It is amazing how knowledgeable I have become about child rearing, given I never had children of my own.
Yes, I have watched several episodes of “The Nanny” and “Super Nanny,” but I also have observed as my friends raised their children. Those of us without kids perfected our backseat parenting skills, predicting which child would turn out OK and which wouldn’t.
We were about 96 percent wrong. Almost all the children of the 1980s are delightful adults — even the ones we expected to visit in jail.
“They need to rein her in,” we would say and nod. “Going to bed should not be such a production.” “I can’t believe she’s not making him learn cursive.” “My mother would never have let me leave the house dressed like that.”
In our 30s, my childless friends and I clucked about and scowled as we mentally cataloged the mistakes our friends were making.
“Have you seen what that child eats? Spaghetti and pizza. She lives on spaghetti and pizza.” That child not only survived, she grew up strong and healthy.
“She is raising her child on fast food,” I huffed about one parent. Today, the “child,” now nearly 6 feet tall, is healthy as an ox.
We held our collective breath as the terrible twos approached. With some of the children, it was as if a switch had been thrown. Precious angel one week, bug stomper the next. Others waited until they were 3.
Didn’t matter when they hit the “terribles,” life became uniformly awful. I was amazed that nothing could be done about it. “But I wanted to peel the banana,” one kid sobbed. “Here, I’ll put it back,” her mom offered, wrapping the peel around the banana. “But it’s not the same,” her kid shrieked and sobbed, then fell on the floor in a wretched heap.
“What do you do?” I asked mom.
She smiled and shrugged her shoulders. “Try not to kill them and hope it’s just a phase.”
“It’s just a phase” — how many times did I hear that?
The kid claims she has an earache every time I come over for a chat — “It’s just a phase. She doesn’t like it when I pay attention to my friends.”
The child wears the same red sweater for three weeks. He screams like he’s being attacked by wolverines when his mom turns out the light.
One couple’s child screamed them into a routine that involved not one but both parents lying in bed with her until she fell asleep. Sometimes it took hours. Their friends learned to finish dessert and let ourselves out.
Another head-butted the male guests in a most unfortunate area when they arrived for dinner.
“Oh, it’s just a phase,” the parents assured us.
Those of us without kids wanted to point out we didn’t sign up for this, but we were in shock and too busy predicting how awful these kids would be when they grew up.
So, we missed our friends for years, it seems, then one day we could complete a phone conversation without being interrupted 20 times. The kids made an appearance at get-togethers, rolled their eyes at us telling the same stories over and over again, and beat a hasty retreat.
I wish I’d gotten to know them better when they were young.
Jan Hearne is the Press Tempo editor. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.