Monday, September 26, 2011

Other People's Children

Imagine that you are having a quick lunch at a local eatery before picking up your children from preschool.  The emerging toddler at the neighboring table is practicing his high pitched screams.  His mom looks up with a smile and a shrug as if to say- isn't he cute?

Well, no, not really.

Next, imagine that you are at the park sitting in the sand with your children.  Some child you've never seen before saddles up to you and wants to demonstrate her amazing jumping abilities.  At first you smile politely and give an obligatory compliment, hoping she'll either leave or start playing with your children, but she stays... next to you... and keeps talking.  You look around sheepishly for a parent/caregiver and when you spot one that seems to know the child, she gives you a grateful thank-you nod and now you are stuck with three children commanding your attention for the next thirty minutes. 
Photo courtesy of Karin Asencio.
It's not that I don't like children.  I love children, especially children that I know.  However, since I have birthed my own screeching babes, other people's children have become far less cute.  I'm not talking about the children of my friends', I am actually quite fond of these kids.  Yet, the strange toddler running in circles on the sidewalk no longer makes me smile.  (Is it bad that I sometimes want to trip them?)

Maybe my problem does not lie in the child, but the parent that thinks everyone else is delighted to hear her little monkey babble and watch him crawl on the dirty cafe floor.   Yesterday, while trying to get a quick salad and work on an article, I was interrupted by a mother of a toddler while eating a nice child-free salad.  She was talking to her 18-month old in a loud, sing-songy voice.  "No, no Colby, we don't throw grapes.  You like that bread, huh?  It's good.  Do you want to sing?  Ok.  The itsy bitsy spider...  I said no, no.  Let's not throw forks!" And on, and on she went.  At this moment, I slightly hated her (probably because I was using the exact same voice two years ago).

None of these scenarios depict a child misbehaving.  Those kids, the ones in the midst of a sadistic tantrum or refusing to share her sand toys, do not phase me in the least.  I get them.  This is fine, normal, and expected.  Best of all, during these times, no parent is looking at me to provide admiration to the offending offspring.  In these situations the mothers are usually embarrassed and doing their best to calm the demonic child or pretend that they are with someone else.

I also don't believe in disciplining other people's children.  In most circumstances there is little I could say or do that would have any impact on the child's behavior.  Most likely I will just piss off the parent.  In addition, I probably do not know enough about the situation to properly intervene.  Maybe the child has Asperger's?  Maybe she is going through a difficult transition at home and is acting out in other settings?  I really try not to judge, especially the difficult behavior.  And, God only knows, that my children have provided their fair share of inappropriate public behavior.

So parents, let's just all agree on one thing; yes, of course our children are adorable, special, talented, gifted, and oh so brilliant.   However, this is mostly in the eyes of their own parents.


  1. This is SO true. Other people's kids have become FAR less cute since I had my own - so very true. And you're right about the toddler's high-pitched scream in the cafe, or just kind of not having the bandwidth for that third stray child at the playground...totally get it - been there, done that too! (-:


  2. This is so great! I thought I was really abnormal after pushing out my son and suddenly not liking other people's babies and kids! I loved children when I thought I couldn't have any, and now that I have my one and only true love of a son, I do not want ANYTHING to do with other children. Play dates for me are so unappealing because that would mean I would have to try to have adult conversation while watching others kids act up or watching other Mom's not discipline their own kids. Ugh!