Thursday, May 29, 2014

On Not Being a Kid Person

So, I'm not a kid person.

I've kind of mentioned this here or there in the past, but I've never written a whole post about it. And then the other day, my Chrissy wrote this beautiful post all about her transition from single gal to live-in girlfriend of a man who has two children, and her journey to being a mom in that regard, and I just loved her honesty about the whole thing. So here's a whole bunch of my own honesty (don't worry, it has a good ending).

So as I said, I am not a kid person.

I have friends who are kid people. You know what I mean.....they gravitate toward children, could play for hours, are really good at pretending, etc. I think about pretending to be a pony for a couple hours (or a few minutes) on end and I want to poke my eyeballs out with the nearest capable object. (OK, dramatic. But it falls into the same category of hating improv games and karaoke -- you could say role playing is not my thing.) I don't know kid things. What snacks they can't eat, how to put a carseat in a car, how often they're supposed to nap, etc.

I kind of approach children like little adults. I like to ask them what books they're reading, how school is going, etc. I don't do well with kids who need to be constantly entertained. Or kids who whine incessantly. (I mean, we all whine sometimes, but, you know the type.)

After a few less desirable babysitting experiences as an early teen, I swore it off.

I got a job at age 15 in a shaved ice hut in a parking the I could make money some other way. I would turn down babysitting requests when they came in through family friends. The idea of being trapped in a home for a few hours with a few littles I didn't know at all ignited all kinds of anxiety in my insides. (Still does, even now, just thinking about it.) I'm not always quite sure how to talk to or interact with a kid I've just met, which is especially awkward because their parent is usually watching as I fumble through that initial scenario.

I had a f'reals complex about this for a long, long time.

The religious culture I grew up in places a lot (see: all) emphasis on the ultimate female role of motherhood. And every time I heard people talk about that subject, it kind of put a weight in my chest. I felt so unworthy, incapable, broken, flawed, etc. I'd watch my friends gravitate toward children and I just felt like something in me wasn't adding up right. Like somehow I was missing a fundamental piece of myself that I was being told I was supposed to have.

Imagine it this way: think of something you don't feel like you're good at, e.g. math, sports, science, etc. Now imagine that from an early age, you were assigned to a career in that particular field. And you were told on a weekly basis that this was THE most holy option for you, and THE only right way. Kind of feels like impending failure, right? A little bit like being trapped into something you're totally incapable of and totally afraid of.

So yes, I had a complex. I felt like other women were better than me, in some fundamental way. I felt like I had a stupid, dirty secret, that, if the nice Mormon boys I went out with knew about, they'd realize how much I was lacking and they wouldn't want me anymore. I'd think about meeting their families and be filled with terror at the idea of the guy seeing me awkwardly interact with his nieces and nephews without a chance to warm up to them or get to know them. Yikes.

But then...I became an aunt.

And suddenly, I discovered that I could like children. Not *all* children....but I liked those children. I liked the ones I knew. I could talk to them how I wanted and however much I wanted, I knew their personalities, they didn't fall into the categories of whiney or we got along. And I discovered just how much I love being Aunt Katie (which is A LOT). And that gave me confidence that I'd someday like my own children, too. And occasionally, I come across other children I'm not related to who I get along with (like my roommate's nephew, who left me this note outside my door last weekend). It's usually the smart, self-entertaining-yet-quirkily-chatty-when-they-want-to-be type. (So, pretty much what I enjoy in adult humans as well :)

I appreciate the candid honesty of other women who can admit to not liking children that much, either.

I had a teacher in high school, who had two teenage daughters of her own, who openly owned up to not being a kid person....but that she loved her own children. Is that possible? I'd wonder to myself if maybe that would be my own saving grace. And I think it will be.

One thing that really helps me is to remember that not all good, effective mothers are the same.

Some moms play with their kids every hour of the day. Some moms work full time. Some moms are good at being silly and playing pretend, and are highly involved with entertaining their children. Some moms let the siblings or little friends entertain each other while they get other stuff done. Some moms like to have book clubs and science projects with their children. Some moms like to hang out at home with their kids in the backyard or living room. Some moms like to go on adventures and field trips.

There's all kinds. It takes all kinds. And so many kids, from so many different types of moms, are still turning out normal and wonderful.

I've learned to believe that it's not about being one type of woman so that I can be one type of mom.

