Stranger in the Strange Land of the Parent-People

Do you ever think about talking to mothers and fathers as a journey to another country where you don’t speak the same language? 

I was tilted back in the dentist chair yesterday while the hygienist scraped my teeth, and she started talking about kids. She’s a new hygienist, but her predecessors all talked about their kids, too. I don’t think I ever met one who wasn’t a mom. The mom-talk used to annoy me, but this time it didn’t.

One of the patients who passed by our cubicle was a girl, Izzy, whose basketball team was playing that night against the hygienist’s daughter’s team. She has known this girl since she was so little she couldn’t get the ball up high enough to go through the hoop, but now she’s four years older and a skilled player. Izzy’s team was likely to trounce her daughter’s team, but she was looking forward to attending the game and cheering both girls on. 

Hmm, I thought as she moved from inside my bottom teeth to outside, where they’re extra close together. This is interesting stuff that I know nothing about. When she paused to let me rinse, I asked how many kids she had. She has three, two girls, ages 10 and 12, and a four-year-old boy. The girls play a lot of sports. From basketball, they will go into volleyball and softball, and my hygienist and her husband will spend most of their off-work time going to games. They want to get the boy into T-ball but don’t know how they will find the extra time. 

Clearly their children dominate their lives. My parents weren’t like that. If we wanted to do something that required their time, they said no. They had their own things to do.

But for a lot of parents these days, it’s all about the kids, and everybody at the dentist’s office seemed to have them. As the scraping moved on to my upper teeth, I heard the word Mom a lot from another room. I overheard the dentist talking a boy through his first Novocaine shot. A dad himself, he told me later that he wants to make sure kids aren’t traumatized by their early dentist visits. 

Surrounded by parent-people, I felt like an anthropologist who had come upon a civilization completely distinct from her own. It was so intriguing, I was surprised to realize the hygienist had finished scraping and was polishing my teeth with minty toothpaste. We were almost done.

I didn’t feel any personal lack or grief or annoyance, just a welcome distraction from the assault on my teeth. My life has no children in it, especially in these COVID days when I rarely go places where children might be. I spend my weekends with church, house-cleaning, yard work, movies, and dog walks. I was an alien asking, “Tell me about your people, who seem very different from mine.”

It took me years to get past the anger, grief, and resentment that dogged me in my 40s and 50s,  but these days, I find children and parents fascinating. I’m not aching to join them anymore, but I watch with interest. 

Do I feel left out sometimes? Sure. Do I wish I had grown children to help me with things I can’t do alone and to put on my forms as emergency contacts? Definitely. But that’s not how it turned out, so I’ll pay the occasional visit to the land of children and parents then return to my own land, where we take care of dogs and cats and maybe write books or play the piano. It’s not the place I expected to live, but it’s a very good place.

The best part of this visit? Nobody asked me how many children I had. I was dreading that question. 

How do you feel when others talk about their child-filled lives? Do you think you will ever reach a point where it doesn’t bother you? If not, is there still time to change your situation?

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Parents and Non-Parents from Different Planets?

Last week, Annie and Winnie were buddies. When we passed Winnie’s house on our walks, the tan and white Corgi would waddle up to us. I’d pet her long soft fur while the two dogs sniffed each other, and then Winnie would walk with us a ways up Cedar Street. It was nice.

This week Winnie attacked Annie, barking, growling, biting. My pooch didn’t know what hit her. It was motherhood. Winnie gave birth on Saturday. The young woman who came out with her was holding a puppy, the only one that survived the troubled delivery. Now Winnie was in full mom mode. I can’t blame her. She has one tiny puppy, and she’s going to protect it with everything she has. She also probably feels sick and sore. But Annie, a spayed virgin at 11 ½, did not understand. Why doesn’t my friend like me anymore?

Ever feel that way around your human friends? They give birth and suddenly they’re not as friendly to you. It’s all about the baby.

Which brings me to the story that keeps popping up in my Google alerts. Brace yourself before you read “Childless millennials should be banned from Disney World, tired mom rants.” It seems this mother went on a Facebook rant about how childless people should be banned from Disney World, that the theme park should be reserved for “families” with kids. Say what? If I haven’t reproduced, I don’t get to have fun like everybody else? I know this mom was tired and frustrated, but we all need to think before we post.

Years ago, I wrote a post about LEGOLAND, which only allows adults without children on certain all-adult nights. I would LOVE to go LEGOLAND. So would the couple in this article who have been struggling with infertility for nine years. Come on, people. Aren’t these parks supposed to be happy places?

I’m not sure I want to mention this, but here goes. I was at a conference last weekend. I decided to duck out of one of my evening workshops to take a swim. I checked the pool on the way to my room to change into my bathing suit. Nobody there. I looked forward to peacefully gliding through the water. When I returned, less than five minutes later, at 9:30 at night, the small indoor pool was crowded with six kids under the age of six and three parent people. They took up the whole danged pool, splashing around, shouting, oblivious to this older person who needed to get down the steps and swim a few laps. Oh, I swam, but it was no fun, and I was soon back in my room, sinking into a hot bath where I could soak in peace.

Like that mom at Disney World, I was tired and frustrated. Things are not going well with my father, and I can’t do anything about it. My stomach hurt. I was tired of sitting in over-air-conditioned meeting rooms listening to people talk about writing. And now the pool was so full of children who should have been in bed that I couldn’t enjoy my swim. If the parents had thought to say something like, “Move over so the nice lady can swim,” that would have been different, but I seemed to be invisible to them.

If I were a mom person, would I have enjoyed paddling around with the little guys? I don’t know. Like Annie suddenly attacked by her former friend, I just know sometimes parents and non-parents seem to live on different planets.

Your comments, as always, are welcome.

 

 

 

Writers tackle misunderstandings between those with and without children


Dear readers, I’m feeling a little brain-dead today, so I’m sharing these links to articles about being childless.
In this BBC piece, the writer discusses how hard it is for parents and non-parents to understand each other sometimes. “A Point of View: Can Parents and Non-parents Ever Understand Each Other?”
Then Dear Abby tackles those stupid nosy questions people are always asking us. You know the kind: Why don’t you have children? Don’t you like kids? Why don’t you adopt? Etc. Dear Abby: Nosy Questions Hurt Childless Woman
And finally, if we can laugh about this, we’re on our way to healing. Marion L. Thomas’s new book Living the Empty Carriage Way of Life will have you nodding your head, saying, “Yes, yes, that’s how it is.”
Happy reading.
Please keep commenting—unless you’re one of the dozens who write about spell casters and magical potions. I will continue deleting your comments as the spam that they are.