Public Service Announcement: Childfree Etiquette for the Parent.
This is for all you parents of young children out there. Single parents, newlyweds, unmarried parents, doesn’t matter.
You may be noticing some changes in your life now that The Baby has arrived. I’m not talking about the lack of sleep, sex, or free time, either. I’m talking about the way your friends and maybe some of your relatives have mysteriously vanished from your life.
Why are those of us without kids deserting you like fleas springing off the cooling carcass of a roadkill rodent? Well . . . I hate to break it to you but
WE ARE NOT INTERESTED IN YOUR BABY.
This is not meant to be cruel. Really. We understand that Baby is the center of your life. She should be. You are now A Parent. You had best do your job and parent that little critter, because to those of us without children, the only thing worse than a child is an ill-behaved child. Believe us. We want you to parent.
But it would be civilized of you to respect those of us who have no interest in parenting or children.
So. Let us now discuss:
Some of us, though not all, are freaked out by the idea of a small life-form growing inside a human body. It puts us in mind of things like The Fly, Alien, and the Flukeman episode of the X-Files. We don’t necessarily appreciate being constantly reminded that “you” are an “us” whenever McFetus kicks you in the spleen.
For those of us who don’t really choke on the whole parasite issue (and I am one), there are still other sticking points. Please do not discuss your physical symptoms in great detail unless you have 100% knowledge that everyone within earshot wants to know about your projectile morning sickness, swollen feet, peeling nipples, or recurrent yeast infections. And never, ever mention hemorrhoids. All right? Thank you. Trading pregnancy horror stories with the woman in the next cubicle only makes us doubt your sanity for voluntarily subjecting yourself to such horror. These are matters between you and your doctor. And speaking of doctors . . .
We are your friends. Perhaps we are even your family. We love you. But we do not want to hold your hand while a doctor with a 17-inch-long titanium needle takes core samples from your frog-mottled, basketball-sized belly. We don’t want to be there for the pussy-wand cervical ultrasound, or, actually, any ultrasound, which resembles a moving x-ray of an alien, or perhaps spirit photography of the writhing of the tortured souls in Satan’s colon. Huge eyeholes and disjointed vertebrae are the stuff of nightmares. And we are all, almost to a one of us, already quite disturbed enough.
Furthermore, waiting rooms at the obstetricians are horrific places for us, plastered with prints of infants robbed of whatever dignity they may have possessed by that soulless nightmare that is Anne Geddes, populated with pregnant women and their attendant children, who scream loudly, throw things, and use the slime-smeared Fisher Price toys to play “fetch” with wandering streptococcus and e. coli bacteria the size of dachshunds.
Ask your mother to go with you to the doctor for checkups. Ask the baby’s daddy. Do not ask us.
Labor And Its Aftermath
By now we know that you have a real-live baby inside you. We also realize that it must come out at some point, because it is very, very hard to fit a Playstation inside a woman, and studies show that even newborn infants are capable of incessantly pestering their parents for a video game console.
While we understand that labor is a given, please do not discuss details of your birthing plan/labor in great detail. In fact, all we need to know on this subject is A) is it going to be at home or in a hospital? and B) it’s not going to be anytime soon, is it? We don’t want to know if you’re planning to donate the umbilical cord to charity, have the optional bowel-blasting enema, or are arguing the pros and cons of having an episiotomy.
If the child has already been born, we don’t want to know what you did with its placenta, whether the doctor shaved your hoo-ha, or how far he had to stick his hand in you to break your water. Save that talk for someplace far, far from us. You are only worsening our horror of the whole pregnancy/labor/child thing. Trust us on this one.
I should not have to tell you that actual videos of the event will be greeted with screams of horror roughly equivalent to those that would emanate from the vicinity of one of those little fun-park diving pools full of plastic balls, if you were to throw a few hungry Komodo dragons in along with the toddlers. Please do not even ask us to view videos of the birth. If we wanted to see a naked, bloody coochie with a human head poking out of it, we would simply open up a book of art by H. R. Giger and have done.
