I’m going to start this post with some very telling Google searches from 2 seconds ago:
I have this person who lives in my neighborhood. We see each other a few times a week during one of my walks. I’ve been avoiding her whenever possible during this pregnancy because 9 times out of 10 she makes comments that make me uncomfortable.
This woman has never said “Congratulations!” regarding my pregnancy. She has never actually acknowledged my pregnancy, but chooses instead to hint around the subject. For example, she’s said things like “Oh, GET READY” while looking at my bump. And things like “You just WAIT, your life is GOING TO CHANGE FOREVER.” If her two young (6 & 7, I believe) daughters are outside playing, I always say “Hi girls!” with a smile and a wave, and am almost always met with my neighbor’s “You want ’em? TAKE ‘EM!” My favorite thus far has been, “Enjoy it now, because it’ll all be OVER soon… heh…”
So yesterday morning when I saw her step outside during my walk, I started to brace myself for what I was sure was going to be some sort of weird interaction. As I approached the house I plastered a big smile on my face, rubbed my belly, and said “Check out this bump!” I figured by starting the awkward conversation, I could control it and thus have it end sooner rather than later. Our conversation was as follows:
Me: ((smile)) Check out this bump!
Her: Yeeeep. Get ready.
Me: We are really excited.
Her: Get ready, if you have a little monster like mine, than you are in big trouble.
Me: Oh, your girls are so sweet. If our daughter is as half as wonderful as your girls, we will be so lucky.
Her: ((snort)) Looks are deceiving, honey. You have no idea.
Me: Alrighty, have a great day.
Some people could probably chalk this up to just “stuff parents say” or something innocuous that I am reading too much into. But due to all prior interactions with this person, I am assuming (and possibly wrongly) that I am not the only person to whom she refers to her children as bothersome monsters. Maybe I’ve blown all of this out of proportion, and maybe my neighbor was just “trying to make conversation.” Maybe I’m just weepypregnant and my protective MamaBear hormones are making me a bit too sensitive. These are possibilities I am willing to consider.
The truth is, she’s not the first person to say things like this to me about their kids. I have had parents I do not know at all speak harshly to me about their newborns, infants, toddlers, kids, teenagers. People in ShopRite love to make comments about their own children after seeing my bump, and especially love to warn me about how horrible raising children is. These conversations have all happened in stores:
((eye contact is made))
Them: Boy or girl?
Me: ((rubbing belly, smiling)) We’re having a girl!
Them: Ouch, good luck with that one, then.
((eye contact is made))
Them: Don’t worry hon, just 18 more years ’til freedom.
((eye contact is made))
Them: ((motions to babytoddler in shopping cart crying)) This is your future.
Me: Aw, he’s very sweet.
Them: ((leaning in)) Honestly if I knew it was going to be like this… Just remember, you have choices.
It really feels that now that I am pregnant I am part of some exclusive club where people just think it’s appropriate to say whatever they want to me with no regard for my feelings about pregnancy or motherhood whatsoever. It also kills me that so many parents are having a rough time. Where is their support? Why is there so much resentment in parenthood? Why is it so acceptable to speak so negatively about one’s children, and why is it assumed that because I’m pregnant, I will automatically agree with them?
For any adult who experienced abuse in their childhoods, adolescence or adulthoods from their parents or close family, comments like these can act as an emotional trigger. When we hear someone else talking badly about their children, it stings for us. We hurt for those kids, because we were those kids. Sometimes uncomfortable memories rise to the surface as we relive moments of our own lives when someone spoke harshly to us, or when we overheard nasty things being said about us.
After I met my husband, my sister and I had more than one conversation about how we felt partners should treat one another. We would talk about how shocking it was for us to overhear others bashing their spouses, when our loves would never ever ever do that. It’s one thing to vent to or seek advice from a close friend regarding important relationships in our lives, but another entirely to bash a boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse, child, to anyone who will listen- and this happens all the time, it seems. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that everyone reading this has at one time or another overheard someone speaking poorly about someone important in their lives and also that at one time or another, we have been that person, regretfully talking badly about or partner or child to someone who we barely know. We all make mistakes, we’re human, and we’re stressed, but perhaps by knowing better, we can do better.
So, please don’t bash your children to me. Just because they are small doesn’t mean they aren’t worthy of respect. Just because they are developing and perhaps “aren’t as smart” as you are, doesn’t mean they’re stupid. Kids hear things, and they sense things. I told my father “You and mom are getting a divorce” when I was 8. They divorced when I was 13, “seemingly” without warning. Kids pick up on little things and can feel your pain, your anger, and your resentment. And then they internalize these feelings because what else are they supposed to do with them?
As I listened to my neighbor “just make conversation,” I was cringing inside. I rubbed my belly as I continued my walk home, telling the tiny person growing inside of me that I would never use her as a negative topic of conversation. I want to always respect her and honor her, even when we face difficulties as mother and daughter. This is not to say I will never feel frustrated or angry or disappointed with her actions, obviously, but despite her actions, I respect her, as a human, as a woman, as my daughter.
Now everyone go and give your kiddos a big hug, okay? You are lucky to have them, and they are lucky to have you.