I am not a kid person. This may sounds like a cool, ironic thing to say when you are actually somebody’s mother. Like a way of creating a chic distance between yourself and the messy, vulnerable slog of parenting, or a frantic attempt to stand out amidst a homogenous sea of similarly-clad, similarly-voiced, similarly dogged-yet-dead-tired parents pushing strollers around the baby-friendly streets of Brooklyn.
But not being a kid person is not something I’m proud of. In fact, recently it’s become a surprising source of quiet shame. It just feels wonky to me lately, that I have a kid who I love but that, in general, I don’t love hanging out with kids and am not compelled to go out of my way to connect with my friends’ kids.
I’m three months away from having my second and I’ve realized I am definitely not everybody’s mom and I’m wondering…is that okay?
I only really thought about having a baby a few years after my husband and I had been dating when, concurrently, I began babysitting an endearing and oddly not-annoying kid to supplement my fledgling acting career. Before all that, I remember telling my friends in college that I wasn’t sure I wanted to be a mother. I remember hating all the babysitting I did as a teenager and wanting more than anything to go home as soon as I’d arrived at whichever neighbor’s house I’d been entrusted to monitor for the night.
I also remember noticing how my sister was always genuinely entertained by our parents’ friends’ small children – her ease in their company, how they made her laugh, and how she truly liked watching the cartoons they watched, playing their video games, dressing up their dolls, building towers with their blocks and doing whatever it was, with them. I do not, however, remember thinking it was weird that I didn’t feel like doing any of those things.
And then, three years ago – in a shocking turn, on purpose, and with much excitement – I had a baby. And I love him. I love hanging out with him (most of the time). I love talking to him. I love seeing things as he sees them and showing him the way I see things.
And yet, I am still not a kid person.
When my son and I go on play dates, I just can’t get pumped about imparting my child-raising techniques on other kids, like saying “Oh wow, cool!” in response to the things they say or handing out some of the snacks I always have on hand (a nod to our family legacy of sudden onset hanger). I also don’t need them to love me or even like me that much. Of course, sometimes they do (because don’t I sound like so much fun?). Sometimes they tug at my sleeve and shout with animation, “Katie, guess what? Fart!” These conversations – this one in particular – I am more than glad to have.
Sure, I’m willing to keep an eye on them, to share our profuse selection of noshes, and, if they’re in actual danger, to sprint to their aid. But I know other mothers who seem to really relish connecting with my child. I see other parents who, like pied pipers, gather children ‘round them with ease and cultivate a sort of zombie-toddler following.
This, I don’t know how to do. And I don’t want to know how. One kid is confounding enough!
In fact, the notion of actively assuming a second mother role to a friend’s child – an idea that appeals to many parents I know – sounds to me like a surefire way to further exhaust yourself in the marathon that is parenting.
But it isn’t exhausting for some people – it’s affirming or energizing or instinctive. I am in awe of such people (and only occasionally irritated by them). But I will never be on of them. No, I’m not a kid person; I’m just a my-kid person.