Wednesday, July 28, 2010

I know who you are but what am I?

It seems tacky for me to comment in the comment section, like someone who dominates conversation all through dinner and then the minute other people open their mouths to respond, you jump right back in and talk louder and bang silverware around (which actually sounds a lot like something I would do). What I wanted to clarify, though, about asking -- what is the problem with writing something in public -- is that I didn't mean -- why don't you people admit that you hate your boss and you're having an affair? What are you afraid of? I just meant any off-hand thought or question. Plus when you send me witty, clever emails in response to something I wrote I always wish it could be part of the discussion and that other people could see it. Basically it would add to the blog and make me look clever because the last thought people would have after they read a post is -- wow, that was funny and insightful -- and it would be something you said, but the good feeling would sort of stick on to me.

After a couple months of keeping up this blog I have finally gotten through that initial backlog of all the things hounding me while I was out at Waterside Park or the sensory gym without having anyone in the moment to talk to who would answer back more than "Dat's silleeeeeeee". Wanting to say -- isn't all of this incredibly odd? This whole parenting scene? Exhausting sometimes? Frustrating? But as I wrote in You didn't have me at hello or any other time I felt like a kid who had changed schools halfway through the year and I was just trying to go along and act like everything was normal and trick myself into believing that. Anyway, so I've gotten through that build up of confusion and frustration and I am grateful for all the feedback and "I know exactly what you mean" emails and other signs of understanding.

Okay the weird part is, now that I've started to get past a lot of that built up irritation about the over-the-top, luxury stroller, isn't she just an angel on earth? mom scene, I am actually starting to -- I know this is going to sound crazy -- kind of understand in some cases why people say and do some of the things I outlawed in my New Parent Rules. Not that I forgive saying "You are just the sweetest little baby on earth" in front of people, but I kind of want to write an addendum to the NP Rules--Rules for Friends of New Parents or something. I am really starting to see how much moms and dads and other caretakers have to fight against to protect their kids and look out for their interests because people without kids are so stridently clear about their own (career, relationships, travel plans, having "so much to do"). I myself had no understanding at all about what it was like to be a parent. I preferred dogs and cats to babies any day, and even still I have to blink several times just to figure out if I'm seeing a newborn in a swaddle or a fanny pack and I don't know which would interest me less. When people said they were tired I thought they were those low energy people who like to have their teeth brushed by 9:30. There's a lot to push against as a new parent when you've become someone who is much less fun, always anxious, always distracted. You try to incorporate your kids as much as possible into plans with friends but for me at least, most of the time it doesn't work.

On the first day I worked with the OT who comes to our house, she said something as she was leaving about how we have to do everything to make life great for Wally and he's what is important now and he should be the center. I kind of recoiled. That's the attitude that I'd been terrified of having. Or if I did have it, I felt like it should be hidden from other people along with dirty laundry and compromising photos from college. But more and more as I see not only my own absurdly dragged out childhood swan song, but how people my age put demands on me that are way more "age-inappropriate" than Wally's whining for freeze-dried strawberries, I kind of think I had it wrong. Also something my mom said really struck me, that when she had young kids (of course she had 2) she didn't have anything else going on in her life -- no social life, no hobbies, no freelance work, no following the news or going out at night. There's such resistance in our generation to giving everything up to focus on your kids. Those "all about the kids" couples are just revolting. It's like giving the middle finger to your friends and and your past life and renouncing women's lib or something. Going back to Jello molds and frilly aprons. Moving out to the suburbs. Plus it feels selfish to make people eat dinner at 5 and "hold onto that thought" while you run to put a baby to sleep and expect your guests to be okay with the hollering that goes on for an hour afterward. That's the part I can't reconcile because you had a certain way of being friends, and the kid changed that. But when I was a kid I was lucky enough to have parents who were more than happy to change, who made my dad's PhD advisor, a nationally renowned psychologist, play Duck Duck Goose with me and Dara when he came over for dinner. Now I'm not asking you guys to sing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" on the steps of the China Ruby with me. But I am starting to think those people belting out "my kids are the best thing that ever happened" are at least clear about who they are, or who they are trying to be. And they're honest about the fact that the kids are their priority, and that's how it should be.

7 comments:

  1. Those people probably do know who they are and who they are trying to be. From reading your struggle with understanding it, that's not who you are. Nor is it who you need to strive to be. We all have to work out our own ways, and how things work for us.
    Yes, we change as people when we become parents, but it is hugely important to hold on to the essence of who we were before, and will be after they grow up. We need to be whole people who are happy with ourselves in order to pass that same message to our children.
    Me and my 'Fo were the only couple in our groups of friends to have a child, then two and three. It was only when we were having our fourth kid did the rest of the crew start jumping on the parenting wagon and realise what we were doing all alone. Add to that overseas parents and infirmed ones.
    We didn't bail on friendships, but we did drag our kids to parties, events. If it wasn't childfriendly, we didn't go. We hosted more at home. Our world essentially does revolve around our kids, but our personalities don't.
    Gee that was a mouthful. Sorry!! I'll hush up now.

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  2. Cookie Monster,
    Good points. And I especially like this sentence: Our world essentially does revolve around our kids, but our personalities don't.

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  3. I would never feel rude putting my kid down to sleep for an hour while people were over (what did they expect?). Maybe the real trick is learning to please Wally first, and everyone else second.

    I've always thought raising a kid seemed like a lot of fun (maybe just because my mom made it look that way). People who have kids and then don't seem to want to hang out with them ("I wish we could take our nanny on vacation!") are the weird ones to me. I have some feminist issues about not working to be a mom all day, but people are always going to look down on you for something. For instance, I, like most Americans, watch like 5 hours of TV a day. And at every party I go to, there's always the "we don't have TV" people....

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  4. ps you can totally comment in your own comment section!!

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  5. I've always put my son first, even before he was born. D'you know what I mean?

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  6. You know, I think the opposite is true. We make our kids the center of the world, but I don't think other generations did or other cultures do. They go on with their lives only with children tagging along. Kids attend parties, go out to dinner, hang out with drinkers. Parents and grandparents and cousins take your kids off your hands for hours or a day at a time. Yeah, maybe you don't go to the bar anymore, but you still go out. I think that is what Torey's and my parent's had -- That is what is done in Turkey. I think it is downright odd how we make the world revolve around our kids. It seems totally unnatural to be back here where there is a huge divide between children and the land of single people. Sad really -- for them and for us.

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