Why Are Parents of Small Children So Awful?
Lord, if there is one thing that could make you subsist on a diet of birth control pills and Depo-Provera, it's the other parents you are bound to meet if you reproduce. For every wonderful woman with whom I've shared parenting horror stories while our children snatched toys from one and another and threw matching temper tantrums, there are two dozen more to whom I've wanted, as my father would say, to give a good zetz.
What is it about reproducing that turns a parent into a selfish maniac? A while ago I wrote an essay for Child Magazine called "The Blessing of the Average Child."
At every parents' night I've ever attended -- and with four children I've been to more than my share -- I have waited for the inevitable question.
"Excuse me," someone asks. "What accommodation do you make for the exceptionally gifted child?" We all look around to see who the lucky speaker is; who is the parent of this future Bobby Fischer, this Stephen Hawking of the second grade?
So many parents, particularly those of the older, wealthier variety, are convinced that their kids are stupendously special. Unique in their genius. So many parents are convinced that their children deserve everything, even if it's at the expense of someone else's children.
In my daughter's preschool there's a mini-drama going on. One head teacher left, and no good replacement was found. Because my daughter's class is lucky enough to have two fabulous teachers, they've decided to take one to head the other class, but just for the rest of this year. Next year, we'll have our amazing team back together again.
Well, some parents are fine with it, but others have their panties all tied in knots. "Why should my child suffer?" "Why should the problem be solved at the expense of my brilliant little boy/girl?" Oh gevalt. Look, they couldn't find a replacement. So for a few months, in order for other kids not to be really screwed, your kid is going to be a tiny bit put out.
I suppose I understand the impulse. I mean, I love my children and want the best for them. But doesn't anybody remember Hillel's golden rule? Why do normally decent people lose their perspective entirely when they have babies? I think a good test of a decent human being is this: When we have had a situation arise where we have more children than car seats, I always put other people's children in the car seat and make mine ride without. If I'm taking a risk, better it should be with my own child. (And before you freak out, this almost next happens, and I even make my ten-year-old ride in a booster seat.)
So what would you do? Which kid would you put in the car seat?