I’m going to be 34 next month, and I think it’s taken me at least 30 years to finally feel comfortable with who I am. I grew up feeling out of place a lot of the time, and I definitely went through many stages of identity crisis just trying to belong. I went from Montessori to Lutheran school and finally my parents settled on public school when I was in the 4th grade because I had a difficult time making friends. I was picked on a lot for being timid and standoffish (read: introvert).
Well, now I’ve got kids. Kids are crazy little extensions of yourself whom you have no real control over. You can be as cool as a cucumber and downplay your own awkwardness… but be prepared for your kid to go and throw a wrench in your cool guy game. Why? Because kids are totally awkward. You can be talking to your boss at a party and your kid will have just discovered the art of mining for boogers. Don’t worry, she won’t forget to show your boss the Hope Diamond. Remember my awkward public restroom traumas?
Not only are they are unpredictable grenades, but they are a 24/7 reflection of you as a parent. It doesn’t matter how much you lead by example or what you teach them day-in and day-out. When you’re in public, what they do is immediately going to be a gauge of your parenting skills. Like it or not. When your child starts seizing on the ground like it’s the End Times because they can’t have popcorn at Target… well, guess who’s going to get the shit judged out of them. YOU.
Kids are a freakin crap shoot. Some days NB is a model citizen. She’s kind, thoughtful, and hugging all her friends at school. She lets other friends go in front of her in line and she wakes up with cute dust in her eyes. She’s busy making adorable 5-year-old cards that have crooked hearts and backwards letters. It’s crayon love everywhere. Fantastic!
Then five seconds later, as I’m preparing my Mother of the Year speech, my model child tells the sweetest girl in her ballet class that she’s not welcome there because she’s not in ballet attire. She literally walks the poor crying child to the door and opens it for her! Don’t let the door hit you on your way out! (She might as well have said!) I couldn’t even look at the wounded doe’s mom. The only thing I could do was shoot acid darts from my eyes at NB.
Social leprosy +20pts.
Same thing with NB2.0. I’m recounting this lovely story about how much NB2.0 loves cats and dogs to my friends at a recent birthday party. She loves puppies so much that she’s addicted to YouTube videos of this dog performing party tricks. Just as I’m about to proclaim humbly, NB2.0 should be the youngest PETA member ever, I see her try and kick my friend’s dog at the party. Total field goal style… with the run up and everything. So now I’m a liar. I swear my child loves animals and doesn’t want to kick puppies and baby sea otters! This has never happened before… before… before. My voice echoes pathetically as everyone recoils from Michael Vick aka Animal Abuse Family.
You try so hard to build this good reputation for yourself (nearly 34 years worth of strategic planning) and then your kid blows it like a cokehead in Vegas.
5 3 seconds flat.
I guess there is an upside to this. It does seem to happen to all parents at one point or another. I was admiring one of NB’s perfectly mannered classmates at school the other day, wondering what brand of unicorn tears her mother feeds her angelic children. Then NB tells me that Perfect Kid spat in someone’s face or slapped another child or something and got sent to the principal’s office.
I can’t believe it! Kids are so awkward. They have no filter. They spit like rabid camels in people’s faces. Intentionally! If I so even spittle an electron microscopic droplet on a friend while I’m talking I’m mortified until forever x ∞. So anyway, I’m
pretty relieved so goddamn relieved that it wasn’t my child who spat in someone’s face, because kids are a crap shoot and who the hell knows what tomorrow will bring. When I come out of my sympathy-relief celebration, I realize my daughter has her hands down her pants and she’s been readjusting her underwear in public for the last minute a la Michael Jackson. And my 1.5 year old? She’s shoveling mud into her mouth by the bushes like Tarzan.