Sunday, June 10, 2012

"You need a license to drive a car. Hell, you need a license to catch a fish. But they'll let any butt-reaming asshole be a father."*

    Sometime in high school, and maybe again in college, a teacher (or four) told me (or the class at large—I can’t remember anything, I’m a goldfish) that I should be aware of starting every paragraph of a paper with the same word. It occurred to me again recently because I’m pretty certain that I tend to start most of my blog posts with the word “I.” I’m a complete and utter narcissist, so okay. I’m aware of it, don’t worry.
"And they say goldfish have no memory, I guess their lives are much like mine."**

    It’s hard to write these blog posts sometimes because they require me to be somewhat more honest than I’d really like to be, and for that reason I don’t always feel like contributing. Honesty in writing is hard but largely necessary if you don’t want to write about the beauty and magic of rainbows and butterflies or bore everyone to death (or both). That’s why writing can sometimes blow as an art form.
    Unlike acting or painting or music, I can’t really pretend that the things I express are anything other than what they are, because I’m not writing fiction, which also kind of blows because my life ain’t all that interesting. (Shut up, Word! I know I’m not supposed to say “ain’t”!) But the following may offend/annoy some people, and for that I'm truly sorry. And for the record, I love (some) kids!
    I don’t want to shit on parenthood or make it seem like child rearing is an easy job because I know it’s hard and it IS a job. I know firsthand how keeping a toddler alive all day long is the opposite of fun. And I know stay-at-home parents have to want to hit the bottle pretty hard after a day of zero adult conversation. I know it sucks to have a 12-year-old ask about sex or naughty parts or “hair down there.” I know how awful it feels to watch a kid you love get treated like shit by his school friends and how irritating it is to feel like you’ve been turned into someone’s personal maid/chef/bodyguard/chauffeur. All these things I know. (And I did manage to use the word “I” about 47 times in this paragraph. Narcissist.)
    But none of these things change the fact that (some) people with kids tend to be assholes in public. They run their strollers over your feet, take up four times the room a person is supposed to have, refuse to hold doors, and believe that somehow their adorable little assholes are goddamn royalty.
    In short, many parents of young children seem to feel entitled.
    In the past week or so I’ve witnessed the following:
1.     A young, Beverly Hills mom pushed her $8000 stroller and her $10,000 ass directly in front of my line of vision as I shopped at Trader Joe’s. (I would’ve received worse treatment from a mom at Whole Foods, but still.) I gave her one of my classic, huge, passive aggressive sighs as a thank you.
2.     A man in the Pacific Palisades crossed the street in front of my car with his two sons. It wasn’t a cross walk or a stop sign and these were not toddlers on bicycles. He just put his hand up, gesturing for me to stop and walked as slowly as possible in front of my car and across the street.
3.     I held the door for a harried looking mom with two kids, one in a stroller, at the Coffee Bean. She acted like that was my job. No “thank you,” no acknowledgement of any kind.
4.     At Toppings, one of those self-serve frozen yogurt places, a woman’s kid was throwing the tantrum of a lifetime. This little asshole was screaming her head off and the mother’s friend or sister tried to calm the kid down but she did those crazy, writhing, full-body kicks that make it impossible to hold them. So the friend/sister looked at the mom like, “Are you gonna handle this or what?” But the mom just acted like it wasn’t happening. “Not my kid!” Great. The rest of us will just sit here and enjoy our yogurt while your kid shrieks like the little shit she obviously is. She must’ve inherited her bitchiness from you.
    I’m not trying to be a jerk, here. I know it’s hard. I KNOW.
    I remember when my friend Regan’s son, Jimmy, was a baby the three of us went for a ride somewhere and the kid was just screaming his head off. Of course…he was a BABY. But what I most remember is Regan’s*** sense of resignation. She turned to me calmly and said, “It’s times like these when I want to drive my car into a brick wall.” And while I laughed, I felt sorry for her, too. So I try to be patient, I really do.
    But it’s not the kids that drive me nuts. It’s the parents who act like they’re so much better than me because they have a kid. They get on the airplane in front of me**** and they get inoculations I want but have to wait for. They get to take up entire aisles of eating establishments and they get crayons at their tables. I’m pretty sure they get tax breaks, too.
    That’s fine.  Have your babies because I know it’s rewarding in many ways and it’s romantic to have a baby with someone you love and it’s cool to get to invent a name for somebody. But do you have to be so rude about it? (Disclaimer: I’m not talking about ALL parents, just a huge chunk of them. None of my friends has ever been an Entitled Parent in front of me.)
    Just say "thank you" when I hold a door for you. Try not to run over my feet with your stroller, because I don’t do that to you with my shopping cart, so I know it’s avoidable. (When my family was at Disneyland in March, my sister Elizabeth was nailed by no fewer than 3 strollers and only one parent said he was sorry, and it wasn’t even very sincere.) If your kid is screaming, slap him or her in the face and say, “Never again! You got me, jerk?” Just kidding.
    You don’t have to be like the mom I saw at the movie theatre yesterday buying $50 worth of concessions while her kid waited over in a corner, and then when the kid tried to ask a question the rotund (I’m being generous here) mother yelled, “Shut up!” and proceeded to order three more boxes of nachos...presumably for herself. But seriously, take the damn kid outside of the eating establishment until he quiets down. And maybe just be courteous. Parenthood hasn’t given you a free pass. Some of us have gone years intentionally NOT having children so that our lives might be a little simpler, quieter and less “rewarding.”
Rick Moranis and Harley Kozak represent one of the many ways to f**k up a kid in Parenthood.

*This is the second time I've quoted Keanu's character in Parenthood (Ron Howard, 1989). I've loved this movie since Gabe introduced me to it in high school. And, of course, it's no reflection of my feelings for my own father who is a dynamite parent and errs on the side of excessive politeness. 
**Ani DiFranco's "Little Plastic Castle."
***Link to Regan's blog.
****I can't stand that families with small children get to board before the rest of the airplane passengers. Why? Just because they've intentionally made their lives a huge pain in the ass doesn't mean I should have to suffer. Old people and the handicapped I get: they aren't slow and feeble on purpose (except for fat people who ride in wheelchairs because they don't feel like walking because their knees hurt because they're fat: unfair). But just because I didn't have four kids in the last 5 years I'm expected to wait behind The Brady Bunch? I paid good money for this ticket and I got in line BEFORE YOU!

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