And once I realized that, I began to realize all the traits that I have that are going to make me a kicka$$ mom.....despite my non-love of make-believe and role-playing and all cheesy things in general :)

And since we're being all open and honest, here's a few of them:

  • Insatiable curiosity
  • Delight in simple things (like a ceiling full of glow stars at any age)
  • Sense of humor
  • A love of any and all babies (I'm all about that starter phase :)
  • Celebrating people's big and small achievements
  • Empathizing easily (my heart's all full of secondhand squish)
  • An ability to forgive quickly when people disappoint me
  • A general aversion to yelling or snide remarks
  • Validating people's feelings, big or small
  • Going out of my way to make people happy
  • Love of travel, adventure and exploring
  • Deep desire to bedazzle/create something every day
  • Little need for things to be overly classy/perfect (Will I put your odd, finger-painted masterpiece above the mantel and wear that macaroni necklace in public? You bet I will.)
  • Love of sports (both playing and cheering my people on)
  • Endless encouragement of others' dreams
  • How much I love being a big sister (overlaps with mom-hood, in my mind)
  • A willingness to just BE with my people. (If my kid has a bad dream or a bad day and just needs someone to sit on their bed with them and cry, or giggle, or pet their hair and quietly count those glow stars on the ceiling? I'm all over that. I already am all over that for my grown-up people.) that's just a few. And no, those might not be some of the more "typical" traits that I always equated with motherhood and measured myself as lacking. But I eventually learned to look at myself and realize that, if I had a mom like me, I think I'd be OK with that. And that took a lot of soul-searching to finally realize.

You know....square peg, round hole. Good mom? I believe so.

Now here's several photos of me and my children. And by that I mean, my siblings' children. And therefore mine. You know.


Hope Douglass said...

Kids used to give me, as you so accurately put it, "all kinds of anxiety in my insides".
Sitting in the pew behind the family with 5 kids under the age of 4 was the worst thing because that toddler always wanted to stand up and stare into my face endlessly and my heart would race and I felt all of the awkward.
A couple years ago I realized all that was required of me was to smile. I could smile at that baby, and sometimes it would smile back giving me warm fuzzies, or it would get bored (they can smell fear!) and move on to grinding cheerios into dust with their bottoms.
I think God has blessed me with that smiling tactic, and friends with wonderful children that miraculously seem to like me, since my baby hunger has begun spiking exponentially. The Mommy seesaw has finally dug itself out of the "terrified" rut I was in and is leaning towards "excited". Which is terrifying in and of itself.

Nutshell: I GETCHOO.

Mariah Grace said...

You are the best. So honest. I love it! Plus, after my nightmarish nannying experience, I totally get where you're coming from. When in doubt, spike the macaroni. Haha. But, yes, you are definitely going to be one kicka$$ mom!

Amy (So There, by Amy) said...

You will be the BEST Momma!
Thank you for sharing <3

Kayla Moncur said...

I am NOT a kid person. I actively DISLIKE kids a lot of the time. But I rock motherhood. It's totally doable.

Love this post.

karajean said...

I laughed when you said that you talk to kids the same way you talk to adults because I do the same exact thing. It is so odd, I'll meet a kid who is basically the same age as my Owen, and I'll say "How was your day? What did you do today?" and then wait for an answer... even though I KNOW that Owen can't answer those questions. I'm just awkward with other peoples kids.

I (obviously) wasn't ever a kid or a baby person but after having Owen I have realized that the aversion is not as strong as it once was. Plus, I LOVE being a Mom. So much. Also, my sis-in-law is not a kid person but she is a great mom and a great aunt, so like you said, it can be done!

I like these posts, the kind that address the fact that even in Mormon culture, we're not all the same. (Nor should we be.) I think we're all square pegs in some aspects but there is still room for everyone.

FWIL Sentimental Blog Content said...

I love that you posted this. It does take all kinds. My mom was the stereotype and all kinds of amazing. My male BFF's mom was a working mom, who came home and fed us Spaghetti-O's and talked deep stuff with us- things my mom didn't do. My female BFF's mom hated cooking, read books all day, and said the funniest things. I love my three moms, they were all so different and I needed each of them to become who I am today.

I have no doubt that kids love their own mother, and find another one too to compliment everything else they need!

Anonymous said...

I can sooooo relate, Katie! Except that I'm not an aunt. I've never been around kids, so my inferiority complex is alive and kicking. I reluctantly admit that I'm also kind of discouraged by the genuinely nice sentiment that those of us who aren't naturally kid people will be cured when we have our own kids. The older I get, the less likely marriage and children are for me. Odds are that the secret awesome mysterious holy mother version of me that's supposedly locked up inside ain't seeing the light of day in this life. I feel like an extra unholy failure of a Mormon woman since I'm not likely to be a mother and I don't really like kids, so all the usual prescriptions for how I'm supposed to fulfill my divine destiny don't really fit.

Sorry to be a downer, but man am I feeling it today. Thanks for this article--you made me feel less alone! And for the record, I think you would be a fantastic parent for all the reasons you listed!

Unknown said...

How do you always write things that speak to my heart? So much yes. And more inspiration for a post that has been percolating in my brain for a while now.

My friend Elizabeth came up with a marvelous analogy about motherhood. She says cleaning up your own kid's vomit is like smelling your own farts. It's gross, sure, but WAY less gross than smelling someone else's farts, which is actually kind of horrifying. Somehow because it came out of you (or, y'know, you adopted it or's not a perfect metaphor) it's less disgusting because it's just part of being a person/mom.

And it's true. I have no interest in most people's kids, especially when they're snot-faced or smelly or just being weird. Mine, however, are the most glorious beings ever to walk the face of the earth. Because they're mine and I love them and I know them and somehow that makes all the difference.

Melanie said...

