I was chatting with an acquaintance who also has a 2-year-old daughter. She asked me how things were going with the toddler stage, and I mentioned how my daughter has suddenly become interested in sucking milk from her sippy cup, spitting it onto the table, and slurping it up.
“I have no clue where she got it from, but it’s really irritating, and we obviously are trying to nip it in the bud, but toddlers, you know?”
The woman drew in her lips, put her chin down, and said, “That’s weird! My kid would never do something like that.”
She said it as though she was grateful to have a normal (whatever the hell that means!) child while my kid was obviously something short of a wild animal.
Perhaps it’s because she has one kid while my toddler is the youngest of three. Perhaps she has yet to see the full scope of how weird children can get. Perhaps she hasn’t had the opportunity to argue with a little one about everything from why it’s important to wipe your own butt to why you shouldn’t wipe your boogers on the car seat. But the fact is, all kids do weird shit, and coming at another parent as though your child is all high and mighty, while theirs is clearly falling short, is flat-out bullshit.
Because here are the facts: Kids are weird. All of them. Your kid, my kid, all the kids. Kids do nasty-ass things that you can’t anticipate. Going into parenting 10 years ago, I never thought, in a million years, that 90% of the arguments I’d have with my children would be over basic hygiene. I have timed children to make sure they properly brushed their teeth. I have sniff-tested socks and underwear to make sure that they were changed, never understanding why someone would lie to me about changing their underwear. In fact, last night, as my son turned his nose up to beautifully baked cod, I said, “For someone who eats his own boogers, you sure are selective about your meals.”
“Boogers are good,” he said. Then he looked at the meal in front of him as though it were something lower than a booger.
Kids poop and pee at inconvenient times. They eat random trash at stores. I’ve had to wrestle cat poop out of a toddler’s mouth. I have sat in on conversations with other parents where they told me about their child eating cat food, or reaching into their diaper and painting the walls brown like some sort of poop Picasso.
The reality is all of this gross shit is within the realm of normal. Thus, I can’t say this enough: Children do weird shit. And just because your child doesn’t happen to be slurping milk off the table, chances are they have found some other odd-ass thing to entertain themselves with that you, as a parent, will look at and think, “Do we need to call a therapist or a priest?”
Ultimately, this is all very simple: If you are with another parent, and they confide in you about something weird their child is doing, don’t be a judgmental asshat. Don’t talk about how grateful you are to have a perfect little darling, because the fact is, if your child isn’t doing something weird, and never does, you are the oddity. You are the one with a weird child. You are the one with a kid who needs to do more exploration. Not the rest of us. Not the people with normal kids who do odd-ass things.
Let’s stop trying to make ourselves feel better at some other parent’s expense, because at the end of this whole parenting trip, we all want what’s best for our children. We are all trying to draft them into upstanding people with worthwhile goals and aspirations. We want our children to leave home as fully functional, sock-changing, independently ass-wiping adults who don’t place random things in their mouths. We are all trying to iron out all the nasty, so that once it’s all said and done we can look at our children with pride, pat ourselves on the back, and say, “Job well done.” My toddler slurping milk off the kitchen table isn’t going to prevent any of these things from happening.
But to get there, to the point where the booger-eating and milk-slurping and other feral behaviors stop, takes a lot of stress and sacrifice, and often a lot of head-scratching, trying to figure out how someone who once put shoes on their hand and gloves on their feet came from your gene pool.
Long story short, we are in this together people. Be supportive. Be a tribe. And if another parent confides in you about some strange-ass thing their child is up to, pat them on the back and say, “I get it. My kids are weird too.”