That guy on the train…

March 8, 2009
On the way home yesterday I found myself standing across from a father and his baby son. I enjoy watching the little ones interact with Dad- it never fails to take me back to when my boys were strapped in a stroller and had yet to master the art of sassiness. So I was pretty content to watch this unknown Dad do his best to keep his son happy on the long ride home.

Kids on a metro are very similar to kids on an airplane- you may be able to keep them happy for a few minutes but eventually the boredom will overtake them and they will resort back to their primal roots. This is exactly what happened to the father and son team I was observing. Five minutes into the ride the little boy decided that he had enough and was ready to depart the train. He let his father, and everyone else on the train for that matter, know this by bellowing at the top his lungs and crying uncontrollably. This is when the real entertainment began- as the Dad started to panic I couldn‘t help by smile. It wasn’t too long ago I was “that” guy attempting to maintain my dignity in front of the much to judgmental public as my boys spiraled out of control. I may have been the only person on the train that found the humor in this.

Lifting my gaze from the father and son I realized that somehow I had boarded the wrong train. Unknowingly I had jumped on the “Non-parent I hate children with every ounce of my being- express”. The first clue, I was the only one smiling at this new Dad’s predicament. Every other person on the train was glaring at this poor guy as he gave it his best shot to soothe his angry toddler. Then I remembered that a lot of people believe that “if you can’t control your kids you shouldn’t leave your home.” If you’re a parent this should sound familiar- but even if you’ve never heard these words my guess is you can at least recall the non-verbal’s that basically said the exact same thing.

I remember when Connie and I first ventured into public with our new born baby Mack. He was a tough and hyper kid from the word go so for us to willingly take him out in public was a conscious choice. Our logic was simple- if we didn’t try to socialize him early he would never learn how to behave when away from our home and we grudgingly stood by this logic through thick and thin.

It was never easy. If we wanted to take him into a restaurant we picked one’s which were loud and supposedly “Kid Friendly”. “Kid Friendly” is a bullshit claim. Most restaurants and their patrons are only kid friendly if your kids are mannequins incapable of generating noise and or movement. For all of us with living, breathing, potentially angry children there is no such thing as a kid friendly restaurant. Some of you will argue that Chuck E. Cheese’s is a good alternative but I’ve tried their food and I don’t consider Chuck’s place a restaurant.

We also tried to time our outings to coincide with Mack’s nap schedule. We would get him to sleep in his car seat, rush into the restaurant order our drinks and before the first beer/ margarita was consumed Mack would be wide awake and loud as hell- then came the stares and the whispered remarks. We were probably overly self conscious about the situation but we were first time parents and we wanted to be considerate to others. Combine this with the fact that when we were a childless couple we probably felt the same way on occasion. How quickly the tables turn when it’s your kid and you’re the one receiving the stink eye for their perceived misbehavior. I wonder how many meals Connie and I left unfinished or how many miles we logged walking around restaurants trying to calm our little bundle of joy down?

So as I watched my fellow passengers “hating” on this poor guy I completely understood what he was going through. But I didn’t pity him, every parent has to go through this right of passage so that they can hopefully reach the second level of parental enlightenment. Once you reach level two you really couldn’t give two shits that the 20-something couple sitting next to you at IHOP is disturbed by the lip-popping noise that your oldest son makes every 3-seconds just for fun. You’re fine with the angry glares in the movie theater when your kids loudly jockey for control of the popcorn bucket. And if your kids want to sing “Wiggles” tunes coast to coast on board American Airlines flight 677 good on them, let them sing. You are at peace. You’ve stopped caring about the stranger to your left and right- people who have zero impact or influence on your life- and you’ve refocused on your own survival.

Just to clarify enlightenment doesn’t mean your okay with you kids running amuck- you’re not down with “lord of the flies type shit” going on in your living room. Enlightenment is just the ability to filter out all of the extraneous stuff (like bitter people you don’t know) and focus on the stuff that is important- like the development of your own kids.

Not everyone will reach this stage. As I looked around the train that afternoon I would bet money that at least half of the passengers were parents themselves- and they were sporting some pretty heinous looks of disgust. This tells me one of three things. One, all of their kids were, or are, perfectly well behaved (bull shit, no such thing). Two, they never reached level two enlightenment- this is possible, especially if they weren‘t real involved with raising their kids. Or three, enlightenment fades over time. I think option three is probably the most accurate.

How soon we forget what it was like to be “that guy on the train“.


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Teri and the cats of Furrydance posted the following on March 8, 2009 at 1:54 pm.

OMG, You are sooo right on! Of course, if I had been asked what you would write about regarding this subject, I would have come close, but your post has enlightened me…which is what this blogging is all about.

I was one of those people, who never had kids, who said to myself “Get a babysitter” or “Go to Chucky Cheese” and of course, glared and never understood the (what I considered) parents ignoring their kids behavior.

While, now I know (at least for you) that it isn’t really ignoring, but “the ability to filter out all of the extraneous stuff (like bitter people you don’t know) and focus on the stuff that is important- like the development of your own kids”, I understand what’s going on there now…at least for you.

I didn’t think I had the patience to be a parent and didn’t think I could be responsible for that development, and I still think that was the right choice for me. And, I will have to say I am a bit more patient now and just realize whenever I have to deal with people I don’t really care to be around…I just say to myself “Well, I don’t have to go home with them” and that puts it into perspective.

admin posted the following on March 8, 2009 at 3:01 pm.

Teri, I don’t know if anyone is ever completely ready for the responsibility- because I don’t think you can quantify it until you’re all ready signed up and playing the game. I look back prior to kids and can remember saying things like “My kids will never behave like that” and I would bet money I had a disgruntled look on my face when those words were flowing out of my mouth. But truth is no matter how hard you try or how good of a parent you think you are there will be times when your kids are completely off the reservation. It’s times like those that dirty looks from other adults are the least appreciated and need to be tuned out- so you can put the focus back on your kids.

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