Sunday, October 16

Babies on Parade

My mother once told me that she didn't understand why people go gaga over babies, as "they grow up to be bastards just like the rest of us." Not going into the implications that it was my mother telling me this, I do see her point.

I have somehow gotten the reputation as a hater of small children. This is ridiculous. Why, just today, I had lunch with a child. Granted, I was ignoring him, as he seemed to be gearing up to pitch a fit about something until he decided he wanted to have a race of who could drink his or her soda faster. Finding no other takers, he turned to ask me if I wanted to race. Someone at the table told him, "TC doesn't speak to children."

Another example of this was the very sweet lady at work who apologised to me about not showing me her newborn. She said, "I could see you were busy. Besides, you don't seem the be that fond of babies." Apparently, this comes off of me like waves of bad perfume.

I have been an only child most of my life and was not very well socialized to the world of children. I was raised primarily by cats and books. I was the kid at camp who ended up paired with the counselor, so uncomfortable was I with the other girls, and they with me. I was by turns both bossy and shy. I talked weird, with my vocabulary of a college student in 4th grade. Hell, I was weird. When I met small children I felt like formally introducing myself, and shaking their sticky little hands, not coochi-cooing and chucking under chins, etc.

As most real people know, life loves to screw with you. You're not a kid person? Well, then, let's make your first job out of your master's program be, oh, let's see, how about children's therapist? Yes, that will do nicely. And believe it or not, I was quite a good one. I found that I remembered what it was like to be a child, and I also found how rare a quality this is in an adult. I discovered how self-centered most parents are. A child's motivation is rarely to drive his parents crazy, but to get his needs met somehow. Parents who have forgotten the world a child lives in take even normal kid behavior very personally.

Somehow, my not being a "kid person" gives me some objective distance on them. I don't love children, this is true. I also don't love adults. But I love certain children and certain adults. Children are individuals: some are good natured, some are creeps; some are witty, some dull, just like the adults they grow into.

I think some of what people are reading off me during the baby parades is resentment that I am supposed to adore your child for being a child. I don't romanticise children and I probably am not the best pick for playing Santa at the mall, but I have learned one thing from my mother's harsh statement. These wonderfully diverse little beings grow up to be wonderfully diverse big people, just like the rest of us.

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