What follows is an informal, disorganized list of points to consider when dealing with either children or people with children. Berate these points, ignore them, embrace them – I don’t care. But here they are:
A.) Toddlers are not pets.
I’ve owned cats. Cats are wonderful. Feed ‘em twice a day, make sure their water bowl is always full, give them an overpriced plastic box to pee in and some furniture to shed on and they’ll be your best friend. But even if they don’t, you can have them put down without going to jail.
I’ve also owned dogs. They entail a little more responsibility than cats – principally due to the fact that for some unknown reason having a big plastic box in your house for your dog to pee in is considered “uncouth.” (The temptation to make a joke here about FOX News is almost overpowering.) Dogs need to be walked. And that requires some scheduling. Depending on the size of the dog’s bladder, maybe it’s a couple of times a day. Maybe it’s a few times a day. Whatever it is, it’s considerably easier than the constant twenty-four hour responsibility of taking care of a toddler.
“Twenty four hours?” you say, maybe just a wee bit snidely. “Don’t they sleep?”
Sure. When they’re not waking up at three A.M. to vomit on you. And themselves. And the floor. And that pile of overpriced toys manufactured in China.
So if you’re trying to make plans with somebody who has a toddler it’s likely they’re going to say something like this:
“We’d be happy to meet you for dinner but we can only from 5 to 6 because I need to have [insert toddler’s name here] home by 6:30 for his bath so that I have time to get him into his pajamas, read to him and have him in bed by 8 because I need to be in bed by 8:30 because he’s gonna be up at 5.”
Don’t react as if they’ve just told you they collect teeth. Don’t judge. Just roll with it, savoring the fact that you’re probably not going to find food in the laundry.
Toddlers live and breathe by their schedules like the state of California lives and breathes by its taxes. (And beaches. But mostly taxes.) To make plans with somebody who has a toddler is to completely and freely give oneself up to their toddler’s schedule. If this idea bothers you and you need to pretend you’re in control of your life, I’m going to suggest waiting until [insert toddler’s name here] is in college before attempting to spend any time with [insert toddler’s name here]’s parents. The good news is that by that time, the parents of [insert toddler’s name here] will be so worn down from raising him or her that they’ll be completely beaten down (translation: malleable); thus, subjugating them to your iron will should be a snap.
To be continued …
(More letters to come … )
James C. Ferguson lives in Los Angeles with his wife, daughter and two cats. James’ novel, Context Clues, is available on Amazon.com. And his film, Happy Holidays, is available at iTunes, Indiepix, Cinemanow, Caachi and Eyesoda. Additional information can be found on the Happy Holidays MySpace and Facebook web sites.
Too true! I would also like to point out, to those without children, that children are not contagious or dangerous in anyway to visitors. Having been blessed with our son three years ago our lives have undergone dramatic changes but none of the few friends who have been brave enough to continue visiting have left our home in the family way. Completing a sentence, let alone a conversation, uninterrupted can be difficult. Crossing the living room floor is akin to walking through a North Vietnamese minefield but the shrapnel is easily removed and we have plenty of Sponge Bob band-aids. Finding a beer in the fridge requires digging past the Capri Sun without knocking the off the straws but believe me there is alcohol in the house! Having once been a rather well known hostess and having always enjoyed good conversation being force to relinquish words with more than three syllables has been painful. I would invite those of you who do not have children to find some time to swing by the home of your friends who do. Bring them a six-pack if they have toddlers and a case if they have teenagers but visit. If you do so regularly the children will get use to you and when that blessed event occurs they won’t pay you anymore attention then the cat.