Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Tuesday Trading: Parents vs Non-Parents

Okay folks. I read through John Kinnear's article "5 Things Parents Need To Stop Saying To Non-Parents" (below) first thing this morning, and I had to share.

For one, about a year ago, I was definitely #1 - sharing stories about my dog to help relate to my parent-friends. Thankfully, most of my parent friends were once pet-obsessed singles, and my stories often wafted into open, inviting ears. As someone who once slept on a couch pallet on the floor for two weeks while my chihuahua was recovering from a sprained back, injections, and arthritis, I feel that I have at least earned a spot in the "Oh the THINGS we do for our BABIES!!!" conversation.

Secondly, one area of the list made me giggle, cringe, tear up, and shake a proverbial fist at my screen. #3 tends to resonate with me as a step-whatsit in a very direct manner. It was already insulting [and very, very annoying] when people would tell me "don't worry, you'll understand when you have kids someday." My immediate horrible, judgmental response (in my head, of course, never aloud...) was, "I won't worry! I'm sorry that I want to go to college, date, and then get married and settled into a career before I start popping out babies when I'm not even old enough to legally drink!" Of course, that was part immaturity and part defense mechanism; and only about 5% of the time did I actually believe what I was saying. Shame on me!

In any case, as a step-whatsit, I find that to be the most insulting comment of all. True, maybe some day when I birth babies I will understand what it's like..... to birth babies. But to tell me that I'll know what tired/stress/financial/emotional/parenting pains are when I have my own children - well, to this I say, kiss my grits. Perhaps I didn't grow our kids in the womb, but they certainly grew in my heart. And just because we will never share DNA, does not mean that I am not a parent.

I don't share DNA with my dog either, but that doesn't stop me from being his mom.

5 Things Parents Need to Stop Saying to Non-Parents     

John Kinnear

First, I should say that I am 100 percent guilty of all of these. I know this reads as an advice list, but really it's advice I'm giving myself. The "you" I am addressing in this piece is me... unless it applies to you; then it is you.
I ran headfirst into this parenting thing, and have gladly and gratefully let it redefine me as a person. One unforeseen side-effect has been that I view everything through the lens of parenting. Sometimes that is a good thing. For instance, I don't leave steak knives lying around as much as I used to. Sometimes -- and this is what I've recently learned -- it can alienate my non-kid-having friends. Here are some things that are better left unsaid.

1. "Dogs are not kids."
It usually goes like this. "Ugh. You know what really bugs me? When so-and-so compares her dog to my kid. Or when so-and-so refers to his or her dog as his or her kid. Dogs are not kids! She has NO IDEA!"

You know what? Unless "so-and-so" needs professional help, I guarantee "so-and-so" knows that her dog is not a human child. She also knows that having a dog is nothing like having a kid. What she's really saying is "Oh! Yes. I also have something in my life that poops AND brings me joy."
She is trying to relate to you and be a part of your life -- the life where all you do is talk about your kids. I know that it's hard to relate when you have kids and your friends don't. What were once close relationships can become sporadic meet-ups where you do your best to try and catch up with someone with whom you have very little in common anymore. Sure, you two were best buds in college, but now you have very different lives. So, when "so-and-so" offhandedly, and perhaps awkwardly, tries to relate to your story about picking poo out of your bangs by comparing it to scraping dog shit out of the carpet, cut her some slack. She's just trying to be nice. And she misses you.

2. "You think you're [insert anything here]? Try having kids!"
Tired, stressed, in pain, covered in urine, it doesn't matter. They all apply. Too often, we parents downplay non-parents' concerns by pulling ours out and tossing them on the table. "Oh man! You worked 50 hours this week? Try doing that with kids!" "Oh man, you think your feet hurt from working outside all day! I've been chasing my toddler blah blah blah punch me in the face, please."
It's not a competition. If, on a scale of 1 to Passing Out Awkwardly in the Shower and Waking Up When the Hot Water Runs Out, your friend is at a 7, and three weeks into your first newborn you were at a 9, that DOESN'T MAKE YOUR FRIEND ANY LESS TIRED.
It isn't that your experiences can't be a valid contribution to the conversation, but instead of a "my pain is more painful than your pain" approach, instead, try sympathizing. Why not try using your experience as a new parent to help instead of compete? Say something like, "Whoa! I bet you're tired. When I was tired after my daughter was born, I found that pouring coffee directly into my eyeballs was incredibly useful."

3. "Don't worry, when you have kids you'll..."
... not be grossed out by boogers, know who Dora the Explorer is, be happy... UGH. We've got to quit assuming that everyone is going to have kids. Some people don't want kids and choose not to have them. Some people really want kids and are trying incredibly hard to have them. Indicating to these people that having kids is the only way they will reach some higher level of understanding is both inconsiderate and rude. I don't know what the alternatives to these statements are. Maybe just cut anything that starts with "When you have kids..." out of your repertoire all together. It makes you sound like someone's mom, anyway.

