Babies are Cute. Parents Aren’t.
When the boys were babies and I spent my days pushing them around town in my now disused double stroller, random seniors would stop me just to say how precious they were and how I should make the most out of my time with them because, as they would say, “Kids grow up quickly.” I thought, “Yeah, duh. Of course I’m not going to ignore my kids. What an obvious thing to say.” And I smiled at these well meaning old people and said “You’re right! I won’t waste my days with them.” Nobody thinks their babies are going to stay babies. Why, then, do so many strangers feel compelled to point it out? Back then I didn’t understand. It was my impression that these older parents were simply giving voice to their own guilt, that they must have screwed up their time so now they’re warning me about mine as something of a good deed. Youth, my friends, is wasted on the young. If I had been a little less cocky and a bit more receptive I might have seen what they were trying to tell me.
Be Happy and Thankful for What you Have:
People who tell you to make the most of your time aren’t necessarily giving you a sideways precautionary message based on their own mistakes (although a lot of people screw up their lives in precisely that way). What many of them are expressing is that the pride you feel at having a baby should be directed inwards and towards your family, to maximize the short time you have together, rather than being wastefully worn as a badge to elicit compliments from strangers. I think it’s older people’s way of politely telling you that they know exactly how you feel, but that how you feel is sorta irrelevant to everyone but you and your kid. How many parents do you see at the mall walking around with their baby strollers acting as if they’re god’s divine gift to the rest of us because they managed to squeeze out a baby? I get that feeling a lot. I’ll smile at their babies (because nobody can resist smiling at a baby) and I get the same smirk from every parent. It’s the “I know my kid is so darn perfect. Thank you for noticing how perfect that makes me, too.” look.
Being proud is a hard thing to hide, but for the sake of humanity, please try to keep it in perspective. You won’t ever produce anything in your life as valuable as what you’ve just created by having kids. Everybody around you thinks your kid is adorable. As a society, we feel a collective obligation to protect your kid. That doesn’t mean, however, that you’re a princess. Aim your pride at your kid and let him know how much you treasure him; because years fly by, and misdirected pride is a waste of your time and energy. You’ll realize it when your kids get older, when your kids aren’t the center of attention anymore and you go back to being the same regular schmo you were before you had kids. You’ll kick yourself for all those dumb trips out on the town you made, showing off your kids even though you didn’t have any real purpose for going through the effort of dressing up and being in a public place in the first place. You’ll realize that your value as a person (because you chose the caregiver life path) is derived from how you parent, not from how other people think you parent.
They Were Right, but they Probably did the Same Thing:
If we’re all just a bunch of attention monkeys, then why bother fighting it? Because it’s obnoxious, that’s why. I’m anti-social by nature. Therefore, I escaped the craziest of the annoying new parent symptoms. Even I, though, had my moments about which I am not proud, so don’t worry, I’m not absolving myself; I’m sure some of my friends would be thrilled to point out just how guilty I have been. Nevertheless, my reminder to all parents is this: Your kid is awesome, and we love you, too. Now shut up about it and look to your kids and spouse, not me, for adulation. Time flies. Put it to better use.