Becoming a parent is an extremely insightful experience. Beyond teaching you about yourself and your partner, it teaches you a lot about those around you. Relationships you’ve had for years that have been a large part of who you are can be tested once your life includes a whole new being, one who means more to you than the world, more to you than she does to others. If you’re the parent of a spirited, highly emotional and active child, I think this revelation is inevitable.
It didn’t come as a surprise to me when I started drifting apart from friends who don’t have kids, it’s a normal part of life that I readily accept. Maintaining friendships when you’re in different life stages isn’t impossible but definitely not without concerted effort (yes, there are exceptions of course). What I wasn’t prepared for was the need to protect my child from close friends who didn’t know how to deal with her.
I’ll be the first to admit that my LO can be challenging to say the least. She pushes the limits and definitely tests our patience. The constant reminders on etiquette as well as emotional control are something my husband and I have grown accustomed to and while society seems to gravitate towards placing our children in the categories of “good” or “bad”, we’ve come to realize that her so-called bad-behaviour while embarrassing at times, is a normal part of her growth as a toddler. We finally recognize that raising a kid requires empathy and self-control on our part and expect those we care about to demonstrate this when dealing with her but, sadly, this isn’t always the case. The fact is, not everyone knows how to respond to our kids, particularly when they aren’t on their best behaviour. It doesn’t help that we live in a culture that fears disciplining other people’s children. And by discipline I don’t mean putting someone else’s child on time out but rather compassionately explaining to him that what he is doing is unacceptable. Where does this leave us? In my experience, rather than taking the opportunity to model good behavior often times adults will resort to indifference and in, some cases, respond rudely to a misbehaving child. I’m sure we can all agree that isn’t the best course of action and if you’re doing this to your friend’s child, don’t expect a return visit.
Most parents I’ve spoken to seem to support the idea that it’s not their place to discipline another person’s child, washing their hands of situations they deem not their problem. To me, the not my problem syndrome can probably sum up what’s wrong with our world today. To choose not to care when something doesn’t directly affect you is a very selfish attitude to have. I do think this viewpoint comes from a place of judgment, an assumption that the other parent isn’t doing his job, which isn’t always the case. We can’t be in all places at once so sharing the responsibility of keeping the peace should be a no-brainer. If it takes a village, I’m not sure why parents are so opposed to banding together.
It’s a bit of a rude awakening. Be forewarned, you may be able to share a bottle of wine and good conversation but that doesn’t always mean you can share the role as a parent.