Sunday, January 29, 2012

In Small Doses

Last night, Firecracker Hubby and I did something we don't often do. We babysat. For 5 hours. For my best friend, Sara, who I write about a lot in this blog.  Sara is one of my oldest and dearest friends and I love her like a sister - actually more than a sister, since we don't have the issues and family baggage that sisters do.

Sara does a lot for us.  She catsits when we go away.  The last time we went away, she visited every single day of our vacation to visit our cats, since one of our cats needs daily insulin shots. Yes, every day - for 8 days straight - she dutifully made the trek to our house and administered shots to our furboy. And gave them lots of love and attention.  Now THAT is a good friend.

So it goes without saying that we were happy to give Sara and her husband a nice night out by themselves, something they rarely get to do.  They were so excited when we arrived - all gussied up and smiling, heading out to a film and dinner.  It was Sara's hubby's birthday and he was just pleased as punch to get to go out alone with his wife.

Sara and hubby have 2 young boys and she is a stay-at-home-mom for the time being.  Money is tight, and babysitters are few, so this was a real treat for them.

So we spent 5 hours entertaining their boys who were happy as clams that we were there.  The boys adore us and were jumping up and down with excitement when we arrived.  Ugh.  5 hours.  Would we be able to handle it?

The answer is - yes, and we had an okay time playing games with them, hubby rough-housing with them, eating pizza with them.  But here's the thing about kids. They're okay for a few hours, but it is mind-numbingly boring to be around them for hours on end.  I was sitting there, playing Candyland with the younger boy while he prattled on incessantly and I thought to myself how do people do this every day without blowing their brains out? 

I am a person who needs intellectual stimulation.  I like thought-provoking books and films.  I am drawn to intelligent, insightful people.  I like to think philosophically.  I question things.  I think critically.  Yes, I enjoy a good dose of dumbness sprinkled through my life, but being around dopey, chatterbox kids non-stop would send me heading off a cliff. 

People often say that having children makes a person grow.  I don't know.  I think having kids would be a akin to getting a lobotomy.

They are completely self-centered.  They are undeveloped.  They are (for the most part) uninteresting.  They ramble on non-stop.  They think everything they do is fascinating (when it is not), and they expect us to act as though it is.  They need constant praise and approval.  They are attention whores.  They expect the world to revolve around them.

At the same time, they are at times funny, cute, entertaining and affectionate.  I wouldn't say being around them makes me a better person.  It just makes me tired and braindead.

In the final analysis, a few hours with kids - here and there - is tolerable and at times, even enjoyable.  Their innocence and the novelty of them can even be entertaining and a nice diversion. 

We do love the children in our lives  - in small doses.


Ire said...

I don't have the pacience to be around them for more than half an hour (unless I've been paid). They exhaust me, tire me and bore me to death after a few hours. Sure you can learn a lot about their innocent and curious perspective about the world. But they want you to pay attention to them every five seconds, and that's too hard to handle. I can't stand a clingy little person chasing me all the time. Not for me, thanks.

Katie said...

There's only one kid I can stand to be around that isn't related to me, but that's because at the age of two, we can have a decent conversation. She's pretty smart for her age. It isn't terribly thought-provoking, but it is really interesting and kind of fun to show her off to strangers when I babysit her. But I don't like to be around her every single day. She is, after all, still a toddler, and you can't expect them to be all sunshine and roses, even if she is pretty darn smart.

RockG said...

I'm the exact same way. Taking my godson out for a few hours, or watching my niece and nephew. It can be fun and even rewarding. But as much as rekindling my youth by playing a bout of Transformers with the boys can be, I much prefer to return to my grown up life and talk about politics, religion, and watch vulgar cartoons as I please.

Diana Morgan said...

"They are completely self-centered. They are undeveloped. They are (for the most part) uninteresting. They ramble on non-stop. They think everything they do is fascinating (when it is not), and they expect us to act as though it is. They need constant praise and approval. They are attention whores. They expect the world to revolve around them."

Sounds like some men I've dated.

Bec said...

Louis C.K. has a really funny bit about how boring his kids are. Check it out if you want a laugh.

jenn said...

