Pithy Phrase

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a woman, I put away childish things.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Adventures in Ageism

Apparently it's been five weeks since my last post.  Although this is by far my longest period of silence since the inception of this blog, I do not feel guilty.  Within that time, I have:
  • Written a plethora of excellent papers
  • Aced all of my finals
  • Gotten straight As in all my classes (booya!)
  • Performed in the annual BYU Celebration of Christmas concert
  • Experienced my first Thanksgiving and Christmas sans family
  • Taken the GRE (did tolerably well)
  • Witnessed and participated in the weddings of my dear cousin and brother-in-law
  • Traveled to Orange County, San Francisco/San Jose, Virginia, and Washington D.C.
  • Visited one of my top choice grad schools (and I'm pretty sure they want me)
  • Visited the Smithsonian for the first time (was unimpressed by the Hope Diamond, was baffled that the Star of Bombay was so inconspicuously displayed, and appreciated the human evolution exhibit)
And, most impressive of all:
  • Endured living with multiple small children for almost two weeks.
This time has lent itself to self-discovery.  And, after much introspection, I have realized that I am horribly ageist.  Yes, I harbor serious biases against the old and the young.  Here is a short list of things that have contributed to my prejudice:
  • Driving to San Jose with Husband's loveable, crotchety-old-man of an uncle, during which he inadvertently merged onto the wrong freeway and continued on't for several hours while spouting off a fountain of angry, one-sided political "truths", fumbling with new-fangled devices, and grumbling that the world has gone to pot.
  • Driving to Washington D.C. with the same loveable yet crotchety uncle, when he voiced some exceedingly racist opinions and refused to see them as racist (because it's not racist if it's true, dammit!).
  • Sitting in the splash zone on the way to Muir Woods with my sister-in-law and her two kids.  Yes, there was vomit.  A lot of vomit.
  • Experiencing more vomit with my niece at the airport.
  • Witnessing dozens of logic-free childish meltdowns.
My ageism is particularly strong against the young.  I can excuse the old because they've toiled and endured for a long time and they are often in a lot of pain and have seen more sadness and suffering than I have.  I simultaneously honor and roll my eyes at the elderly on a regular basis.

But children are a different story.  My astute niece even asked me why I don't like children the other day.  I sort of lied and said I just don't have much experience with them.  Well, the experience I've gained over the last few weeks has not helped my opinion of the little imps.  I just can't understand their thought processes.  They can't seem to understand that screaming what you want over and over is not an effective way to solve your problems.  They also fail to grasp that their issues are minute.  I want to widen their viewpoint, to show them the ease and comfort of their lives.  I guess I see it as ungrateful.  How can you be so upset about not getting to go to the toy store when you just got about a hundred shiny new toys for Christmas?  Their parents are always bending over backward to ensure their health, safety, and happiness, and yet they scream and cry and act like the world is going to end because they have to take a nap (and how dare they turn up their noses at the heavenly luxury of napping?!).

I believe my prejudices are fueled by my belief that I was a perfect child.  At least that's how my mother tells the tale.  According to her, I rarely cried as an infant, slept all night long, woke up at nine or ten, weaned easily, potty trained easily, etc.  Of course, I imagine parenting is much easier when there is only one.  My parents never had to listen to squabbles about sharing because I had no one to share with.  I never felt the need to act out for attention because I got all the attention I could ever want.  I rarely fought against my parents' rules because I felt I was just another adult in the house.  And when I did try to manipulate them, they didn't give in and quickly conditioned me to use more appropriate methods.  Perhaps my parents should go into more detail with me about my childhood.  I have heard a few tales involving vomitage, and remember a tantrum or two.  Although my mom admits that the one time I ever yelled at her, she deserved it!

Or perhaps I resent children because I envy them.  I wish I had it so easy.  I wish I didn't have to control my emotions.  I wish I didn't have to work and do hard things and be responsible.  I wish I had someone to wait on me hand and foot.  And if I did, I'd be thankful, you hooligans!  I shall earn the title of crotchety old lady yet!

Look, I know my feelings about children are unfair.  I know that their reasoning abilities are limited.  I know that when they whine and scream and cry they are simply expressing their confusion and frustration at a complex world with complex rules.  I know that their immune systems are still developing, which leads to frequent spewage.  But that knowledge does not keep me from getting annoyed (or from hiding in my room for several hours a day to escape them).  I guess I lack compassion for children.  The true manifestation of my ageism, though, is that I feel no compulsion to remedy this void of charity.  I am making no new year's resolutions to fix my skewed perceptions; I do not feel the need to talk to God or my bishop about it.  And I have no idea why.  At least I'm admitting it, right?  That's supposed to be the first step to . . . something, right?

I do not want any parents reading this to feel as though I am attacking them or their parenting abilities.  I do not blame parents for having annoying children because, as far as I can tell, they all get to me to some degree.  Therefore it is the very nature of children that irks me.  Aren't I terrible?  I'm sure I'll get some angry parent commenting and saying that children are a blessing from God and I am going to hell.  Well, if I'm going to hell, lacking patience for children is the least of my offenses.

Thank you for making it to the end of this very stream-of-consciousness post (which I have written while attempting to tune out the dulcet tones of screaming toddlers).  Feel free to verbally crucify me in the comments.


Samantha said...

