I don’t want to get off on the wrong foot; I don’t want to draw a line in sand separating the people with children from the people without children. I am in no way attempting to say that either group is any way better than the other. Neither am I attempting to ostracize those who have chosen to not have children (or perhaps are unable to). I don’t want to be part of a clique; nor do I want want to judge. But I do feel that there are a few things that I need to share/point out/mention/underscore.
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 onAmazon.com. And his film, Happy Holidays, is available atiTunes, Indiepix, Cinemanow, CaachiandEyesoda. Additional information can be found on the Happy HolidaysMySpaceandFacebookweb sites.
I don’t know how many more times I will be able to get away with the excuse that I am pregnant every time I have a brain fart. Seriously, my brain seems to be functioning less and less the larger the baby in my belly grows. Does the bloat travel upward to our heads as well? I am a bit of ditz, anyway- as my closest friends will tell you. And it’s not for lack of trying, or lack of caring. In fact, I used to be quite sensitive to the blond hair on my head until I met my husband and he helped me learn to laugh at my malapropisms and idiosyncrasies. There. A perfect example of how I mix metaphors and folk lore. It’s times like these that I notice the difference in the patience level among my friends who parents like me, and those that are not. Not that I blame them, as I know I had less patience before I became a parent. It’s not that I was an insensitive person, but looking back, I see how easy it was to be judgmental. If we witnessed children acting up in a restaurant, for example, my husband and I would whisper to each other that when we have kids, we would make sure that they would behave much better that that. We’d nit-pick at the parents who were obviously are not giving their children the correct attention or discipline. Looking back at that time and that old me, I want to reach back into the past and smack my face. How dare I? The truth is, I barely recognize the person that I was before I had children and perhaps those unsympathetic notions are punishing me today with a very active toddler, often difficult to control in public places. I used to be embarrassed by loud childhood behavior and public temper tantrums- especially the ones where my son would lay down in a high traffic area out of protest for not wanting me to hold his hand and force him to go in MY direction rather than his own. After nearly a year of this, I stopped apologizing to the disapproving strangers while they stepped over the obviously “poor parented” child on the ground, and stopped caring altogether what they must think of me. But back to me and the air in my brain. It’s gotten significantly worse upon becoming a parent, beginning with my first pregnancy. The term is called Pregnancy Brain: a lapse in awareness because of the fatigue that comes with creating a child and the big belly that causes a disruption in balance resulting in complete and total clumbsiness. Once the baby is born, the brain then transforms to Mommy Brain: a lapse in awareness resulting from sleepless nights and lack of adult interaction during the work week. Of course, just as my toddler began sleeping through the night and I began to meet other numbed brained parents with whom I might commiserate did I rediscover all that lost energy returning. Of course, I became pregnant again soon after. Hello, pregnancy brain, can’t say that I missed you, but welcome back. It’s no easier the second time around, either. The only difference is that I have stopped apologizing for it, and I’ve accepted it as part of the 9 month cycle. This is not to say that I don’t use the Pregnancy Brain explanation on a daily basis. The thing that I’ve noticed is that I don’t even need to give the explanation to my parent friends. They just nod in empathy when I’ve forgotten something obviously simple, like …oh…my own son’s name, or the year we are living in, or how to write a proper sentence. They get it…because they’ve either been there, or they are there with me now and didn’t even notice. Yet, for all my non-parent friends, who I love as much as I ever did, for whom I find myself envying now and again for the motor in their minds that is still operating at full functionality- I forgive you for not quite understanding, but appreciate your acceptance, nonetheless. It would appear that parenthood kills more brain cells than the occasional kegger.