I think the idea is, "Oh, they're so innocent and uncorrupted by adult worries, look at what profound insight they have on the world, even though they don't realize it." Like a kid asking you what war is, and why it has to happen. It's supposed to be insightful in a way that adults supposedly don't have the perspective for, but I'm with you, I don't think it's all that amazing.
I've always found it curious that people treat the upbringing of a child as such a wonderous, vital, all-important undertaking. The quality of their education is paramount. They can grow up to be anything--a doctor, a lawyer, the president, they could cure cancer or AIDS or free an oppressed people in a far-flung country, or do something amazing to have them written down in the history books. But most of the time, they toil and strive and stress their way through the educational system, just to grow up, get some decent but unexciting job or another, and have kids of their own. Rinse and repeat. I'm left thinking, so, what was so wonderous and vital about this whole task, again?
Sure, it's great to be smart and I think more people should get more and better educating, but... where's the otherworldly, angelic importance of this whole "the children are our future" business?
I like babysitting my infant niece, and hanging out with one of my best friends and her three year old daughter. It's interesting to watch the wheels in their head turn as they wrap their brain around concepts that we find simple. But I think a better education comes from a clutch of smart friends and a couple of bar stools. Lubricate the wheels of the brain on a few drinks and start off on a train of thought. I cherish a good, deep, thought-provoking, ideal-challenging, mind-bending conversation, and it just don't come from a three year old.

Zazzu said...

I agree with you and applaud your bravery for coming out and saying it. Don't put this entry on Mumsnet, though. ;)

I don't mind the chatter for a while, either. At least when kids ask me nosy questions, I can give them silly, fluffy answers and that's the end of it. Adults tend to be more pushy and inappropriate than kids about that, I've noticed.

I'm an introvert so being around anyone, of any age, for too long makes me tired and braindead. Kids just tend to be more energetic and louder.

Links said...

I know what you mean. I don't know how to be around young talkative kids for extended periods of time. I don't know how to talk to them, and it can be annoying keeping up that upbeat perky voice lol. I always see mom-friends on Facebook updating their statuses with what cute little Jimmy and Betsey did today. It can get kind of nauseating lol. Hope you don't get an angry legion of moms come after you for this post. "How dare you call my sweet little Bobby boring and unfascinating!!"

shell said...

Oh my god -yes you nailed it on this post. Kids are interesting and fun for about 10 minutes is all. I helped my sis in law out this summer by kid-watching her 4 & 7 year old grandkids at our commuinity pool for 3 hours one afternoon a week for 5 weeks. she had them for the summer. they are smart and cute but even with the pool and swings & playground to capture their attention they had to fight and compete for attention from me ! I was actually glad when summer was over and they left.

Sanna said...

My cousins all have kids and I see them often. They're all very intelligent, very different and very interesting people. They are also loud, I can never understand what one of them says, and they have an apparently endless supply of energy. I enjoy introducing them to things I found interesting as a child, to books and movies and information.

But after four hours in their presence I am always very glad to see them leave. They are exhausting, even when they're not doing anything. They are somehow loud even when they're not talking. It's great to see them but such a relief when they go.

Every time they leave, I watch them drive off from the window and think, "My god, their parents have to deal with that all night. And all day tomorrow. FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIVES."

The utter horror of it blows my mind.

Gillian said...

I feel exactly the same way. A lot of my friends have recently had children and I love meeting up with them (for brief periods) as the babies seems to be content to sleep or to gurgle away quietly - they all must be very contented children!

People think because I don't want kids, I don't like kids which isn't necessarily true - it depends on the child! At the moment I love seeing my friends little babies as they are incredibly cute with that lovely new baby "smell" and they are mainly pretty quiet.

However I know as soon as they learn to speak and run around I shall be seeing a less of my friends. I can't cope with the constant attention demands, the constant babbling, constant energy and constant explanations of why they can't do something... It's just not for me and that's why I took the decision not to have kids! Some people don't mind it and that's great but its not for me. I really do prefer a quiet life!

Spectra said...

I think my own mom really didn't like being around us as kids much--she could never have been a stay at home mom. She probably would have killed either us or herself at some point, so it's probably good that she went to work and left us with my grandma after school. I love being with my little nephew and niece, but after a couple of hours, I get really sick of watching cat videos on YouTube with my nephew and playing fairy princess with my niece. After about 3-4 hours, I'm ready to give them back to my sister!