Actually I can see where you are coming from. Kids are difficult to put up with--some people were made to love them and others of us can't stand them. At least you know where you stand and are okay with it :]

Lisa and Bennett said...

I find children tedious, boring, annoying, needy, destructive, and obnoxious. Plus, they grow up to just be another human on this planet. "oh lisa, but they're YOUR human that YOU made!" So they're MINE huh? Sigh. No crucifying from me. And you do sound like you were the perfect child...funny how the "perfect child" is so completely unchildlike...

Mhana said...

On one hand I totally agree. Children drive me bonkers. On the other hand, I've come around to seeing that their lives are not so great. Nothing could induce me to be a child again.

1) They get punished all the time. Adults don't get arbitrarily punished by other adults. If a kid screams "I hate you!" at his parents and has a meltdown, he might well get a time out, lose his dessert, have his favorite toy taken away until he can stop throwing it etc. I can scream at my husband and there are consequences, but no extra arbitrary punishments. Just his hurt feelings and my guilt.

2) They actually have very little control of their lives, for all the freedom they seem to have. I remember having to eat food I hated all the time, being forced to sit at the table until I ate it. Now I eat whatever I want, because I am in charge. No lima beans EVER. No broccoli. No pork chops. Kids have to run a lot of errands that are not interesting and they don't see as necessary. When THEY want to pick an item to buy and take home, they don't get to. Mom can decide to buy oreos, but a kid never gets to pick that unless mom has already decided she wants oreos.

3) Kids have to play with other kids. Other kids can be mean or selfish or hard to deal with.

4) Kids have to be respectful even when they don't feel respected. I remember my dad trying to pull rank on my because of parenthood, and somehow he was allowed to condescend and order me around and my only option was to be biddable or be punished. I never got to condescend back, or give as good as I got. It felt very unfair.

5) Kids live in a world of injustice when they expect justice. As an only child, maybe you didn't get to experience this fully. Having a brother drove this home. I saw very clearly the ways in which my parents favored him, how he could manipulate the situation to put me in the wrong, how he'd push my buttons but then only I'd get blamed. (I'm sure it went the other way too). I expected justice, but only got told nobody likes a tattletale.

Anyway, being a kid sucks. So I have some compassion for them

Linden said...

It is different when it is your kids. Other people's children drive me nuts. However, I always love mine (even when I don't always like them). I dislike adults more. They have no excuse.

Father of two said...

I don't know you and I randomly came across this blog, but I hope I never have the unfortunate opportunity of meeting you. You are obviously an only child, probably upper middle class, and I'm surprised if you have ever worked a day in your life--let alone taken out the trash or picked up after yourself (never mind helping a child who actually CAN'T do it for him or herself).

Your parents did you a disfavor by never making you cry or throw a temper tantrum. You say you were the perfect child--I'm hardly surprised, because that type of behavior in a child usually only results from being disciplined (something your parents obviously did not love you enough to do). This blog post makes you a candidate for the entitlement generation poster child of the year, and as a fellow twenty-something I am embarrassed to call you a peer.

Yes, children scream, cry, and throw fits because they--shockingly!--lack the experience, knowledge, and verbal skills to express themselves adequately. This blogpost is the equivalent of a two-year-old throwing a temper tantrum--you are just more articulate than most toddlers.

Please don't have children. A parent like you--that has to validate herself by writing about how irritating it is that small children need love and affection--is basically signing up your own potential children for a lifetime of therapy appointments and writing them a life-long prescription for anti-depressants to boot.

Your feelings about children are more than unfair. You are selfish, ego-centric, ignorant, and--dare I say it?--childish.

Jenna said...

Father of Two: I agree with you. I know my feelings about children are horrible. I *know*. I thought I had made that clear (see how I anticipated the verbal crucifiction and admitted that I am going to hell), but apparently I didn't do so well enough.

I also agree that I am selfish, egocentric, ignorant, and immature. Which is why I can't handle childcare. AND which is why I (again) agree that I have no business having children until I've matured significantly.

I don't know if you're Mormon or not. But I've often wondered why my religion puts so much emphasis on motherhood. With time, I've come to realize that the selflessness required for parenthood (and especially motherhood, what with all the physical sacrifices) is one of the best ways to imbue a person with Christlike qualities. I, a privileged youngster at the tender age of 22, am certainly lacking in the Christlike attributes necessary for parenthood. Now THAT is something I'm working on.

The only point in which I disagree is your assumption that my parents were bad parents. They were authoritative: they exhibited high warmth and high control. I wasn't a perfect child. I only *believe* I was. Because I'm egotistical, ignorant, etc.

I'm sorry that I offend you so. This post was not meant to validate myself; it was meant to be a confession of a known fault. I didn't expect anyone to agree with me because I know I'm wrong. I tend toward brutal honesty in my posts; it's rather thrilling for me to actually say what I'm thinking.

One more thing. I do work very hard at my jobs as a teacher and a research scientist. I have never worried about starving, but I have had no money to buy food before (and no, it wasn't because I spent my paycheck on something stupid). I am exceedingly privileged, but perhaps not quite as privileged as you assume.

Thank you for commenting. I appreciate your feedback.

Nickolas Pickolas said...

Hey Father of Two,

I'll say what Jenna didn't: You're a real class-act jerk! Go bask in your self-righteous patriarchy, you sorry judgmental half-wit.

Your Mom.