The Best Parenting Advice I Got Wasn't Even Advice

by Michelle Menzel
Originally Published: 
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I remember when I heard it. My colleague was on the phone with her child, arguing about a playdate or ballet lesson or some other commonplace matter. Hanging up, she declared, “My daughter is so f*cking annoying!”

I was shocked. I was still young (read: my late 20s). Kids were a distant and way-in-the-future opaque blur of what I knew in my heart would be a source of constant joy, and any inkling of annoyance I might feel would be diluted by my pure, unwavering love. My colleague’s daughter was a delightful, adorable nine year-old who always wanted to color and talk and read, and how could you be so mean about your own child? I couldn’t believe what a terrible mom she was.

In my mid-30s, I became a mom. That first year, as all babies do, my daughter cried when she was hungry, when she was wet, when she wanted to be held. I remembered my colleague’s words, and though I was often frustrated and overwhelmed, I found all of these things reassuringly un-annoying.

She couldn’t express her needs in any way other than crying, and I was here to take care of those needs. That’s not to say it wasn’t extremely difficult, but I never felt anything akin to the pure annoyance my colleague expressed. I was relieved that I wouldn’t be a bad mom like her.

Soon, my child became a toddler. It started slowly, almost imperceptibly. The whining, the tantrums. The incomprehensibly visceral reactions to minutiae. The tears. The screams. The militant resistance to the mundane — in other words, let me regale you with tales of battles over putting on socks.

In the throes of all these high-drama rants, raves, and physical meltdowns, I reflect on how utterly exasperating my daughter can be, and how much I regret the judgment I reserved for my colleague all those years ago. I had no clue how fully the polarities of extreme love and devotion could coexist with pure, bone-cutting aggravation.

Although I, of course, never shared my feelings with my colleague at the time, I now pay almost daily homage to her honesty. She opened the door for me to accept my feelings of (such real and true) irritation with my child, because I can now recognize that it’s normal to feel that way, and I hope I’ve been a healthier mom for it. Kids are f*cking annoying.

For that, I thank my colleague for the early initiation, even though I was extremely slow on the uptake.

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