CalRose42 said...

Woah, at only 19 I have already made up my mind to not have kids. And these comments just tighten and explain my feelings. When my cute little cousins were really young and I came up to Oregon to visit...oh the headaches. It was great to act like a goof ball for a few hours, but after a few days of it I got really burtn out. What I find most interesting in these comments is that everyone says how much they enjoy intelligent, thought provoking conversations. I guess I do too, but I am more of a listener/learner than opinionated and has lots of knowledge type of person. Maybe that is simply cuz I am still just a kid myself (or so I enjoy being in certain situations).

Happily CF said...

I might have submitted this comment in the past... I do believe that having children may make SOME people "grow," but the people who grow from the experience are not people who seek intellectual stimulation and like to think philosophically. I recently took an Adult Development psychology class, and realized (the rather commonsense notion) that certain experiences and challenges are needed for adults to grow mentally. For many, growth is facilitated through education, work, travel, interaction with new people, etc.. Often, the people who most want kids - the people for whom kids are most just a GIVEN - are people who otherwise would not have the challenges required for growth. In THOSE cases, I think parenting may facilitate a certain level of growth (while, of course, totally stifling other growth.)

Additionally, I think that some people have kids at the time in their adult lives in which they are most self-centered and immature (20s.) Then, they are forced to learn responsibility. What they don't realize is that people who DON'T have kids also learn responsibility around that time... kids are not a prerequisite.

I work with a woman who is almost 50, and has worked for 2 full years in her entire adult life. I can't even really say that she's "returned" to work after raising kids, because she never really worked. The last 25 years of her life - basically her entire adult life - has been spent as a mother, and her kids' ages span about 15 years, so while she's got a kid out of college, she also has a kid still in elementary school. She is still very immersed in mothering. Talking to her is so depressing. Basically, she has NOTHING to talk about except her kids, and I don't even think she realizes how weird that is.

She's cool... she agrees with me that parenting is just one choice, not necessarily the best choice, and that many people who choose not to have kids have put more thought into that decision than have many people who do have kids. But, that doesn't eliminate the fact that she cannot converse about almost anything other than kids, grocery shopping, coupons, schooling, and housework. She needs to take all sorts of time off to go to school events.

In short... her life seems like HELL and unfortunately that spills over into her work and interactions with others.

Happily CF said...

I'll chime in about what Jenn is saying about the supposed profound insight kids have into the world, like when they ask what war is and why it has to happen.

She hit the nail on the head with this example... people use examples like this all the time, and act as if this sort of thing is so wondrous, but it's not. The kids don't have some sort of insight into the world... they are COMPLETELY UNINFORMED and don't understand the complexities of life. Like it or not, life is complex and most of the complexities HAVE to exist. It would not be better if they didn't exist. It would not be better if we all were full of "wonder" and had this innocent idealistic view of the world. If adults all had the views of children, THAT would make me blow my brains out. I'd hate to be around such idiots. (I'm not saying war is great.)

(I'd also like to add that I am the close relative of someone who committed suicide by blowing his brains out. I'm not trying to be insensitive in using that phrase. I hope no one is upset by it. I'm using it for emphasis.)

Coldfeetzes said...

I have come to think that a lot of people with kids enjoy using them as an excuse for all kinds of things they don't do. Why are they overweight? Because they have kids and don't have time to work out. How unselfish of them. Why do they eat crappy junk food? Well, that's all they can afford because the kids are so expensive. Oh how tragic. Why can't they work late to finish something for a deadline? They have kids and have to get home to take care of them. I honestly think that because society pushes the kids thing so heavily that parents also get the "I'm normal because I have kids" waiver too. And they get tax credits for the little booger eaters too!

CFVixen said...

I can only handle in VERY small doses. I realized when I was visiting family over the holidays just how low my tolerance and patience has gotten. But what's worse is the parents. Everyone oohing and ahhing over every little thing the kids do. Please. You give them constant attention (at the expense of everyone and everything else), they are going to continue to want more and more. No wonder they think the world revolves around them.

shell said...

so true--what you all say and what cfvixen says :

"Everyone oohing and ahhing over every little thing the kids do. Please. You give them constant attention (at the expense of everyone and everything else), they are going to continue to want more and more. No wonder they think the world revolves around them..."

