This is something I’ve wondered about for some time – probably ever since my friends started having children. It seemed that as soon as they had their own kids, many of them crossed the “parent” line into a parallel universe where their memories of being children – that is, of what it was like to see, hear, perceive, and experience things as children – were wiped clean.
As someone with no children, when I would listen to them talking about problems they were having with their kids, it was very, very, very, very hard to say nothing when I was absolutely positive I had something potentially valuable to offer. “Ooh! Ooh!” I wanted to say. “I have this one. You can’t see it because you’re a parent, so lemme help you.”
But when it comes to people with no experience in a certain field offering an opinion about said field (non-politicians giving political advice, non-military talking about what should be done in a war), the most shushed are the child-free who might dare to speculate about what they would do if they were parents. (We can’t possibly know what we would do if we had children, because we aren’t parents. However, first-time parents don’t really know what they’re doing either, do they? They suddenly have this baby in their lives, and they do what they do. It’s always seemed to me like it’s a lot of guess-work and,”Well, I guess we’ll just throw this and see if it sticks…”)
I have a theory – and I’m willing to accept that it might be wrong (but IS it, really?) – that as people who have never been parents, we are, in effect, perpetual children, and as such, we might be more qualified to provide input about certain parent-child issues than is another first-time parent. (By “perpetual children” I don’t mean “pigtail-wearing, fort-building” children, but “are still someone’s children without the tainted perspective of parenthood” children.)
Here’s an example of a situation in which a child-free person could offer some much needed perspective:
Parents were, several years ago, very excited (and not in a happy way) about a trendy new mixed drink in a bottle because the packaging screamed “young and fun.” They thought the “coolness” of it would make their teenagers want to drink it. Their uproar over the packaging resulted in it becoming a morning show topic, the subject of blogs, and the subject of radio shows, which pretty much guaranteed the teens whose parents didn’t want them drinking this “cool” new drink would now most certainly find a way to get it.
Any non-parent with a firm grasp on the memory of their teen consciousness and who didn’t automatically view pretty much everything as a potential danger to a child could have told them, “As soon as you make a stink about this, they’re going to want it. I know I would have. Sure, they might be attracted to the pretty colors if they somehow find themselves in a liquor store illegally, but they’re already in the liquor store illegally, so they’re obviously going to buy something. If you don’t want them to be overwhelmingly interested in this particular drink, for God’s sake, don’t TALK about it.”
Somewhere deep inside, they probably knew that, but their “parent” consciousness was too strong and they couldn’t get past it. They saw a company doing something that might get the attention of teenagers, and they flipped out, drawing even more teen attention to the thing they didn’t want their teens to know about.
We could have been the little angel of reason sitting on their shoulder.
Our little-kid consciousness is also more firmly in place than theirs and could serve them well if they would only trust us.
– Parents get excited about young children seeing illustrations of naked bodies in a book designed to familiarize them with “boy” and “girl” parts, believing it’s akin to showing them porn. Someone who has never been a parent can see quite clearly the enormous flaw in their reasoning and reassure them that children don’t see naked illustrations in the same way parents – adults – do. They simply don’t associate body parts with sex in the same way sexually active grown-ups do. They might giggle and point and say “Ew,” but they certainly wouldn’t picture erect penises and heavy breathing and copulation.
But often, that’s what parents will see, and they’ll project their thoughts onto their children.
There’s a lot it seems many parents can’t see because they’re blinded by the “what if?” cloud of doom. Their worry is a formidable force. Even if they recognize that their reactions might not be logical, reason stands no chance in the face their compulsion to protect their children from all possible threats.
Which is why the child-free advice might at times be very valuable.
Again, this is just a theory. But isn’t it possible that it has some merit, that our lack of parental experience is precisely what qualifies us to say to a parent, now and then, “Here’s what I would do…”?
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by Sylvia D. Lucas
“A weird combo of really funny and really insightful.”