Those that know me will be unsurprised that I am childfree by choice (CFBC). I’m not a huge fan of the under-18s (or quite a lot of over-18s for that matter) and have a low tolerance for the behaviours typically exhibited by children (regardless of the age of the individual exhibiting them, drunk people I’m looking at you). I wasn’t particularly a fan of a lot of children even when I was a child (so many seemed so dull).
I blame/thank my parents for my oddball sense of humour which meant that (looking back) I was probably the ‘weird’ kid in the class. I watched a lot of Monty Python, and later The Mary Whitehouse Experience. My aunt worked at the library and allowed me to get an adult’s quota of books out on a child’s ticket, and they had a pretty good fantasy selection as well as a full set of Biggles. I lived a fair distance away from my classmates in what I thought was the middle of nowhere (aka the New Forest) so read a lot, and coming from a small family with few younger relatives to interact with I never developed the skills of how to deal with young children (or a large reserve of patience).
I have been looking after my nephew since Sunday while my sister has been in the States for work, and it has made me appreciate the hard work that she (and parents in general) are putting in day after day. I am surprised so many children make it out of their early years. Not because they are easily broken (they seem pretty resilient physically, so long as you stop them from running into roads) or hard to physically maintain, but because they are so annoying.
My nephew is 4 and very well behaved. He says please and thank you (most of the time) and is a cheerful little chap able to entertain himself with a pile of Duplo or Hot Wheels for hours. But I just can’t talk about Ninjago Lego for three hours. I don’t care about the finer intricacies of BB-8. I don’t find monster trucks to be the most fascinating things in the world or require them to be explained in minute detail. I feel like my brain has liquified and is dribbling out of my ears at some of the books I am required to read or TV shows that have to be watched.
There’s the repetition, particularly in books (I know it’s a recognised teaching method, but good grief it’s boring). There’s the external inner monologues which seem to follow no logical path (processing the world, I know), there are the games where the rules always somehow seem to mean that the child wins. I don’t know how you would ever assess a young child for concussion. What comes out of their mouths jumps from one topic to another, refers back to something that happened when you weren’t there (I understand why, I covered Theory of Mind in Psychology) and a lot of the time is, quite frankly, nonsense.
At what age do they stop being sociopathic narcissists? Terry Pratchett was right in Hogfather,
It was nice to hear the voices of little children at play, provided you took care to be far enough away not to hear what they were actually saying.
I’m sure they don’t understand the consequences of a lot of actions at the younger ages, but the glee with which they cackle about cars crashing into each other, or ‘killing’ people/characters during play can be very concerning to those unused to it (and are outside of my realm of experiences, my own play as a child never took that form that I can remember).
They’re extreme about things (like tiny little Trump supporters). Often (as their morality develops) they think in absolutes. Something happens either ‘always’ or ‘never’. Actions are very black and white in terms of being ‘good’ or ‘bad’. I personally find this exhausting as I try and suggest that there may be shades of grey in there, or at least that the child doesn’t have a sufficiently large sample size to make statements about always and never (because I can’t help myself and believe children should be exposed to these ideas at all ages).
The demands for attention are seemingly incessant, and often involve commands to either ‘watch me!’ or ‘don’t watch me!’, whilst lavish praise is expected on completion of the most mundane (to me) task. Children, particularly the young ones, often think the world revolves around them, and with good reason too since in their experience it does. It leads to a lot of apologetic facial expressions and body language from me when out in public, for example when the child fails to understand that other people have a right to use the pavement too and don’t really want to be forced into the road to avoid them just because they chose to veer across it to run their hand along a railing (though I have found having a young child in tow makes it more likely car drivers will stop to let you cross a road, so there are some benefits).
So parents, I salute you. I don’t have the patience for this gig for more than a few days (with a definite end date) at a time. Add on to that the fact that my sister drags her son 2 miles to school on a scooter every morning over bumpy pavements littered with obstacles to trip up the unwary (or just plain not paying attention), then 2 miles back again in the afternoon, and I don’t know how she does it (must have triceps and biceps of steel as well as a titanium brain). All of this whilst fitting in her job of work in those few hours when he is either asleep or at school, and still managing to maintain contact with friends.
One thing is for sure, it’s not for me. I like my brain (relatively) un-rotted and in its current location. I’ve always thought I’d make a terrible parent (and said so from a very early age), and looking after my nephew confirms it. I can fake it for a few days at a time, but permanently? Not a chance. Hats off to those who can/do, I’m hugging my birth control pills (and campaigning for wider access to birth control and abortions for whoever wants them, no child should be unwanted).