I saw this with my brother and his wife and their kids
year ago & now recently I see it in my niece and her kids. It totally sends the wrong message to kids -- that they should be allowed to interrupt the adults' conversations constantly -- gives them the idea that they are the center of the universe. Also it does not set a good example of healthy adult behavior. The adults are modeling that they can be manipulated and controlled by a KID.

kangamasf said...

Last Tuesday, my boss (a lady almost into her 60's) and I were cleaning a few houses. At one house, the client, an elderly lady, thanked my boss for the hot chocolate mix and marshmallows arranged in an icing bag so it looked like a ice cream cone. My boss made 57 of those "ice cream cones", kept 25 for her family, and the rest went to other people outside her family (friends, other clients, and even I receieved one). My boss has eight grandkids who are ages 4-11 and the client seems to think they inspired my boss to come up with those creations (I don't know if they did). The client said "People with childen learn so much about life. People without children don't know the score." After the client said that this post about kids making adults braindead sprang to mind (I had read it the day before).

Unknown said...

I think of children as little adults who just haven't learned how to behave yet. They haven't learned how to censor themselves, not to scream in public places, that it's actually bad to be selfish, and you should be mean to other people. Look at how kids treat each other on the playground - just think of how your childhood was playing with other kids - they aren't little angels, they're little devils. But they say the darndest things!

Jess said...

That was awfully nice of you to babysit for so long. I feel the same way about my niece and nephew- I love them dearly, but in small doses. I'm happy to watch the kids for a 4-6 hour block occasionally on a weekend when my sister and her husband (finally!) go out on a date, but by the end of it... I'm worn out and ready to hit the bottle, you know?

That being said, my husband and I are going out on a date ourselves tonight, which we decided just last night (while we were out to dinner after a horrific day at the office for both of us.) This life rules- no marathon planning, no last-minute babysitter bailing on us; just the freedom to do whatever we want.

Great post :) I feel for ya!

Anonymous said...

haha cute. :) I agree, I am childfree, I like kids, but don't want any. I love my neices and nephews, and all but after a few hours, I gotta go! lol I find kids exhausting. lol I work with youth every day I might add. lol My pets are SOOOOOO much easier, and relaxing. I love my furry and feathery babies. lol

Anonymous said...

Two of my cousins are raising pretty awesome children... That said, after visiting Costco with one of my cousin's two girls the other day, I thought, "This is fabulous for about 2.5 hours out of my day, and then I am done." I found it adorable that others in store probably figured one of the kids belonged to me, as one was holding my hand most of the time, and resembles me slightly. And yet I also thought, "While I adore/respect my cousin, her kids, and the fact that this is HER choice, I also know how frigging hard it is for her on a daily basis being a stay-at-home-parent (with a third on the way, quite a "surprise"--a whole other issue of mine!), and I am SO relieved to have two jobs to go to, a relationship to cultivate, and two dogs to tend to." I lose patience easily, get bored by kids, and would HATE repeating the same crap over and over again just because that is my "job" in life as a parent. Thanks, but no, thanks! I respect the parenting folks in my life (of which there are many!), but am also incredibly grateful that I have some childfree friends, one of which is coming over tomorrow night with LOTS of wine and her adorable Rottweiler puppy. Bring on the intelligent, adult fun time! :)

Liz @ MaybeBabyMaybeNot said...

I never have any idea what to talk to kids about - even my neices and nephews. They want to chat for 45 minutes about their favorite color, and I want to jump off my balcony.

I'm fantastic at striking up conversations with adults becuase you can always ask "what do you do for a living?" or "My, you look hungover, where'd you go out last night?" But kids want to prattle on about things that are inherently boring. I honestly don't know how every stay at home mom doesn't lose her mind! More power to them.

Rhona said...

