To the parents of babies and toddlers:
That kid of yours sure is cute. I love the way she smiles up at you adoringly, and the way she hugs you tight around the neck when you drop her off at preschool. She is so precious when she glances your direction as she colors, looking for your approval. And it’s beyond endearing when she blows you kisses when you and your spouse leave for a date night.
I am here to tell you that at some point, that adoring, adorable, dear child is going to turn on you. You won’t even realize its coming, but that kid is going to tell you to fuck off. I know because it happened to me — the tween and teen years will smack you in the face.
I see it looking back at old photos, but I also remember my sons’ admiration and delight with me. Like when I took them to the fun diner where the food is delivered by a choo-choo train that circles the counter. Or when I told them a story about my brother shooting me in the knee with an arrow when I was 11. They actually listened and wanted the story repeated, especially the hilarious part about my mom scoffing at my injury. I remember their delight in finding Easter bunny tracks through the house that I had painstakingly created with baby powder and my strategically placed fingertips. Man, back in those days, I was the family rock star. I could do no wrong.
But when they turned about 12, I suddenly went from diva to dolt. No one prepares you for this development as a parent. It whips up like a microburst on a sunny day, leaving a path of destruction and ruin. The stories that were once so funny and that they begged you to retell are now met with, “Mom, I’ve heard that one a million times before.” Your sage advice on school and bullies and girlfriends is met with eye rolls and “you just don’t understand,” even though you’ve been through the entire high school experience yourself. Your praise on the goal made, the art project awarded, the math test aced — praise that used to elicit grins of happiness — is now summarily discarded with sneers and “whatever”s.
It gets worse as they enter the teen years, I am sorry to say. Unkindness and spite are unfortunately doled out with abandon. No one warns you that your heart will break a little when your daughter mocks your outfit suggestion. No one notifies you that you will feel actual pain when your son tells you to mind your own goddamn business. No one can prepare you for the day your kid will make you cry when he calls you a bitch because you won’t pay to get his cell phone screen fixed.
Child development experts say that this type of behavior is natural, and is a tween’s way of beginning to separate from the parents. Kids becoming independent is the wish and dream of all parents everywhere — but does it have to be so tear-streaked and messy?
Friends and relatives who are a bit older than us tell us that things do get better, eventually. One friend told me how he was taken aback when his son came to him asking him for advice on a house he wanted to purchase. Another friend was surprised when her daughter wanted her honest opinion and critique on a paper she wrote for a college class. I, for one, will pass out like a drunk bachelorette the day my sons will come to me for advice.
So parents of babies and toddlers, bask in the sunshine of veneration and love while it lasts. You will fall from grace in a few short years and be relegated to geekdom if you’re lucky, or persona non grata if you’re not.
You’ve been warned. You’re welcome.