I used to say things before I was a parent. You know, really wise words from my early 20-something brain.
It has hit me HARD over the last 7 years…I did not have a frickin clue what it was like to have kids.
I’m actually a little embarrassed about the things I used to say. But…in the spirit of blogging and saying what’s on my mind, and being out on my deck watching Easton play while I start my second beer (I know you guys think I drink too much, but I can assure you I don’t. I drink just the right amount)…I’m going to admit to a few of the things I used to think and say. And I’m going to slap my 23 year-old self across the face while I’m at it.
While on an airplane on the way to my honeymoon and watching a screaming toddler throwing a tantrum in the middle of the aisle, I rolled my eyes, leaned over to my husband and said, “Ugh…Of course there’s a screaming child on our plane. If my child EVER acts like that…” I know. Those last seven words. Those fateful, awful, judgy, I-don’t-have-kids-yet words. I said those words so many times before I had kids. And in a future blog, I will most likely tell my story of Easton on a plane and the flight attendant not being understanding when I asked her if he could PLEASE just sit on my lap during take-off to avoid his blood-curdling screams. To the couple on that plane that day trying to deal with their child…I AM SO SORRY. To my 23 year-old self saying those words: YOU DON’T GET IT.
While leaving the grocery store with my husband, I heard a mom say to her young child who was not coming with her out the door, “Okay! I’m leaving! Bye!” I turned to my husband while walking out and said (I’m cringing while I’m typing this), “That is just so mean. I will NEVER do that to my child.” Yep. I said NEVER. To that mom in the store that day: I’ve done it. And it didn’t work for me either. My son said, “Bye!” back to me. I AM SO SORRY. To my 20-something self that said it: Seriously. Get a clue.
I encountered a child who didn’t like to get messy. I said, “WHAT kid doesn’t like to get MESSY?” Yep. I had that one coming to me. MY kid. And not just my autistic kid. It took Keegan a loooooong time to be okay with getting messy. I give full credit to his child care center for getting him used to, and enjoying, being messy. To the child who I didn’t understand: I AM SO SORRY. To my 25 year-old self: You had it coming. Your kids are now neat freaks.
And…here’s a big one…while in a restaurant before having kids, I saw a child playing some sort of video game device at the table. I didn’t say it out loud, but I remember thinking to myself, “You’ve GOT to be kidding me. These people can’t even make their child sit at the table and wait for his food without playing a video game?” And, I have to say, I have seen looks from people when they see Easton with the iPad at restaurants. Although some would say the vibe from them is just in my head, I believe they’re thinking, “REALLY? You can’t come to a restaurant without your iPad?” Because, if I were childless right now and I saw that…I would probably think the same thing. And if I didn’t have a child with autism who needs that distraction so he doesn’t wander around or scream his head off…I might think the same thing. Regardless of whether it’s a family with a child with special needs or not, doesn’t EVERYONE want to eat out sometimes, and want to eat that meal in peace, stress-free? To ALL families who bring distractions to restaurants: Bravo. You deserve a break. To my former self who was judgy about it: Give it time. You’ll understand in a few years. To the people who give me the looks now: I’m not apologizing. I would like to tell you to get over it. Mind your own business. And, you should be THRILLED that I brought this iPad along, or your meal wouldn’t be in peace either. I’ve gotten pretty used to the looks, but the time I actually heard a woman say to the man with her, while pointing to my son, “You’ve GOT to be kidding me”…it was a slap in the face, as a mom, and as a former judgy you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me type.
Hindsight is always 20/20. We evolve as people. Of course if you’ve never been through something, you can’t truly understand what someone is going through. I have learned a LOT in the last decade. I thought I was a pretty smart cookie at 23 years old.
Dear Self, 10 years ago:
You know that thing you’re actually pretty good at, called empathy? Use it more often. It doesn’t mean you have to SYMPATHIZE with others, it means to put yourself in others’ shoes. You don’t have kids yet, but you will. They will misbehave. They will throw tantrums. They will still have a pacifier at 3 1/2 years old. They will throw themselves on the floor in the middle of Target. They will scream on an airplane. They will not follow you out the door when you want them to. They will cry when it’s time to get up in the morning. They will suddenly make their bodies stiff as a board when it’s time to put them in their car seat. They will have surprising physical strength just when you need them to be weak. You will dread going shopping with them. You will get that e-mail from your child’s teacher saying they just aren’t listening. You will spoil them sometimes. You will get frustrated with them sometimes. You will want just one day of freedom every once in a while. They will be picky eaters. They will pee on the floor. They will poop on the carpet. They will cry in unison.
And…they will be the joys of your life.
Your 33 year-old, slightly wiser, but not quite wise enough. self.