Parenting by non-parents

Disclaimer: I’m not a parent.

But, I think I can safely say that parenting has got to be one of the hardest professions known to mankind. And the entire animal kingdom now that I think about it. Hands down. After all, you’re in charge of a whole ‘nother, live, squirming being, who depends on you for pretty much everything. I’ve sat on my fair share of babies (not literally) and changed more diapers than a 12-year-old whose youngest sibling is 10 should EVER have to change, so I feel pretty confident in making that claim.

A lot of my girlfriends now have children, and it’s been a joy to watch them go from carefree-single-woman to married-mother-of-[insert random number].

What is most interesting to watch are their attitudes. And how they shift once children come.

As non-parents, they knew everything there was to know about parenting. When walking through a grocery store, past a mother whose small child was rocking the shopping cart from side to side while screaming bloody-murder and holding onto a box of super-sugared cereal with a death grip, more than one girlfriend quipped, “Can’t that lady control her child?” Strolling by Penny the Pony on our way out, the sight of a small child mercilessly begging her parents for “Just one more pony wide, pwwweeeeeze?!” would cause eyes to roll and heads to shake.

It’s always the non-parents who really know the most about parenting. They know how to control children. How to calm them down. How to get them to do exactly what you want them to do. They know how to run an errand in under 30 minutes, small children in tow, quietly strapping themselves into their car seats by themselves—even helping one another. They know exactly how to get them to sit quietly at the dinner table, eat their vegetables and put all their toys away before bed.

Non-parents know how parenting works. That’s just the way it goes.

Until they actually become parents. And then they realize they’re not even entirely sure which way is up, what day of the week it is or aware that their shirt is on backwards and inside out. As is their small child’s.

And that’s about the same time they realize how stupid they were for judging another parent. And they pray long and hard that God will forgive them of all the bad thoughts they have ever had toward parents lest other single people have bad thoughts toward them and their seeming inability to parent.

I was walking through a shopping mall with one of my best friends a few days ago. We decided to sit down at one of those storefronts that are designed for desperate mothers and fathers, who need a break from tots pulling on their arms, begging for this toy or that toy. The storefront was filled with comfy couches and mountains of Playskool and Little Tyke toys.

“Remember how I used to walk through stores, see parents with screaming children whom they couldn’t control and say, ‘Seriously, why can’t they get a hold of their kids?'” asked Andrea, as we watched her 3-year-old run around in circles, yelling “Mommy! Look at me! Mommy! Look! MOOOOMMY!” at the top of his lungs.

I smiled. Both because her 9-month-old was waving at me while chewing on the mall stroller strap that surely hundreds of tots before him had chewed on and because I could definitely remember her doing just that.

“I’ve become that parent,” she bemoaned. “The one everyone hates because they can’t get their kid to hush. Ever. I’m a horrible parent.”

Dear Andrea. You’re not a horrible parent. You’re simply a parent. A parent who’s been blessed with live, squirming beings, who while partially trying and partially enduring, don’t exactly come with manuals. Unfortunately. But, you’re making up your own, and you’re doing just fine.

In fact, from where I’m sitting, as a non-parent, you’re doing one heck of a job. You won’t see me eye-rolling. Or shaking my head. No way, Jose!

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