“Somebody in the piece said ‘let your kids hate you, sometimes, that’s good for them, you can’t have them always agreeing with you, always feel good about your choices and always like you at every moment.’ They need to see you as a real person. And they need to think that it’s a tragedy of earth-shattering proportions that they have been born in the wrong family.”—
These are exactly the thoughts that cross my mind every time I see a parent agonizing over whether a toddler feels special enough, or making themselves sick at the thought that at any given instant, the kid might hate them. Scenes where dad negotiates with his two-year old because baby wants a sweetie and it’s 15 minutes before dinner or because, surprise surprise, he wants to take the entire toy store home have become all too common, and it strikes me as utterly pathological.
I wonder where that fear comes from. Look at our generation. When we were little and decided to throw a tantrum, most of our parents rolled their eyes and went “yeah, yeah, yeah” or “you keep this up, I’ll give you something to cry about.“ Do you hate your parents passionately for it? I’m ready to bet that 90% of you really don’t.
Did I rebel as a teenager? Did I prefer to confide in my best friend rather than my mother? Did I think my old man was an out-of-touch idiot? Yes. Yes to all. I love and respect them more for it today, because they were wise enough not to take any of it seriously. Children are supposed to think they know better. They’re supposed to get in trouble. They’re supposed to suffer the consequences of their actions.
Hating your parents in a moment of irrational rage is perfectly normal, and nothing to fret about. We grow up, get over it, figure out later why that was important and become stronger, more resilient adults for it. We learn that our parents are human and we learn to forgive them.
I don’t have babies of my own, that much is true, and I know nothing of the confusion of feelings that parenthood comes with. What I believe in, however, is keeping my own emotions and need for validation in check before projecting all this bullshit onto someone else, let alone a defenseless child. In that light, the notion that if a kid is crying, a parent is probably not doing their job seems preposterous. As is the sight of someone taking their baby’s fit personally. As if it were wrong, abnormal, or to be avoided at all costs.
I am not a mother yet, but when I am, here’s the one thing I hope to teach our children: happiness is not the absence of unpleasant or painful turns of event. It’s the ability to deal with them when they come and then smile because, you know what, it gets better.
I’ve already made my peace with the notion that we will fuck them up in more ways than one, but I’ll tell you this much: it won’t be by turning them into entitled, narcissistic brats who think constant praise is the rule.