There is something that I have noticed for some time, but it is becoming more and more apparent the more time I am around our kids. People don't like children any more. I don't mean me - I love my kids. But that is so often true . . . we love OUR kids . . . and we tolerate other people's kids. I can say that when I have close friends, I learn to love their kids like they were my own. My sister's sweet son, Toby? I would take him to live with me and raise him as my own if that ever was needed. The same could be said about my niece, Beulah, even though I have never even met her. I think the longer I have children, the more I am comfortable around other kids - and the more tender-hearted.
But the vast majority of people out there just plain don't like kids. I can tell. When we walk into a store or a restaurant, there is a flicker of disdain or pain that flies across the face of the host or hostess. This same look is reflected by customers and service staff. It is like, "Oh great, here comes a whirlwind." Now, my kids are very very cute. I am biased, but other people agree with this. The first thought a person should have is, "Dang, them there are some cute kids." (Remember we are now in Tallahassee - this is how they talk here.) It is usually only after hanging around my kids that someone realizes that they are, well, kids.
Kids. Juveniles. Minors. The very names indicate that these are not fully functioning and mature humans. They are still growing and learning. They still don't know how to act all the time. And if they do know, they don't remember. And sometimes, yes, they are just belligerent and stinky and whining. But that is part of growing up. This is not tolerated.
Some examples, please....
- The other day our downstairs neighbors were getting in their car as we were arriving. So I took a moment to go and check on our noise level. Having lived below a family at our last place, I know it can be loud. So I kindly asked. The husband goes, "It's not too bad." The wife glares at him and me. "No, it is horrible. Absolutely terrible." I was startled. He tried to cover. "They are just kids, we know it is going to be a little loud." She shoots more ocular daggers. "No, he's being kind. It is just so so loud." I just stared. I apologized. I said I was doing my best to keep them quiet, especially at nap time and night time. Now, these people have a three year old and the mom is pregnant. You would think there would be some communal goodwill. I guess we won't be invited downstairs for dinner.
- The McDonald's at our Walmart is pretty small. The tables are right up against each other. So when we sit at our benches, we are right up against other people at other tables. Well, that is just an invitation for our kids to turn around and try to talk to these people, check them out, steal their food (kidding, I think). One time, the person next to us was very cool about this. The other times the people were visibly wolfing their food to escape. I am sitting there correcting the kids constantly. "Be quiet, turn around, stop looking at them, keep your toys on the table." This is Mickey D's! They give the kids freaking toys! It is fast food. This isn't like I dragged my kids to Morton's and we shared table space with a dating couple. Really, these people are on MY territory. But they glare at you when your kids try to play with their wind up dinosaur.
- We are trying to find a new church. Our old one is in Orlando, so it is a bit of a commute. One of the things that is so hard with churches now is what to do with the kids. There are a ton of traditional, older churches that have tons of kids' programs, classes, facilities. But many of these places come with some of the "stuck in the mud" grime that can accompany an older church. The newer churches don't have anything for the kids, in many cases. Sure, they have a place to send them during service. But it is largely a holding pen so the parents can have a break for an hour. And God forbid if your kids doesn't like being penned up. If you have a crier (like Gabe), the workers can't stand seeing you coming and want to offer you tons of advice about how to make their lives easier.
- This stems off of the last one. Both Natalie and Gabe had trouble transitioning into a nursery setting. Nat was fine once she got into preschool, with teachers and such. But in the "nursery," she hated going and cried. Gabe does the same thing. A big part is that they don't want to leave Heather. They have been with her all day. They nursed longer than many kids. They co-slept. All of these things lead to trouble with nursery, babysitters. They grow out of it. But you hear all kinds of stuff. Basically, we get berated regularly for letting our kids get "too attached" to us. They "like us too much." We should force them into uncomfortable situations more often so they handle them better. Huh? But we also hear parents frequently talk about how their kids aren't going to "change their lives."
This is all what I don't get. Kids change your life. They change it for the better. You get to watch little people grow up. You get to be a part of crafting a person. It may be tiring, but it keeps you young and on your toes. It forces you to be better because so much is riding on you. I can honestly say that being with the kids has been great. I have been stressed and tired. But I feel better than I have for years. I am moving and active. I can't afford to be lazy and sit around. I am more disciplined and organized. I am more patient and gentler. And I can tolerate a lot more.
It used to be that I would get very upset at our kids for being loud or crazy. Now, I understand a lot of that is them playing and learning. Sure, they can't do this all the time. But they don't and they won't. I remember that with Josiah, we stressed about everything. He didn't potty train or wean from the bottle fast enough. He wouldn't go to sleep when we wanted him to. But by Gabe, we realized that it may be on a different time table then we want - but it will happen when it is time. That different approach makes this much easier. But most people won't be tolerant. It used to be that a whole community was a part of raising a kid. The people around town loved kids. But now that is not the case. The thing that stresses me now is worrying that people around are going to get angry. I worry they are going to hate me or my kids. Why I care, I don't know. But I do.
It's too bad, really. It stinks that people don't have that soft spot for kids any more. Because kids will just totally brighten your day if you let them. As I type this, Gabe is running around with a blanket on his head. The three of them have turned a laundry basket into a boat and a clubhouse. Natalie brushed my hair earlier. Josiah was just reading Gabe word cards, teaching him how to say words. Most people wouldn't even notice that. They would just be angry because the laundry basket was getting bent, their hair was getting messed up, and the running pounded on the floor. Boy are they missing out. Give my kids a chance and they will change your world. They changed mine. And it is my job to make sure the change they make is for good and for eternity. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to show them how to make spaghetti. And I'm sure they will make a mess.