She tells me nonchalantly about how her kids are perfect: two girls and a boy who play nice, never act out in public, and are always immaculately groomed, and before I can stop myself from saying it, the words are out of my mouth: “Perfect? You mean strange.”
The inflection in my voice was supposed to denote humor, but it came out as petty. I’m certain of this. Why else would there be such an uneasy silence?
In that moment where she evaluates my statement and I think about explaining, I wonder about her kids: They’re 6, 5 and 3, and though I’ve known them to quibble once in a while, she’s right. They do “play nice”; they are extremely well-behaved in public; they do keep their clothes spotless and as wrinkle-free as possible. And yet… There’s something, something I can’t put my finger on, something that tells me that this isn’t right. It’s not just the fact that she looks down at other moms for not being able to control their preschoolers from having tantrums in public. It’s not just that time in McDonald’s when her oldest daughter raised a superior eyebrow at a similarly-aged girl for crying because her dad wouldn’t let her have an ice cream sundae. It’s not just that she espouses the importance of “keeping children where they belong.” I mean, it’s all of those things, but I can’t really judge her for them, because then I’d be just as haughty and condescending as I believe her to be. And besides, despite our clashing viewpoints and sometimes-frenemy status, she’s still, for the most part, a friend, right? I shouldn’t be thinking this lowly of a friend, right?
Damn you, flip-flopping, over-analytical, overwhelmed brain! Reach a fucking conclusion and stick to it!
Before I can figure out what to say, I force a nervous laugh. “Maybe I’m jealous,” I offer, choosing to gracefully exit the conversation. “Riley’s not nearly as well-behaved as your kids are.”
My words are meant to come off as a joke since Riley’s five months old and discipline isn’t yet necessary – but she takes them at face value. “Yeah,” she says, with (mock?) arrogance. “You probably are.”
Riley spends most of his time at home, and I have four good reasons for this: chicken pox, rubella, mumps, and measles. Those are four highly communicable diseases that my classmates and/or family members have come down with in the past two weeks.
See, here in the Philippines, it’s not mandatory that kids get their immunizations, so most parents opt – out of poverty and/or ignorance – not to have their kids vaccinated, and highly contagious diseases are as easy to come by as a tan in noontime heat. So my five-month old? He ain’t goin’ nowhere that’s not well-ventilated and/or hardly populated. For real.
I’m your run-of-the-mill, paranoid-as-all-hellm first-time mom, and the second my baby and I were discharged from the hospital, I knew the mission I’d been entrusted with: Keep. Him. Alive. Healthy and happy, yeah, sure, duh. But alive. That’s the important part, the part that ensures the other parts are possible.
So imagine my surprise when my might-as-well-be-mother-in-law asked Rob for Riley’s social security number… in order to buy him – dum dum DUM – LIFE INSURANCE!
Now, okay, the surprise was probably ruined by the title of this post, but geez louise, I can’t really wrap my brain around this concept. Because all this time, I’ve been keeping myself busy with the task of keeping my baby alive, and now someone’s made me think of a possible scenario wherein he’s not alive, and oh my god, I think you just told me that red + yellow = purple.
I’m thankful for her generosity. I really am. And she’s probably right: better to be well-prepared. But really? Is this necessary? Life insurance? For a five-month old?
I was blog-hopping, catching up on my favorite people and finding more amazing people on the ‘net, and I came across Arwyn, aka woman who completely rocks my socks. Now, I’m not saying that I completely agree with everything she says, but so so so much of what she writes speaks to the kind of mom I want to be (specifically in the socially- and politically-conscious realms) that I can’t help but be a little in love with her. She’s the kind of writer who makes me jealous because I swear she puts my ideas down on paper more eloquently than I ever could have done. She’s a feminist. She’s awesome. It’s official: A is for Awesome is for Arwyn.
So I’m discovering the nooks and crannies of Arwyn’s blog, and I come across this post and instantly realize what it is about my friend that bothers me so much. It’s not that her kids are well-mannered and well-groomed, but that they don’t act like kids. They act like little adults. And ya know what? That’s fine. Her kids happen to have adult personalities, and she loves them for who they are. Beautiful. Great. As it should be. But to look down on other kids because they act like kids? Um, no, not cool. And clinging to the “kids are meant to be seen, and not heard” belief? Completely unacceptable. Thank you, Arwyn, for putting into words what I’ve been feeling.