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On being a know-it-all jackass

In grad school, I had this super brilliant classmate. I might have had a crush on him, except he spent his days elbow-deep in monkey brains (already gross enough, but in addition he told me a bit too much about cleaning the little metal caps that go over their skulls when the electrodes are not in use, and how the monkeys liked to throw their shit around [who can blame them, given their circumstances], so it was really just an impossible visual). ANYWAY, because he was quite smart, he talked a fair bit in class. I remember him endearingly asking me one day, Am I that kid in the class that everyone hates because he talks all the time and is such a boring know-it-all and everyone wishes he would just shut up? I certainly knew the kind of kid he was talking about. Maybe you have one in your group of friends or in your workplace?

I am beginning to fear that in the baby group I go to, I am that kid.

I’ve taken all three of the Buns to my local parent center baby group because it’s a very warm environment and it’s, you know, somewhere to go. It was a total life-saver when Bun Bun was tiny and I desperately needed the company of other new parents as I navigated the bewildering world of infant rearing. Back then, I recall not really wanting to hear from the parents of second or third children, because they were so…unphased by shit. I mean, Bun Bun was an easy baby, so I was mostly unphased by shit (except being sure she would die if I took my eyes off her for a moment), but I had questions, and didn’t know what to expect from one week to the next, and I remember agonizing over massive-feeling decisions like when to stop swaddling her and when to move her to a crib and whether she was taking the right number of naps…

Now when I go to the baby group, I try to just listen. I don’t want to be that kid. I don’t want to minimize the challenges that seem small from my august perspective, but that are huge when you’re confronting them for the first time. I also don’t want to minimize the struggles of parents with actually hard babies or situations by being blasé about things like sleep or feeding. But it’s hard to not talk. I have learned some shit in the past almost-five-years.

Probably the most important thing I’ve internalized–because I would have said I knew it before, but now I really know it–is that there are many paths to the same place. For example, when confronting the Mountain of Getting a Child to the Place Where it Can Manage Sleep Without Caregiver Assistance, there are many routes to the top. Some parents have no choice which one they take–they have to take the one with the snow and the ice and the super-steep incline and the falling boulders because of the baby they got. Me, I get to hop on the tram that goes directly to the top. (My other babies were good at sleep, but Bunter is gobsmackingly good at sleep. I am wary, but gratefully enjoying cocktails here on the mountaintop while it lasts.) Some parents choose to bypass the tram and take the nice gentle sunny path because they enjoy looking at the flowers. Some choose to take the snowy, icy path. In some cases they do it because they have been convinced they have no choice. Most of us get there in the end, and the outcome is pretty much the same.

So it is with many parenting choices. There are mountains where I choose the icy path because of my own beliefs. When I find myself feeling defensive about my choices or judgmental about those my fellow parents make, I try to visualize that mountain, crawling with parents all doing their best. I wave to the people on the tram as they fly by and say save me a seat at the bar! I offer my ice axe to those floundering next to me. Plus, the joy of parenting is that there are ever more mountains, a whole vast range stretching off to the horizon.

One of my favorite people in the whole internet is at the bottom of a great many mountains, all rather suddenly! I wish I could pack her a knapsack with good, sustaining foods (pemmican?) and make sure her boots have grip and gently nudge her towards the tram waiting area. But I can’t, really. All I can do is offer to be a know-it-all jackass any time she needs one and look forward to having a drink with her at the top.

10 Comments Post a comment
  1. I am that person and am at peace with being that person. But I didn’t/don’t go to baby groups (they always met during work and I took off work once to go and it was dreadfully uncomfortable because my baby was a gross motor junkie and another mother there kept comparing her baby negatively to mine so I was happy not to take more time off work).

    The One Best Way thing is pretty annoying. And I hate with a passion discussing infant sleep.

    March 31, 2016
  2. No, no, say things, offer advice! It’s fine – it’s all in the tone and the listening, the sense of humour, the owning of the point of view. Someone who consider these things, is – you know – considerate, is the best person to help. I mean, I am grateful! Say things to me!

    I am enjoying my naivety at the moment – it’s quite nice.
    (Haha! That’s future me, laughing wryly.)

    Thanks for the support, bunny dear.

    April 1, 2016
  3. (WordPress, did you eat my comment? DID YOU.)

    April 1, 2016
    • Do not malign me, Twangy. I have to wait for Bunny to approve comments before I can post them. Yours, WordPress.

      April 1, 2016
      • I apologise unreservedly, WP. I bow before your algorithmic power, indeed.
        [Backs out of room, doffing hat.]

        April 1, 2016
  4. And some of us simply choose to redefine “summit”. Sleep! That lasts for most of the night! Who cares what level of assistance is still being provided to achieve this miracle despite the advanced age of nearly 4 (and nearly 7). Sleep = Victory!!!!!!!!!!

    Congratulations to Twangy! My advice: define your own darn summits – and do listen to anything bunny has to say because she is one know-it-all that has much to offer.

    April 1, 2016
    • Well put. When I think of hard climbs, yours certainly comes to mind.

      April 1, 2016
  5. I define sleep as ‘doesn’t bother me much between 9 PM and 6 AM. Are my kids asleep then? Who knows, who cares.

    I try not to be That Person but I also fear I sometimes am. Also there are people I just want to smack for their lack of self awareness. But whatever. I did have a nice conversation with my neighbor today about leaving children – I told her it was really different with my first kid! Because it was! But I leave Sweetpea all the time and she’s fine with it. ‘They get used to it eventually,’ I told her. ‘And they’ll be fine.’. (She also works part time and MUST leave the baby. The baby is fine.)

    April 1, 2016
  6. OMG! OMG! OMG! Twangy’s got her very own mountain range to climb!!! Wooohooo! Congrats to her! I’m so thrilled.
    And I love the mountaineering analogy. Thank you for that. Especially with the thought of some cocktails at the top (with you, preferably).
    And I think your fear of being that jackass = you are NOT that jackass. You are so self-aware, Bunny. Personally, when you’ve offered me your point of view about climbing a certain mountain, I’ve felt it was super helpful and apt.

    April 5, 2016
  7. Jos #

    I totally struggle with this as well. My best friend has an 8 month old, and yesterday she spent the entire afternoon grabbing everything from her mouth, and I’m all “dude, it will build up her immunity, she’s fine…” UGH. so hard to keep my mouth shut, especially when parenting somehow completely relaxed me and i’m WAY more laid back about most everything than I was before, and some parents (my friend for sure) are decidedly NOT like that.

    April 11, 2016

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