Being a parent is hard. Everyone knows this, whether you have kids or not. But you can’t know the true depths of how difficult parenting is until you have a kid. Don’t mean to pull rank. It’s just true.
There’s no one particular thing about being a parent that takes Herculean effort. You get used to doing certain tasks very quickly. Feeding, dressing, burping–no big deal, any of them. Yes, you can even get accustomed to touching another human being’s feces on a regular basis. After a while, it’s not a big deal. To this day, I’m more grossed out by baby food than I am by baby poop.
What is a big deal is the fact that it never ends. There is no punching out. There is no weekend. You are on red alert 24/7, and anything you do–even if it’s the absolute right thing to do–may scar your child for life. It’s like being in a combat zone, only not so relaxing.
I say this because I ran across a video yesterday that gave me pause, in which a mother drags her kid (who’s on a leash-type restraint) across the floor of store. Your reaction to it probably depends on whether you have a kid or not.
If you don’t have a kid, you are likely think this is HORRIBLE and INEXCUSABLE and this woman SHOULD BE LOCKED UP AND NEVER BE ALLOWED TO BREED AGAIN!!1! The state of Alabama agrees with you, because they’ve thrown this woman in jail and are threatening to take her child away from her.
If you do have a kid, you probably think: Yeah, she shouldn’t have done that. But…
Because every parent has been driven to a point where they’ve contemplated doing something like this. Or something in the same ballpark. If you say you’ve never thought about dragging your kid home, you either have a team of au pairs or you’re a fucking liar.
Especially if you have a two-year-old. That is a very special age where a child asserts his/her independence but cannot be reasoned with in any way. It’s impossible to completely placate a two-year-old, because their whims operate under the laws of quantum mechanics. Call it The Toddler Uncertainty Principle: The more you think you’ve pinned down what they want, the more likely it is those desires just shifted in a completely different direction.
Two-year-olds have no agenda but their own pleasure and chaos. It’s like living with The Joker.
All this video shows is 30 seconds of a mother reacting poorly. It doesn’t show all the events leading up to the mother’s meltdown. Maybe this kid ran around the store like a maniac and didn’t listen to a word his mother said. Maybe he hauled off and hit her when she said he couldn’t have some dumb fuckin’ plastic toy he wanted. Maybe she heeded every direction that came out his mouth, and he still screamed “I hate you!”
Yeah, two-year-olds do that all the time. If an adult made demand after demand of you, and you met every single one, and they said, “Guess what? I hate you!”, what would you do? You’d kick that person in the dick is what you’d do. It’s hard to turn off the “I’ve just been horribly insulted” impulse in your brain, even if it’s your own flesh and blood disrespecting you.
You may be inclined to say, “It’s the mother’s own fault for raising an unruly child.” Two-year-olds are unruly. There’s nothing more unruly in nature, not even the sub-atomic world. Scientists are still trying to figure out why this tiny universe operates in ways that seem to completely defy the laws of physics. And we still know more about quarks than we do about two-year-olds.
I don’t care how well you’ve raised your kid, how many Baby Einstein tapes you’ve bought, how many foreign language flash cards you zipped in front of their face. Once they hit a certain age, they turn into monsters. It doesn’t last forever, but it might feel like it does.
Also keep in mind that two-year-olds are prone to complete and total meltdowns that have no real solution. In those cases, the best thing to do is let your kid cry/kick/punch their way out of it (while making sure they don’t hurt themselves or others, of course). That may lead you to look callous or negligent to others–as I found out during a trip to the ER earlier this year.
But you know what? Fuck the rest of the world. As a parent, it’s not your job to satisfy some idealistic BS idea of what good parenting should look like. Anyone who hasn’t spent an entire day being screamed at by a two-year-old has no right to judge.
Say your kid is screaming because he wants candy. He hasn’t had any dinner yet, so you say no. He flips out, making you look like The World’s Worst Dad to everyone else in Duane Reade. You could get him some candy to keep him quiet, and that might make the situation less embarrassing for you.
But is that good parenting? Of course not, for a million different reasons. All you’d do is give your kid a lesson that if he screams loud enough, you’ll do anything he says. And for what? So you could look better for a bunch of people who don’t know you and who you’ll never see again. “I’ve turned my child into a sociopath, but at least that weird old lady with the support hose and the purple hair at the prescription counter stopped staring at me!”
Should this woman have dragged her kid? Of course not. But I don’t think she made a conscious decision to do that; she just snapped. And I totally understand how a person could snap like that. I hope her home state will see it that way (assuming this was just a moment of insanity for her).
Seeing this video made me think of Louis CK’s bit on parental meltdowns. “What did that shitty kid do to that poor woman?!”