Um, yep, totally feel you here. I was completely uninterested in kids as a teenager. It wasn't until I was 25 or so that I started to feel like having kids was something I wanted to do instead of just something I should do (all still hypothetical, since I'm single).

I felt such a sense of relief when one of my friends admitted that she disliked playing pretend with her daughter. She's a fabulous mom, but pretend is not her thing. Nor mine. I'll do art projects and outings and cooking lessons, but please oh please don't make me pretend.

I still joke with my mom that my kids better be really cute or else I'm afraid I won't like them. There are some really not cute babies and kids out there. My mother assures me that when I have my own kids, I'll think they're the cutest things on earth, whether or not they really are. I sure hope so.

Emily said...

Oh Katie, you're the greatest. I so appreciate your honesty with this.

When I was younger, motherhood was both something that was expected in my life (not forced on me, but I never doubted being a mother someday) and glamorized. And now that there's this new awakening of "let's all be honest about this child-rearing business", well shoot, I'm scared! Even typing that, I'm flushing a little to admit it.

I really do love spending time with kids, but RAISING THEM ALL DAY EVERY DAY is so very, very different. And I can understand in some ways it will be infinitely better, but in other ways infinitely harder. I've identified some of my own weaknesses that I know will be really dragged out with parenting (one being my incessant worrying). I wholeheartedly believe that God created parenthood as a means to teach us about selflessness and ideally, sort through our issues and work on/through our weaknesses. But, that doesn't mean I'm still not terrified about the whole process.

I do think I'm getting to a better place. I've accepted that I probably will never be "baby hungry." I hate that term because well, gross, but still, it's just not me. My husband and I have both been going through this together: re-deciding what we want for our family. When we were dating, we both glibly said we wanted kids but it was never an actual thought-out choice. This process has been like many things in adulthood - knowing something as a child and then getting new perspective with age and re-evaluating. Was I just wanting kids because that's what's expected in our society? Because someone in church told me to? Because everyone else was having kids? Now I feel a lot of more comfortable because when we have kids, it is a choice that we came to with a lot of careful thought and prayer.

I love what you said about liking children with personality. It's very easy to think about a snotty, whiny, crying, needy faceless child and want to run for the hills, but when you think about a child with pieces of yourself and your spouse - a mini person that you *really* like, parenting seems a lot better! I keep trying to remind myself of this. Often. :)

Chantel said...

Those pictures are perfect. I relate to so much of what you said. And I really think you would be the most caring, loving mother. You have such a love and brightness for life, and kids just soak that up.

Erin van de Graaff said...

Hey! I'm new around here, but I couldn't help commenting on this one. That's what blogs are for right? Kinda?

Anyway, here's one more letting you know I can relate too! I nannied for an eight year old and ten year old sister and brother a few summers ago and really, really didn't like that at all. They whined and complained, I didn't have much patience.. This summer I'm nannying for one little baby and while I'm handling this a lot better, I still don't exactly feel that motherly instinct all the time.

So I just wanted to say thanks for being so honest in your posts! Sometimes that's hard, but I think it's always worth it. And as for your lists of traits that are going to make you a kick-a mom, you really are going to be a kick-a mom.

Also I didn't know anyone else quoted A Goofy Movie, let alone that exact line from A Goofy Movie that I love the most!

Larsy said...


Guess what - I always considered myself one of those "I ADORE playing and running and rough-housing and pretending with children ALL THE FREAK TIME".

But. Then I got what I thought would be a glorious calling two yrs ago (Primary Music Leader), and it was an absolute hellhole. Holy shizballs. I took about 17 steps backwards in wanting to be a mom after that year, and I've been pretty jaded since.

But in reading your blog, I figured out a couple things. All the kids I'd adored in my single life were ones that were legit clever, sassy, and closely related (nieces/nephews/cousins). They adopted my sayings and I told them about my college adventures, and I figured most kids were awesome if you just talked to them about cool things. Newp. Not so. There are def some kids I click with, and a huge shload that I don't.

I've come to the opinion that it takes a VERY special and rare soul to love ALL kids. And it sure isn't me (even though I thought it was) and I'm totally okay with that now. I thought I messed up my divine inherent desire to love all chillins - but turns out, I just need to calm down.

Side note: I want to slam down a massive AMEN to all the traits you listed. You are amazing at all of those - personal witness right here - and I don't think a kid could want anything more than your optimistic, lovin-life attitude along with your thoughtful, intelligent way dealing with things. You already have a wealth of cool life experiences to share with them and nuggets of truth you've unearthed along the way.

Kelsi said...

Oh my gosh I'm totally the same way. And a friend from church, while holding her 6 month old second child, just recently told me that she does not like kids at all even now, but miraculously likes hers. She always worried she had a defect. Gave me so much hope that I'll like my own kids someday. Also, Atticus Finch. Totally my type of parent. I hope I'm just like him.

Myke said...

I thought I was a kid person. And when I met my wife's son, that idea was reinforced because he's so awesome. But then I started meeting other kids. And then we got called into the nursery in our new ward. And I've discovered that I'm not as much of a kid person as I thought I was.