Pictures of your child, whether taken in utero or at little Bobby’s third birthday party, interest us far, far less than pictures of your cats or dogs, or even pictures of your birds or leopard geckos. We simply do not relate to children. If we did, we would have them. Please accept that we mean no harm when we show no interest in your baby’s portrait. While we’re at it, please do not assume that the 1,764th picture of Mini-Me is going to convince us to go out and madly reproduce.
Visits to the Childfree
Our homes are not childproof. And the real stunner is that there is no reason for them to be. Not even when you visit. Bring objects for your child to play with, do not allow him to play with our toys/bric-a-brac/animal bones.
We realize that kids get hungry roughly every half hour. A bottle or something is fine. In very liberal childfree households, such as my own, breastfeeding is even encouraged. But if you must offer the child food or drink, and it is an ambulatory child, please ask us where the food or drink is safest served. Many of us are proud of our carpets and upholstery. Even if we are not, we still don’t want grape juice and zwieback on our cat-hair covered afghan. Thanks.
For the parents of older children, be aware that in our house, our rules come before yours. Inform your child of this, and control her appropriately. Do not be surprised if we choose to discipline the child ourselves, or even ask you to leave, if you refuse to do it yourself. Failure to observe this cardinal rule is perhaps the greatest source of friction between new and non-parents.
The simplest solution is to supervise your child at all times. Many of us leave dangerous chemicals, animals, or weapons lying around our house, confident that those who live there would not drink, molest, or fall upon said items. Out of courtesy, the most hazardous items will probably be removed when guests are around, but it is not a stretch to say that Junior is likely to kill himself if he gets too curious about what is in the gun rack, under the sink, or, for instance, in the cages clearly labeled “SCORPIONS” and “COTTONMOUTH.”
Which brings us to the subject of . . .
We feel about our pets the way most people feel about human larvae. Respect this connection, do not mock or belittle it. To us, our cat or dog or ferret or rat or cobra is just as precious to us as Junior is to you.
Do not allow your child to abuse our pets. Whether at our homes, or when walking our dogs, cats, ferrets, rats or snakes, your child should ask if it is safe to approach the animal in question, and wait for an answer before shrieking and grabbing at my pet with its nasty little pincers. What your child thinks is “petting” is probably far rougher handling than our pathetic, hairy (or hairless) little child-surrogates are used to. Restrain your untrained apelet, and we will prevent Fluffy from tearing out his eyes.
Also, try to prevent them from making loud shrieking sounds around our pets. Excited children sound much like squealing rabbits, and this has been known to drive some dogs to kill. As much fun as this would be as an organized sport, it is not yet recognized in the U.S., and it is also hell on carpets.
Children, being small animals themselves, also pose a threat to pets. If your child were to bite my cat, I would have to have your child tested for rabies, and no matter what your parents told you when that dog bit you in fourth grade, the way they test for rabies does not involve keeping the animal “for observation.” It involves removing the brain and checking for shrinkage. I imagine your child might find this inconvenient, though this would give him a place to store those fistfuls of goldfish crackers all children seem to carry around.
In fact . . . it actually might be best not to bring your child to our house at all. Simply call us on the phone.
If your child is fussing, tend to it. Do not ask us to hold more than a few moments at a time, or more than once or twice in a given conversation. If it is a bad time, call us back when the child is napping or playing in the street.
Under no circumstances should you yell at your children while you are on the phone with us. Exceptions can be made if you use very colorful language (“Get your pinworm-infested ass in here, you rutting, scrotum-faced, nut-licking chimpfuck!”) but since you are now A Parent and unlikely to do that, we would prefer to be spared the shouting. The same goes for holding screaming babies. Talk to us some other time. Your child would benefit from your undivided attention while he passes that broken glass he swallowed when you weren’t looking.
Do not put your child on the phone. If we wanted to speak to her, we would ask. We cannot understand her baby-talk. Also, it may be cute, but children have no volume control and over the phone any noise it makes sounds grating and shrill. Many of us work in phone service and have to speak to incomprehensible, drooling idiots on a daily basis. Voluntarily inflicting such conversation upon us outside of work hours is not, as they say in the old Gaelic sagas, the act of a friend. Communication, when it occurs, is best left to the adults.
