Before becoming a dad, I had a job where one of my bosses spoke often & enthusiastically about his kids (teenagers at the time). Despite my best efforts (to suck-up to the boss), I had difficulty relating to his stories.
I remember thinking, "If I ever have kids, I need to realize that people who don't .. might have trouble relating."
Of course, when it's your boss, you try extra hard (to relate) .. laughing when he laughs, even when you fail to see any humor.
I even remember feeling it rude of him to expect me to care about his stories (when I had no kids of my own). Like I said, it wasn't like I didn't try.
At times I even felt inadequate, cuz I hadn't bred (yet).
Since becoming a dad, I can see that good parents *should* be tuned to their kids. Obviously, there's a ditch on both sides of this road.
A parent can be so absorbed they have no life outside their kids. Or they can be oblivious, not realizing when their kids are hurting. (I think this is called empathy, a natural part of parenting.) Balance is the key.
These days I tailor my conversation to the person sitting across from me. If they're a parent, I'm free to discuss whatever parental topics arise (cuz I know they can relate). If not, I find other subjects (unless they lead).
Even with the Dog, my best friend of many years (who has outstanding social skills), I've found a certain —distance— has developed. The Dog is excellent at relating to my challenges with the bug's mom, but struggles (I sense) at relating to my experiences as a dad.
••••• today's entry continues below •••••
Obviously, it's not his fault. The situation is similar to what happens between people who share difficult experiences .. such as the military (especially in time of war) in describing the bond that develops. Someone who hasn't had these experiences (obviously) can't be expected to relate.
And if someone *has* had the experience, then nothing more need be said. Without saying a word, you know that they know.
I can't tell you the number of times people I'd never met before have extended some nicety, saying things like, "Don't worry 'bout it. We understand. We have four of our own." These niceties (from people I'd never met before) range from letting me ahead in line at the supermarket to buying my morning espresso.
I normally avoid the homes of people who've never had kids .. cuz I realize they might not understand. (I used to be one of them.) It's too much work to keep the bug from exploring their homes (making a mess .. as that's what toddlers typically do). Need to be on constant alert. "Don't touch that," and "Put that down," gets old fast. Makes it hard to enjoy yourself.
Folks with kids (sometimes referred to disparagingly as 'breeders' by those without) have learned (the hard way) not to sweat the small stuff (spills, messes). This makes it easier to relax. I don't have to worrying about every little thing he touches.
There's always plenty of big stuff to worry about .. such as keeping them from running out into traffic .. from falling down and cracking open their skull .. getting kidnapped.
I said all that to say this » Yesterday after church, the bug wanted to dip his feet in the pool there (which doubles as a baptistry). When his shorts started getting wet, I removed them. When his diaper got wet, I took that off, too. Wasn't long 'til we had a two-year old skinny-dipping in the baptistry.
The Bug was having a blast .. or, as he says » "Too much fun, dada!" Lotsa laughs. Giggles galore. The kind of stuff that makes a dad's heart sing.
Weather was hot, the water sparkling, at the perfect height (belly-high on the Bug). He frolicked there a good 30 minutes. Nothing but encouraging comments came from the amused church-goers passing by. They seemed to enjoy his playfulness much as I did.
Now, I *know* he shouldn't've been in there. It obviously wasn't the bugs fault. (Doesn't know any better.) And I know this sets a bad example by encouraging other kids to do likewise. One person finally came up and felt duty-bound to inform me the bug shouldn't be in there. "Oh," I said, playing dumb.
"Can't blame him," one lady said, after Mr. Grouch walked away (as I was drying the Bug with my shirt), "He doesn't have kids." Actually, I was surprised nobody said anything sooner.
What I'm saying is » I know what's it's like to be on both sides of that fence. I might also mention there are people who've never had kids but are amazingly cool, understanding the challenges, patient with kids .. but parents shouldn't *expect* such understanding.