I was pretty naive to this whole parenting lark before becoming a dad. It was hardly my fault though. I’d never really been around babies or toddlers prior to the sprog being born 17 months ago, so it was just a thing I’d never experienced. Much like ordering the vegetarian option at Nandos.
With very little first-hand exposure to the tiny humans, I didn’t really know much about them. I was clueless to pretty much everything – what they want, how they behave, what you do with them, how much of a struggle it is etc. I was in an oblivious state – I knew that some day I wanted to be a dad, but I’d work out how to actually be one when the time was right.
I’ll admit – although I’m not proud of it in retrospect – that before becoming a dad, I was guilty of looking at parents with their kids and making silent judgements. It was never done with malice or to make them feel awkward, it was more an inquisitive glance into the unknown. Kind of like when you walk passed a half-open door and slyly peer through the gap to see what’s going on.
I don’t think I’m alone in this though. It’s human nature to be curious of the unfamiliar. After all, let’s take a moment to remember all of the cats that have been killed because of this inquisitive behaviour. It’s not until you’re on the other side though that you begin to see things from both perspectives. You’ve been the twat giving evils at the parent with the crying kid and now you’re the parent with the crying kid giving evils to the twat.
Like most aspects of life, we rarely know the full picture until we’ve experienced it from all angles, and even then, stuff like prejudices still get in the way. Putting yourself in other people’s shoes is a great strategy to employ, but it’s often easier to say than actually do. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try though – rather than be that twat, try to be, you know, less twatish.
Let me give you a couple of hypothetical scenarios looking at the different perspectives a parent and non-parent could have on the same thing:
Scenario 1: A parent is in a restaurant with their baby. The kid is in a highchair but keeps throwing food around.
Non-Parent: Is that another piece of food that’s just landed on the floor? How much do they want to waste? Surely it’s not normal to let your kid do that? Why doesn’t the parent stop them from throwing it around? Why have they come to a restaurant if the kid obviously can’t eat and behave in public? You wouldn’t see my child doing that!
Parent: FFS! All I wanted to do was come out for a bit of fresh air, get a bit of food I didn’t have to make and feel normal again. Why does the little one always start throwing food and getting fussy when we’re out? I ordered pasta because they love the stuff at home, so why aren’t they eating it now? Hopefully they won’t start crying and causing more of a scene. Just in case, I better eat my food as fast as I can and get out of here before anyone says anything. Still, at least I managed to get out of the house for half an hour, so I’ll claim that as a win. Woo, rock and roll.
Scenario 2: A parent is holding their toddler whilst pushing a pushchair down the High Street.
Non-Parent: Why don’t they put the kid into the pushchair? Surely it makes more sense to use the pushchair for what it’s designed for than carrying a child in one hand and pushing the pushchair with the other. Why are they making it more difficult for themselves? You wouldn’t find me doing that!
Parent: Bloody hell! I’m so sick of my child crying and whining in their pushchair. I don’t want to pick them up and hold them, but they’re in one of those moods and are unlikely to settle unless I do. Oh great, now everyone’s looking and wondering why I’m leaving my baby to cry. I guess that means I’m going to have to struggle with holding the baby and pushing the pushchair at the same time. Joy!
Scenario 3: A parent is sat with their baby on a plane. The child starts crying and screaming.
Non-Parent: Typical! I always get the seat next to the crying baby. Why take a baby on a plane anyway? It’s not like they’re going to enjoy being abroad. These shitty little headphones don’t even do anything to drown out this incessant crying. Why can’t they make the baby stop? Is it going to be like this for the entire flight? Time for a drink methinks. You wouldn’t see my baby acting like this!
Parent: Please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please stop crying. Great, the person next to me is giving me evils and turning up the volume on their headset – I noticed jackass. I don’t want to be that person with the crying baby, but it’s not like the sprog is doing it on purpose. The last thing I want is to stuck in a confined space with my unhappy kid – I’m doing everything I can to try and settle them, but I’m out of ideas. *Silently sobs whilst staring out of the window*
Having been a dad for nearly a year and a half now, I’ve experienced the glances that I once may have given. But I take heart in knowing that the observer will one day become the observed, most likely when they’re stressed in a public place with a crying baby. It’s the circle of life. Almost magical in a way.
Have you noticed your thoughts / perspectives about other people have changed since becoming a parent? Have you ever worried about how other people would react when out with your kid? Have you ever approached a parent with a child to say something about their behaviour? Have you had any good / bad experiences of strangers saying things to you? Let me know below!
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