A whistling gulf opens up between the new parent and her former friends. And often, the wedge in the crevice is simple misunderstanding.
This section could fill a book in itself. But what it essentially boils down to is this:
When you say “You should have children!” or any of its variations, such as “It’s different when they’re your own,” and “You’ll change your mind someday,” we hear something totally different. What we hear is “I have no respect for you. I never did. I wish a bleak and horrible existence upon you. In fact, I wish you to live in stifled misery akin to the most brutal and relentless slavery until the very hour of your death.”
When we say “I don’t plan on having children,” what we mean is “Ever.” Not “Maybe.” Not “Someday.” It is “Ever.” Period.
Whether we will change our minds someday or not is irrelevant. If we said that sort of thing while you were pregnant, you would never forgive us. Especially if we gave you coat hangers for the baby shower. Just in case.
Which brings us to our next point.
For some reason, expecting parents often fear that those without children will be offended if they are not invited to a baby shower. This is not the case. We prefer not to be invited. If you wish to send us an invitation, please make sure it is some atrocious color and is plastered with stickers. This makes it easier to identify while still in the mailbox, so that we can remove it with tongs and deposit it into the nearest trash receptacle. If we really, really like you, and you are lucky, we will open it with a strained smile and wonder how soon would be too soon to call up with an excuse. Also make sure it arrives well in advance. This is not because we need time to shop. No, we have no children, we have plenty of time to shop. It is so we can arrange to contract explosive diarrhea on the day of the party, so that we can avoid it.
We don’t hate you. We just hate baby showers. I mean it. They are a carnival of horrors. Imagine how you would feel if you were put into a shrinking, grandmother-scented lime-green room that emitted a high-pitched shrieking sound, while the Balrog, with a cattle-prod, forced you to perform fellatio on a two-headed clown. Now imagine the clown has frosting-smeared fingers and a live eel for a penis. That is how we feel about baby showers.
There is nothing fun to us about being closeted with all your female friends and relatives and all their children, playing inane games that involve diapers and pureed vegetables, and being forced to make small-talk with various well-meaning harpies while avoiding the sticky, groping attentions of the very creatures we dislike the most. Even eating in such an environment is hazardous, as any and all food prepared, or even left lying out around children, is suspect. The slightest lapse of vigilance or judgement on our part is likely to result in small fingers diving into our cheesecake. Fingers which have, more than likely, been recently acquainted with one sphincter or another.
We don’t want to watch you open presents, either. “Oh, look, it’s a combination enema bulb and formula warmer! Just what we needed!”
Give us your permission not to attend. We will buy you a gift and wish you and your child the best of health.
But, let’s be realistic . . .
Your child will spend most of its time sick. While you may percieve your child as a gift from the gods, the rest of us know better, and do not want to share in your “gift”‘s gifts. Please keep your child home when it is sick. Do not bring it to work, take it to the store, or, heaven forfend, bring it into our houses and allow it to touch things that we own.
This is not open to debate. Taking a sick child out of the house will result in vomiting 99.9% of the time.
When I was sick as a kid, I caught it all from other kids. As an adult, guess what? I’m still catching diseases from kids! Yes, your daughter is darling in that dress. She is a plague-maiden. Keep her far, far from us when she is ill.
Or even when she isn’t.
Parenting is hard work, isn’t it?
Do you find yourself complaining to friends and coworkers about the complications of parenthood? Life got you down? Kid sick? Is he making bad grades? You’re sick and tired of cleaning dishes and changing diapers? You aren’t getting laid and haven’t even been able to masturbate because you have to leave the bathroom door open to hear the kids, or because little Jason keeps taking the batteries out of your Turbo-Vibe 3,000? Guess what? The reason we’re listening is called Schadenfreude, and it means we are laughing at your pain.
You signed up for it. Don’t expect yards of sympathy from those of us who have thought better of it before it happened. We will still make reassuring noises, and may even volunteer to help, but you must never, never forget that we are deeply glad we are not you!
Leave a Reply