having made it through (like having a terrible kid is a badge of honor).
4) You’re pissed about your own experiences and spitefully want to make sure no one else has it any easier.
Unless you have something constructive to add, you’re clearly saying it for your own benefit. And even if you’re right, you’re just being a dick. Venting has its place (www.dadandburied.com), but this kind of talk amounts to little more than fear-mongering; most of us get quite enough of that from the nightly news.
I don’t want to know how bad things might get as my son gets older; I already have enough fears and anxieties in that department. I’d rather you keep your mouth shut, or maybe express a little empathy (“I know exactly how you feel; it was a tough time for us too.”), or maybe even lie to me and give me some hope (“I’m sorry it’s been so tough for you, but at least it can’t get much worse!”).
WHATEVER YOU DO, DON’T TELL ME HOW MUCH WORSE IT CAN GET.
I’ve got my own experiment in patience, frustration and “how much can I drink before it becomes a problem” sleeping in the room next to mine. The fact that right now he’s not actually sleeping and is instead screaming about gummy snacks is all the warning I need.