4. "Is the party kid-friendly?"
Unless you and your friend have some previous communication on this topic about how your little one is always welcome, assume the party is not kid-friendly. Don't ask. If it were "kid-friendly" they would have invited you AND your kids, and mentioned the awesome playroom that they will have set up in the basement. By asking your non-kid-having friends if their party is kid friendly you are putting them in the really awkward position of either MAKING their party kid-friendly on the fly, or telling you that the party is NOT kid-friendly which, then, no matter how low-key the party was intended to be in the first place, pretty much requires that they now provide a steady supply of hookers and blow. Don't make your friends set up a kids' room, and definitely don't make them buy hookers and blow.

5. "My life didn't have meaning before I had kids!"
Another way to say this: My life was meaningless before I had kids. Another way: Life without kids is meaningless.
Look, I know this feeling. Sometimes it feels like all the worries I had before my kids were trivial. I understand the urge to convey that feeling into words. Don't do it. Your life may have a different purpose now, but your pre-kid life was an important part of your story, and your non-kid-having friends are a part of that. Don't dismiss that part of your life the way most people skip the foreword to a novel they really want to read. By dismissing the "before" as just a buildup to your kids, you are not only dismissing your friends, but you're also implying that their story has not started yet.
Lastly, if you have done or said any of these things, you don't need to apologize. Just stop saying them. Apologizing will make it worse. I apologized for one of these things, and it came out poorly. It basically sounded like "Oh, you poor, delicate, non-kid-having flower. I am sorry that I was so consumed in my awesome parenting that I was neglectful and dismissive of our friendship. Please forgive me."
There was no forgiveness needed. I hadn't harmed anyone, I'd just annoyed them. Forgiving me would have been like forgiving a fly for landing on you. So, I promise to try and be more aware of how I say things, a better friend and less of a fly. And by less of a fly, I mean that I will not land on you, vomit on you and then try to eat you. College is over. I don't do that stuff anymore.
An earlier version of this piece appeared on John Kinnear's personal blog, Ask Your Dad. You can also find him on Facebook.
Follow John Kinnear on Twitter: www.twitter.com/AskDadBlog

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


The last month has been a lot of fun, a little trying, and a whole giant pile of CRAZY.

Chris and I spent 7 days in . b e a u t i f u l . Jamaica, where - if possible - I fell even further in love with him. We traveled there for a wedding/vacation combination with a few of our closest friends, and I dare say we spent more time "honeymooning" than the bride and groom. NO, not that kind of honeymooning. The gross lovey-dovey "let's hold hands and walk on the beach and lay in a hammock and snorkel and spend an entire day in bed with the windows open so we can hear the ocean" honeymooning. It was fantastic. And not once did I get tired of his sweet, sweet face.

Since returning home, we've had his babies kiddos for almost 3 full weeks :) I will be the first to admit that I was not ready to leave the happy bubble of the islands, but I sure did miss those goobers! This is the most time I've been able to spend with them day in and day out, and I'm happy to report that I've only had one crushing YoureNotMyMom-style comment. However, it was the first one I'd ever received, so don't be shocked when I say there were tears on my end. On the bright side, it has lead to something that may have been lacking before: trust. For the first time, I think our oldest child has realized that if I am forced to tell her what to do, it's not because I'm a mean ol' step-whatsit; but it's because I love her. This is probably one of those daunting, annoying, necessary evils for a 10 year old girl. I know that when I was ten, I wasn't much into affection, love, or kind words from anyone except cute boys and my mom. Imagine my joy and surprise when, post argument, I got my first ten year old hug, my first ten year old kiss on the cheek, and my first ten year old, "Can't you just live with us? We miss you when you're gone at night" moments. They were pretty special, to say the least.

Step-parenting (co-parenting? girlfriend-parenting? Have we decided on a term for this yet?) is hard. It's a little touch and go. It's a lot of trial and error. But I say again, it is the most rewarding thing I have yet to experience. I will never be able to fully appreciate all of the hard work Chris has done in raising these little firecrackers, and I don't think I will ever be able to thank him enough for it. But I have been reading "The Five Love Languages," and I plan to speak his language every chance I get.

This weekend we are supposed to be taking our first family trip to my family's lake house, 3 hours away, with limited video game capabilities, no cable, and 20 crazy strangers (I love my family more than you will ever know - but trust me, we are insane). I'm both terrified and immensley looking forward to some amazing memories.

And fireworks, for our little firecrackers.