I helped my boyfriend’s sister-in-law prepare the house for her daughter’s 6th birthday party this afternoon. It was a labor of love and I was happy to help out on such an important day. I am the queen of party presentation: gift bags here, plastic cutlery there, and heaven forbid the display isn’t symmetrical.
As soon as families started rolling into the house, however, a certain level of discomfort and anxiety came over me, and the swarm of screaming children running around did not help it one bit. I am typically awkward when interacting with people I’ve just met, but meeting parents around my age for the first time brings my awkwardness to a whole new level. Parents meeting other parents seems easy to me. Introductions are short and sweet, like “I’m [insert name here], [insert child’s name here]’s mother/father.” Topics of conversation seem easier as well. “Whose class is your son/daughter in?” “How old is your child?” “Man, his/her teacher works with my child so well.”
As an unmarried, childless adult, it’s been incredibly difficult to find common ground between myself and parents within my age range. Maybe it’s some amount of insecurity on my part doing the talking, but my chats with other 20-somethings who have children tend to be short and go nowhere once names are out of the way. Maintaining conversation usually requires more energy than I have to give. Their comments always come off as patronizing. “Oh my goodness, I had to wake up at 6 to get my son to his soccer game at 8 this morning. [slaps hand] Bet you’re glad you don’t have to deal with that” or the ever-so-common “You’ll understand when you have children.”
I resent those kinds of statements. Becoming a parent does not inherently make you a better person because of the litany of things you have to do on a daily basis. Maybe some parents put up with more than they should just so they can justify saying “You’ll understand when you have children” to others. Additionally, just because I don’t have children, it doesn’t make me lazy or a bad person. It’s just a bridge I haven’t crossed yet.
Once I sought refuge inside the apartment, I started thinking my struggle to engage in conversation with parents had more to do with me than them. I’ve always been insecure about being behind some socially-imposed life event curve and I’m starting to feel it more and more these days. More friends getting married, more friends making babies. I think standing in a room full of these people in my age bracket with drastically different lives than mine made it abundantly clear to me.
Anyway, I’ve over-thought long enough today. I’m curled up next to the space heater, listening to mellow songs, trying to slow my brain down before hanging out with my brother tonight. In honor of y’all with babies, this is one of my favorite father/son songs. Enjoy.