I feel the same way but I am slightly less tolerant. I can handle my 6 yr old niece in tiny bits but I get really bored around her. I hate playing barbie games and talking about stupid boring things. It is so hard for me to freign interest. Now my 14 yr old nephew is fun. He does not need me to talk to him about his lame life all the time and need constant care. He is actually fun.
I don't have many people in my life who have kids and that is a great thing because I CANT HANDLE IT. My one friend has a 4 yr old and OMG, I can't do it. I avoid him like the plague and he still annoys me. I HATE pretending to care about his pictures and toys and stuff. And, the talking. Please child, stop! I like kids but in teeny, tiny doses.

Temujin said...

I prefer my doses of children to be so small that the doses are homeopathic -- so small they are essentially nonexistent. In homeopathy, the more dilute the dose, the stronger the medicine. The less interaction with kids, the more I enjoy them. Homeopathy works!

Temujin said...

In response to Jenn:

I get tired of the whole "your kid could grow up to cure cancer" spiel that people say. To them I say:

Why are we putting off the cure for cancer until the next generation? If you want to cure cancer, then work on it yourself. Having a kid who may cure cancer some day is a really poor way to fight a disease. Besides, what if your kid thinks the same thing -- "I won't try to cure cancer, but instead I'll have a kid who may do it someday."

We need to stop assuming our kids are going to solve problems and try to solve them ourselves first.

Alexandra Ene said...

"how do people do this every day without blowing their brains out?" - that's what I've been wondering after babysitting for almost a whole day, a couple years ago. I got so bored that even the news on TV seemed somewhat entertaining. It's fun at first, when you play with a few toys, chase the kid around the house, watch Tom and Jerry with him and play hide and seek. But then you need some adult interaction, just as they start to cry cause mom and dad are not home yet, or cause the toy broke, or cause... just because. Grrr!

Jenn said...

Great post. Love to see some childfree posts that aren't vitriol. And this one was great. And thank goodness I no longer have to make money babysitting.
On a different note, love your blog but are there other good childfree blogs out there? I've just started looking around for them and there are quite a few that haven't seen action in awhile. I started off on and foung my way over here.

Liz @ MaybeBabyMaybeNot said...

Hey Jen! I too love a Childfree blog that isn't vitriol. Some active ones that have a really positive slant that come to mind are and You're also welcome to check out mine, which is more Undecided than Childfree...but you can probably read between the lines of where I lean -

mzwunderkind said...

I can only deal with children in small doses. Your article was well written. As long as the child is good and well mannered I do not mind watching them for a couple of hours. I had to take my step sisters out to the zoo one day and I almost lost my mind ! They were so rude and loud. Her mother was wondering why i coninued to ring her phone off the hook!

It is so funny how parents that know they have bad kids dont answer their phones when you need them

Anonymous said...

"They are completely self-centered. They ramble on non-stop. They think everything they do is fascinating (when it is not), and they expect us to act as though it is. They need constant praise and approval. They are attention whores. They expect the world to revolve around them."
Make obnoxious American kids. I am from a different culture and although there are universalities alot of the things you describe can describe American adults too.

NoniWork said...

I hope I'll enjoy time with my (non-existant at the moment) nieces and nephews, and children of friends. I am definitely in the camp of people that is a little uncertain of what to do with children. I think I'd like to have structured events planned, like they visit for a weekend, and I tired them out with trips to the zoo, movies, arcades, and swimming. Perhaps that would be easier. I don't want to just sit them down in front of a television and then ignore them. And I certainly don't want them bored to the point where my house becomes fair game.

I've tried playing barbies with little kids, and it's very confusing, because kids are imaginative in an almost schizophrenic way, and you can't possibly understand the rules to whatever game you're playing.

I don't think I could be the type of person who can watch the little ones every week.

OCCE said...

I'm a mother of 4 (how did I get on this blog again?) and I totally get the "kids in small doses" thing. In fact, I could have used a smaller dose today!! Still, I think babysitting is far different from having your own kids because you don't feel any ownership with babysitting. When the kids are your own, they still drive you crazy but you just care so much more about them, and that puts meaning into even the most boring of tasks. After I tuck them in at night, life seems incredibly full and sweet.
At any rate, kudos to you for babysitting for your friend for free. Wish I had a friend like that nearby!

Enjoying said...

This is such a smart and funny analogy! Lol