I’ve been a mom for roughly eight months. My husband and I are hooked—we love being parents. Sam is awesome. He makes the cutest faces and has found his loud voice and adorably shovels food into his toothless mouth. We quickly acclimated to poop and exhaustion and bath time and breastfeeding and naps. Or no naps. We’d even venture to say that it’s not so hard after all. We’re absolutely in love.
But I have a confession.
There is one aspect of parenting that I haven’t quite mastered yet. Other people’s kids–I’m mildly terrified of them.
When you have a kid, you also get a load of other people’s kids. Birthday parties. Volunteering for childcare. Play dates. People assume that when you become a parent you are super comfortable in a room full of kids. Well, I’m saying out loud that I am not. I am getting better at it—but I have a long way to go.
I didn’t grow up around kids. I’m the oldest of my siblings and my little guy is the first grandchild. I never babysat (in fact, I avoided contact with children as best I could). I never dreamed about who I’d be as a mother. I never really thought about it. There was even a while where my husband and I weren’t even sure we wanted kids. So, when we entered into the world of parenthood, it was ALL very, very new to me.
I’m pretty comfortable around babies (as I have one). I’d even say, I’m good with babies. Maybe not a room full of them, but I’ll hold your baby and enjoy it. I get mildly terrified when they get a little older. Pretty much any age older than infant.
My interactions with kids usually go something like, “Oh hi Billy. Those are really cool shoes!”
“Can I eat this candy?”
I look around, no parent in sight. I shift my weight, look Billy right in the eyes, “Can I see your candy? What kind is it? Oh Billy look! Joey is over there. You should go play tag. You’re it!” Billy runs along, and I am left, shamefully holding a lone piece of candy.
Okay, it doesn’t always go like that.
My fear, I think, comes from the simple fact that I have no idea how to interact with kids. No idea. I mean, what are they really thinking? These tiny people. What goes on inside of their heads? What do I say to them? Am I talking too much like an adult? Or am I trying too hard to sound like a kid? And then, there are a million ways to parent, and I’m not sure what is acceptable/unacceptable to the parents. And I really don’t want to step on anyone’s toes. Half of the time, I honestly have no idea if they should eat the candy.
The thing is, though. I love other people’s kids. I really do. In fact, my husband and I worked in the nursery at church a few weeks ago, and we talked about how much we love these kids. How we are excited to be in their lives and their parents’ lives. How we can’t wait until Sam is older and playing with other kids. How we hope our home can be a joyful place full of kiddos running around like crazy people.
We also talked about how it was incredibly stressful being in a room, the two of us, alone, with our son and eight other crawlers. And they were all girls. We have a boy. I have no idea what to do with girls. But they are all amazing tiny people who are growing and learning and laughing. And my kid will probably get crushes on them all one day. It was our pleasure to simultaneously feed one her sweet potatoes while giving another her pieces of string cheese, and another some more of her juice, and making sure they don’t all knock each other down.
The thing is, our comfort zone hasn’t gotten larger–we are choosing to venture out of our comfort zone because other people’s kids are worth investing in. So, as awkward as it is, I am still going to tell Lily her hair is pretty today, and ask Camille how her day was, and tell Sullivan he has cool shoes (and great hair). And then one day, my Sam will be a toddler and I won’t be so terrified of them anymore.