Thoughts by Richard Bleil
Full disclosure here. I am not a father. I’ve never been fortunate enough to have found a woman who wanted to be around me long enough to have a child with me. In fact, if you read yesterday’s post, you are all too aware of the kind of luck that I have with women. But to be fair, I was a child once. And there are those who claim that I never really grew up anyway. But something that I’ve noticed is that many people seem to have a hard time with kids being kids.
My father was one of them. All he ever seemed to want is just five minutes of peace and quiet, is that too much to ask? Dad spoke two languages, English and his native tongue of Swearese, which he managed to practice frequently with me. This is emotional abuse. I was always very quiet because I was, frankly, afraid to make any noise. And this, I’m convinced, is a significant reason for my depression. Fear of his anger and retribution (which was never physical but was just as real) created a child that my mother loved to brag about (he’s just so quiet!).
I don’t blame them. They did the best they could and probably didn’t realize that I was very depressed. It hit me some years later when I was having a meal with my parents in some kind of family restaurant. A young couple put their toddler in a highchair near us, and immediately dad was annoyed. At this point, I was an adult, with my bachelor’s degree and working as an analytical chemist on environmental samples (soil, water, air, oils for pesticides, herbicides and polychlorinated biphenyls). And I noticed his annoyed expression. And sure enough, eventually the child began acting out.
As adults, we do a lot of things that are unnatural for toddlers and children. We sit for extended periods of time and speak softly. Children, on the other hand, need to run, jump and play to develop their muscles, and scream to develop their lungs. I know often this is embarrassing for parents, but it’s so very natural, as natural as breastfeeding. Unfortunately, “misbehaving” children and breastfeeding children in public are both frowned upon, although I cannot understand why.
Now, to be fair, all of us, parents included, should have some degree of situational awareness. Screaming, running and crying children don’t bother me because, frankly, I’d be more worried if they didn’t (especially after eating when they need to burn off those calories), but I also know that many people are simply irritated by this. So, I understand. I would like to believe that, had I had the chance, I would have been the kind of dad to take the kids outside to let them be who they are without bothering the other patrons of the restaurant, but I don’t think I could be the kind of dad that insists that children just give me five damned minutes of peace and quiet because it IS too much to ask for!
We reach different developmental stages as we age. I’ve written before on the problem of dating younger women, when they are wanting to go out dancing and drinking all night long and I’ve been working hard to develop that butt indentation on the couch. Kids and parents are the same. Parents have responsibilities and schedules to keep them busy while kids want to just run and jump and play. Kids are entropy generators as their toys are strewn about the house while parents are entropy soldiers as they try futilely to put the toys away. And, by the way, this should not be a woman’s job. There are always two people involved in creating a child (well, I have friends who would argue about the one time that conception was immaculate), so there should be (in an ideal world) two people working together to raise the child. Unfortunately, it’s all too often that the mom is better off with the father out of her life entirely, but in those cases where they are still together, the father should help to pitch in on the daily chores and should take special care to make the mom know that she’s loved, comfortable and happy.
But don’t ask me. I’ve never been a father.
The point being, as difficult as it is to do sometimes, parents and adults should be more forgiving and let kids be kids (keeping them safe, of course). And for the parents struggling with their child, leave the alone. The way they raise their children is nobody’s business but their own. No judgment, but if you’re so concerned, you could always ask if they need help with anything.