Argh, he is being such a little shit today!
She's such a little bitch
He's being such a dick
She's such a brat, winding her sister up...
This week, a particular blog post has been very popular. It's about "how to visit friends with children" and begins with "children are fucking stupid." I have to confess, after reading that I didn't read the rest of the post. People on social media (and Mumsnet) seem to find it hilarious though.
The post disturbed me. I understand that the writer was going for a humorous take on children; she seems to have hit that goal, and people seem to find her post amusing. I am sure the rest of the post was hilarious. But to call a child "fucking stupid" is, to me, inappropriate. I get that she is not calling her children stupid; I get that she's trying to explain things from the point of view of someone with no children - but still, it is something that does not sit well with me.
Then I read this post by Leigh at Headspace Perspective. Leigh's little boy Hugo was born prematurely and died after 35 days. Her post discusses how she finds it inappropriate to complain about one's children, when there are women all over the world who would give their right arm (and more, if they could) to hear their child whine or cry or tantrum. I wrote a comment on Leigh's post that started to get really long, so in the end I decided to write a blog post instead!
I am a single parent. On weekends and days when nursery is closed, I am with S 24/7. I am self employed and have stresses over money, and often have to try and get work done while S is playing. I have to try and cook tea and clean the house while she's about as well, and sometimes it's tough. Sometimes she wants my attention, and I need to write 500 words on gardening by lunch time. After the fiftieth time of her turning my chair around trying to climb onto my lap, I can sometimes get a bit fed up.
Sometimes, I go into the kitchen, open the fridge, and shout into it.
Sometimes I go upstairs and sit on the toilet, even when I don't need to go - just to get a few minutes' peace.
On the other hand though, I know how lucky I am. I am lucky that S was only five weeks early. I am lucky she had no lasting problems. I am lucky we managed to disentangle ourselves from her father. I am lucky S is such an easygoing child. I am lucky we are both healthy. I am lucky to have kept my mental health problems at bay. I never thought I would become a mother, and now that I am, I count my blessings daily. Yes, life is tough - but I wouldn't change S for the world. I try to remind myself of this whenever things get a bit fraught.
I firmly believe that we should respect our children. I do this with S by explaining to her what is going on, by allowing her to make choices as much as possible, and by not calling her names. It always makes me uneasy if I take S to the doctor and they talk to me over her head, and then ask me to pull her top up so they can listen to her chest; I will always explain to her what is going on, rather than just pull her top up and say "there you go!"
The only "name" I ever call S is "silly sausage" and I try to avoid that as much as possible. I feel very strongly that we should never call any child stupid or any other name. As for saying it behind their backs, venting on social media or to a friend, my approach is similar to what I mentioned in my post about lying to children the other day: it's about respect. To me it's the same question as "would you pull faces at a blind person just because they couldn't see you do it?" I might say "S is doing my head in a bit at the moment and I need a break" but I do not recall ever saying more than that. I suppose that part is the difference between "my child is giving me a hard time" and "my child is having a hard time" - and I believe it's always going to be the latter over the former.
We lead by example, whether we like it, and intend to do it, or not. How can we expect our children to treat others with respect, when this is not the example they are set? This goes a lot deeper than name calling; there will probably be more posts on this topic in the coming weeks. For me, though, the name calling and complaining about our children is something that just seems to be socially accepted, even encouraged in some parts of society.
I have friends who will vent on social about their children being "little shits" or worse. Some will enter into massive tirades about how their bastard children have been playing up all day and just won't shut the fuck up. Some people call their children brats. In town last week I saw a woman bend down into a pushchair and tell her child very calmly: "you are being a little brat, and I do not like brats." I've heard people call their children a lot worse than that.
It doesn't mean I'm any better than them; for all I know they are at their wits' end, a point I've yet to reach. I am in no position to judge anyone, since the only situation in which I am an expert is my own. But I disagree with this approach of name calling; it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Whether a child hears it or not, I think it is a bad precedent to set.
This post is not about me trying to tell people how to raise their children; it's not me passing judgement on others. It's me expressing my opinion on a subject about which I feel strongly.