You’re just not that that into kids. The thing is your friends have acquired some and now you’re forced to spend time with them. You hung out together when they were babies and it wasn’t too bad but now they’re walking and talking and doing, er, whatever it is they do. When you don’t have any of your own to practice on hanging out with other people’s children can be a bit scary. Fear not! This guide features everything you need to know about surviving a weekend with kids. Here goes:
1. Children are dumb. Ignore parents who waffle on about how clever their kids are. They’re sleep deprived and talking shit. Imagine a big stupid dog, full of energy, bouncing all over the place. Yeah, well my kids are even more stupid than that dog. At least you can lock the dog outside overnight. My 2 year old son still doesn’t know how to use a straw properly. A straw, for fucks sake. Move your hot drinks out of reach and don’t give them anything with a pointy end. Once you’ve got your head round this everything else makes sense.
2. Let them come to you. So your best friend is now a mom/dad and you’re ready to be the coolest uncle/aunt on the block. Unfortunately children don’t give a shit about the fact that you once saved Daddy from choking on his own vomit at his bachelor party. So don’t try too hard. Children don’t like adults who try to give them cuddles as soon as they walk in the room. The more eager you are the more they will run away from you. Conversely if you want to stay as far away as possible from them ignoring children is a big mistake. My children have a built in homing device for people who want to avoid children. The grumpy dude in the coffee shop? Ba Doom! That couple arguing on the train? Tish! So basically don’t give them too much attention but don’t ignore them either. It’s a tricky thing to master but totally worth it in the end. Maybe. Your friends kids could be dicks for all I know.
3. Buying gifts is a minefield. You know how hilarious you think it will be to buy a toddler a drum kit? Well it won’t be. It will be funny for precisely seven minutes. Then there will be tears. Many, many tears as the drum kit is forcibly removed and hidden in the trash. Followed by a weird atmosphere and questions about the time of your train home. Try not to take offence if the special present you spent ages choosing is tossed immediately to one side. Of all the beautiful gifts from close friends and family and my daughter became attached to a plastic phone that came from a vending machine. Best to explain that honestly you have no idea what children like so you brought wine instead. Lots of lovely wine.
4. Children love repetition. This is a good thing because it means as a visitor you only need one ‘trick’ to keep them entertained, for example: hiding a toy or pretend biting their toes. It is also a bad thing because small children have the endurance of an ultra marathon runner. They will literally NEVER tire of you hiding that rabbit. Even when you are diagnosed with repetitive strain injury. Don’t worry if it all ends in tears.
5. Everything ends in tears. Small children cry all the time, over anything. Because they are tired, because they are two, because they want the green plate but they don’t know what the colour green looks like so actually they really want the yellow plate which is in fact not a plate at all but a fucking cup. Seriously how the hell is anyone supposed to know this shit?! There is literally NO way to avoid tears. Give them the red plate and don’t worry if it makes them cry.
6. Children can be magnificently rude. Try to think of the worst thing anyone could ever say to you. Then imagine someone shouting it loudly into your face in public. Wait for the best bit! You are supposed to laugh it off like it’s all a big funny joke. And you can’t even call bullshit when the red faced parents tell you little Bobby doesn’t really understand what fat/ugly means yet. Yes he does. And he thinks you’re it. Whilst it is unacceptable to punch a small child in the face it is OK to think about it.
7. Never say ‘Should you be doing that?’ No, they should not. But they are. And now it’s up to you as a responsible adult to stop them. In this situation the best course of action as a visitor is to back out of the room quickly and pretend you haven’t seen them doing whatever they should not be doing. Oh and it’s polite to offer to cook while parents are in the emergency room.
8. Don’t ask parents to translate. We don’t know what they’re saying either. If someone speaks a foreign language you can usually guess what they mean by identifying a few key phrases. This does not work for toddlers. My son’s identifiable keywords are usually dinosaur, helicopter, cookie. I have NEVER seen a stegosaurus flying in emergency Oreos. I have, however, developed a fool proof system for creating the illusion that I understand what small children are saying. I call it the three R’s, every time they speak to you deploy one of these handy options. React: Say “Oh No! That’s scary/ big/amazing!” Reassure: Reply “Well done!/That’s OK/ Not to worry” Reward: Give them a cookie. Using my system anyone can at least look like they know what they’re doing.
9. Early evenings are hell. Photographers call the early evening hours magic hour or golden hour. Parents call it something else. The hours before bed are the noisiest, most distressing time of the day. It’s when everyone in the family spits out their last bit of anger and upset. If you are staying overnight, this is probably a good time to check out the local bar. If there is no bar nearby sitting outside in the garden wondering how on earth the neighbors have never called the police is acceptable.
10. It is OK to blame the children. For bad smells or breakages or the fact that you and your best mate from college now have literally nothing in common. It’s not you it’s them. Oh and remember when parents say “They’re not normally like this,” it could mean that they are usually worse.