A: Damn right we are, especially with so much predatory marketing keeping parents’ envious eyes on each other. As moms and dads everywhere condemn the current wave of weirdo parenting while trading assurances that their own kids are free of transmissible dysfunction, it’s only gotten that much more entertaining.
I don’t really care about last week’s Time magazine cover of a confused oaf takin’ a pull off his ma’s tap. I don’t care about extended breast feeding’s quasi-cat lady proponents or this beyond tragicomic “pre-mastication” trend. Yet it’s all fodder for the current national yakkety-yak and it’s overtaken my parent-friends’ usual election year/Facebook/reading list talking points. I listen in, but all I seem to hear is how superior they feel for not going to extremes themselves (while their kids kick shit over and scream “shut up!” when someone interrupts their iPhone game).
My wife and I laugh about how parenting can be as extreme as energy pills made from dehydrated placenta. We see the decision to spawn as extreme to begin with, and no cultural child-worship (or pressure from my wife’s mom) is gonna convince us otherwise.
The argument we hear most is how special those moments are when you gaze upon your child, this perfect creation, beaming with pride, and you’re filled with love and a magic fairy has erased your concerns and birds on your shoulder whisper secrets into your ear. Never mind that this is a direct contradiction of what we see in these folks’ homes, we hear this all the time. We’re adamant about wanting no part of it, so of course we attract friends who want us to drink the Kool-aid. And while we’re grateful we’re thought worth the effort, we like our position as temps. This way we can mock others as they try to baby-proof their lives, raise children, still go surfing, pay their mortgages, and keep their houses and transportation “green” and their minds stable.
Our neighbors assure us we “just don’t understand” while they compare $300, $700, and $1300 baby strollers with mommy-rivals across the street. They tell us how “uniquely you” your children will be as they stretch little Ramones t-shirts over their kids’ tiny arms. Nearly all their baby gear and feeding utensils look designed in either Cupertino or Turin. Even if their kid budget gets blown mostly at Target, it’s hard to tell a baby bottle from an ashtray in their house thanks to this godless curvature trend in retail design. I can’t imagine the anxiety of keeping track of so many additional bits and pieces, blankets and socks, hats, toys, bags, diapers, wipes, snacks, and plastic bullshit made to bounce twelve times before you can catch it and stop that damn noise. (I won’t even go there with control over your own soundscape.)
My guy friends tell me I don’t know what I’m missing, that everything changes once the baby comes. “You really start to understand what it’s all about, bro, the first time you look at your child.” Over ‘n over again it’s these same sentiments. They never change and they’re never improved upon. And without exception, they’re accompanied by the ‘ol, “‘Course you have to take the good with the bad…” backpedal. I stopped arguing or even catching those contradictions when I realized that getting the last word in here isn’t good for friendships.
We wish our friends well, but this is a struggle we can do without. We’ve got enough stress without worrying over which toys contain Chinese lead or what the kid’s supposed to bring with him to school tomorrow. It’s hard enough keeping our cars full of gas, our credit rating semi-attractive, and our taxes, pay-per-view, and parking tickets paid. Our friends have taken on whole new worlds of duties, tasks, chores, and stress. I think that’s what changes ‘em, not the breeding. My wife and I appreciate the joy of a full family dinner table and watching children discover everything from soapy bubbles to tide pools and Koi ponds and Halloween and ouchies. But we’ve also watched our parent friends mutate into unrecognizable creatures who pump stress from the earth like Gulf Coast oil platforms, night and day.
We’ve seen our parent friends go through bouts of stress and worry like someone running as mayor of a small town. Kindergarten, play-dates, college tuition, maternity recovery and couple’s issues, organic you-names-its, the swear jar, milestone pressure, milestone envy, helicopter moms, daycare costs, disabilities, self-reliance, homework, meddling grandparents, fatso pre-teens, parent-teacher conferences, eco-babies, and my two favorites: failed expectations and narcissistic parents!
Sometimes there’s yelling. (Hey, adults throw toys too!) Occasionally, we even glimpse the intersection of Child Street and Daddy’s Prescription Addiction Boulevard, and we know it’ll be an ugly surprise once junior’s juvenile traits become adult habits. Free of your character defects, you insist? Yeah, wrong.
So we’re supportive, but we’re happy our back seat has no baby bucket strapped to it: it’s a real sense of relief. Sure being childless at 40 sets us apart, but our privacy, personal time, and disposable income (what little there is) outweigh the reward of “understanding what life’s all about.” And when it starts to sound more like “One of us! One of us,” we ain’t havin’ it.