Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Our appalling progeny

Taking note lately of how mortified young parents are of their children's behavior, and feeling compelled to say "it's ok, young parents."

We've all had the opportunity to witness the fits thats little kids throw. In the line at Target, at a restaurant, parking lot, nursery school, or just in the living room when friends are visiting - there is no physical place that is off limits to the toddler. It's one of the blessings - and curses - of being that age. There are no limits, no dissembling, no "acceptable behaviors" - you might say the only time in our lives when we are truly, completely real and honest and expressive of our true self? The id in charge? "Looks like a good place and time for a tantrum!" they say to themselves, and the next thing you know it's a full-blown case of the crazies. I guess there are some people who continue to get all id as adults, but hell, you're supposed to have some self control when you're all grown up. Unless you want to end up on "Cops."

But when it comes to the kid throwing a fit, is it a little like "Rashomon"? Each person's experience of the same event would be described very differently? Lord knows we've all had that thought "Would somebody please just shut that kid up!" While someone else might be thinking "Oh, that poor kid, she's just exhausted." And another person might say "Why is it that some parents just don't know how to control their children?"

I have been on several sides of this equation - I've been the parent of the spazzy child, I've been the grandparent of the spazzy child, I've been the uninvolved observer - a long time ago, I was the spazzy child myself - weren't you? And wasn't that painfully judgemental person who's shooting daggers at the young parents, wasn't he/she the spazzy child once too? Fascinating how your perspective changes as you fill each of these roles.

My latest conclusion is that we are all way, way, WAY too bothered by the kid throwing the fit, especially those young, inexperienced parents. Those young parents get that embarrassed face on, that "just shoot me now" look - as if this kid that's all red in the face and shrieking is from some other planet or possessed by the devil and can't possibly be the fruit of MY loins. And you know they're thinking sometimes that they must be the worst parent in the world, and "where did I go wrong?" and "this kid is in for a long life full of detention and juvenile hall" and "for God's sake, this CAN'T be MY kid!"

The truth is, that IS your kid, and you were just like that once, and just about every other upright citizen around us was just like that kid once, and whatever judgmental person around you who makes you feel bad about was just like that kid once, and you should just smile and say "I love that child."

As the saying goes, "we'll all laugh about this someday."

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