I am in possession of one small human person. This person often does or says adorable and outrageous things, so I can see why others might like to spend time around her and seek to include our family in functions and events.
It’s a big but. A ghetto but. A stairmaster-induced volleyball but.
But, we don’t often attend. In fact, we rarely bother. Even if the other guests go out of their way to let us know, frequently, passionately, how much they’d like to see us there. We remain unmoved.
Let me tell you why.
Reason 1. Ain’t got no respect.
I understand that one to four p.m. is a great time for all y’all. So great, actually, that you don’t even discuss alternatives. When a weekend or holiday event goes down, one to four is default.
It’s also naptime.
We parents of small persons tell you this. We mention and remind and shout; but that’s naptime! The response is always the same frustrating refrain.
“They can just skip their nap.”
This next part you don’t hear, because it takes place in the minds of the parents. Outwardly we may exhibit tight smiles, but inside we’re hissing “You asshole”. We may also be imagining a swarm of bats getting caught in your hair.
It’s easy to forget why nap time is sacred when you yourself do not have a small person. You may feel like skipping a nap simply makes the child a little cranky later, and it’s a small price for the parents and child to pay when the alternative, for you, is missing Modern Family.
Naps are a part of a child’s sleep cycle. It’d be like scheduling Christmas at three a.m. Would you be a little cranky? Yes. Is it more than a “small inconvenience”? You bet your ass. Suddenly dragging your saggy butt out of bed for a family event seems ridiculous and unfair. Could you do it? Sure. Would you want to? There had better be a greased up Ryan Gosling under the tree.
Respect naptime. Think of it like skipping meals. You are suggesting that a small child skip a meal. Sure they could do it, but you’re a dick for demanding that they do it. You’re selfish for thinking your exceedingly flexible weekend schedule should cater exclusively to your whims, rather than the very real physical needs of a small person.
“It’s just so hard to get going Saturday mornings, you know?”
No, we don’t know. We’re preparing bottles or playing tea party at six a.m. Your desire to sleep til ten does not move us.
“The evening won’t work for me. I’ve got a fulfilling adult activity to do.”
Oh. Well then. Us parents will just spend our evenings like kids in toy store windows, imagining the rest of you self-actualized people interacting with each other. We will be having repetitive conversations and picking spaghetti out of the chandelier.
Reason 2. Ain’t Got No Respect
Yes, this is the same as Reason 1. All the reasons stem from lack of respect. The first two deal with respect for the children involved. The third discusses parental respect.
Small people are freaking cute. We all know this. For lots of people it’s the only reason they, or anyone, have kids. If children can’t be hugged, squeezed, tickled and cuddled, then what are they taking up space for?
This may come as a shock, but these tiny proto-humans have thoughts and desires. Often these desires don’t involve being manhandled by strangers.
Let’s have a thought experiment. Pretend that instead of doe-eyed, chubby-limbed human puppies, babies were actually four-hundred-pound NFL linebackers. Sensitive, skittish NFL linebackers that don’t like loud noises or strange places. Maybe they’ve had a traumatic brain injury, and only understand every third word you say. It makes them prone to mood swings, and their unbridled terror of the unknown gets translated into the only language they know; physical action.
How would you greet this person? Would you shout their name, chase them when they scream in fear, and tackle them for a hug? Would you plaster a horrifying, clown-like grimace on your face, and force a kiss on them? If they put their hands up to stop you, getting teary-eyed and shaking their head no, would you continue approaching them? Would you respect their very clearly indicated boundaries? Would you stare at them? Would they become the event’s object of entertainment, even if they obviously hated the attention?
It baffles me how people don’t understand that they, themselves, are big scary strangers. The child may be cute, tiny and defenseless, but you are a fully grown adult human primate, capable of killing them easily. Children are not stupid; they recognize this distinction. They feel fear, and their fear is not unreasonable. Adults kill children all the time. Yes, they do. Without looking up any statistics or facts, because that is hard, I’m confident in saying that adult humans kill more children than all other animals kill human children. Meeting you is like meeting a bear; terrifying and life-threatening. Only the bear knows if he’s harmless.
“But Lil’ Cutesikins knows me!” you protest, “They saw me last Kwanzaa! I got a high-five then!”
That was last Kwanzaa, and how long would you need to know a person before giving them a hug? When was the last time you gave one of your in-laws a hug, for that matter? Most people don’t wantonly distribute hugs. Hugs are for intimates only.
So next time you meet a child, pretend you are a bear. Not actually; just in your head. How would a bear need to act for it to gain the child’s trust? And while you’re at it, pretend the child is an actual person, and respect their boundaries.
Reason 3. Ain’t Got No Respect.
This last one is for all you grandparents out there. It’s not just you, mind, but you are the primary perpetrators.
We parents usually have rules. Some are not good rules, some are laxly enforced, and some are plainly stupid. When you and Lil’ Cutesikins are alone; break away. Have a gallon of ice cream and watch Ren & Stimpy. Whatever, man; we’re just glad someone else is babysitting.
But when we are there, when we state a rule to our child directly in front of the two of you, in person, do not break that rule.
An example: Parent tells Child “No cupcake.” Rule-Breaking-Chode turns to parent and says something nullifying like “Awww, but it’s [insert special event]!” and hands Child a cupcake.
Parent tells Child “Put away your toys before presents.” Rule-Breaking-Douchecanoe hands Child a gift and says “Just open this little one first.”
Parent tells Child “Eat your tomatoes.” Rule-Breaking-Dickweed turns to Child, says “I’ll help you eat them.” and eats all the tomatoes.
Parent tells Child “It’s time to go.” Rule-Breaking-Jerk says “We’ll just have a quick something-or-other first.”
You, gentle rule-breakers, are destroying the entire system. You are the reason for tantrums in the mall and overturned plates of peas. We work hard to ensure that “It’s time to go.” means “It’s time to go.” If you prove the phrase wrong, if you teach our kids that it effectively means nothing, the terrorists win.