It’s never been totally socially acceptable to discuss your children in adult settings, particularly around folks who say (or think) things like:
“Kids are the BEST form of birth control,” or
“Children? I love children, other people's!” or
“The best part of being an aunty or uncle? When my nieces and nephews go home!”
But increasingly it seems that discussing one’s children is the new taboo.
Check it out: If you Google “friends with children are boring,” over 47 million links will be provided to you as evidence of just how God-awful it is to be a parent. Go on, Google that shit. I’ll wait. See! I couldn’t make that up even if I tried. [My husband, the killjoy-tech-nerd-geek recently informed me that Google stats aren’t 100% accurate, but my point is that there is sufficient online data to support how people without children feel about people with children, never mind the legions of private conversations being had right now on this very topic].
The other day, a well-regarded advice columnist from a popular online magazine was asked, “How should I deal with my highly educated and articulate friend who 'used to be cool,' but now instead of regaling company with witty repartee and interesting tales of adventure, she hijacks every conversation to talk about her kid?”
Curiously, the well-regarded columnist did not suggest that the childless questioner make conversational space for this newish parent to talk about the life-changing experience that has profoundly, radically and significantly altered her intellectual life, not to mention the physical and emotional changes to her body, mind and soul. By way of advice, the columnist suggested engaging in activities and topics that would not trigger discussions of children, as well as suggesti ng activities where children would not be welcome.
She was then advised to take her parent/friend aside and tell her that her kid-stories made her feel weird, uncomfortable and insignificant.
Here’s the thing: Adults with children cannot ever undo the fact that they have children. And no amount of conversation modification is ever going to change that. Parents can’t erase a significant part of their lives simply because it makes people without children feel uncomfortable, nor should they.
I can't understand why the prescription for non-parents always suggests that parents should compartmentalize and edit out one of the most Emotionally Significant parts of our lives simply because a non-parent finds them boring.
For the adults that have them, children are very much an inescapable reality, and even if we aren’t “allowed” to talk about them, they will not magically disappear. (I’ve tried, it doesn’t work.)
Funnily, I have never been told to not talk about my children. In fact my experience has been quite the opposite. I have, however been told that my husband and I are “cool” because we don’t spend much of our social time “bragging” about our children. This observation was made after a single friend told me how one of our mutual friends with children was skilled at finding stealth opportunities to segue child-themed non-sequitors into a conversation where they were seemingly inappropriate.
Not only was my single friend irritated by our friend's obsessive need to recant endless streams of child-centered stories, she was supremely irked by the transformation that had suddenly made our friend “un-cool.”
In my view, suggesting that a parent negate or suppress the existence of the offspring to which they are inextricably linked requires a re-ordering of reality.
When I suggested to my friend that maybe our friend is particularly attached to her children, and vice versa, she made it very clear to me that she thought it was weirdly abnormal.
Consider this: Adults who suggest that parents not talk about their children are trying to compete with children for the affections of their parent/friends. They want the undivided attention of their parent/friends, and talking about children takes the focus off their needs.
Children are not a threat!
Personally, I think it’s amazing to hear when a baby begins solid food, or cuts a tooth, or when a 2 year old poops on the toilet for the first time. Those are real-time human developmental milestones and I think they are AWESOME.
Kids are amazing because they can show us what it means to “experience” a reality that is decades away from our own. A friend once observed that having her daughter was akin to vicariously reliving her own girlhood experience through her child. When she had her son, she was overjoyed at the prospect of experiencing first-time boyhood from his perspective.
Being able to talk about children is healthy and natural and as normal as talking about anything else that we find interesting or relevant. In fact, talking about children, where their unique place in the cycle of life, gives us an opportunity to reflect on our own humanity.
So, no, I will not STFU about them.