Other people’s kids, that is. How to be good with your own? Can’t help you there.
I am aware of a new demographic among my peers: those who do not have children when absolutely all their friends do. I’ve never had a jolly group of friends with whom I constantly socialised so this was never a problem for me, but if you are in that sort of group it can feel like within 1 calendar year your friends went from raving MDMA-loving free spirits to sprogged-out dowdy cliches.
If you are the only one left with no kids, this is very hard. Because I’m afraid that people with very small children shy away from inviting the child-free along to things. They suspect you wouldn’t have a nice time (and they are right). They no more want to be the friend-with-howling kid than you want to be the friend-dragged-across-town-to-see-it.
When your children are tiny, you just want to be in a safe place, surrounded by non-judgmental people – that’s why we’re always in playgrounds or huddled at each other’s houses and not at, say, Le Gavroche or The Wallace Collection.
So more and more the rule becomes: no baby, no bring.
But what about YOU? The one with no kids. This is a disaster! What about all those jolly brunches and those cosy days in the run up to important festivals. What now: what, what? You are in a social desert. What are you supposed to do, make new friends? At 34? Ugh.
And I’m sorry to tell you that, short of grabbing the nearest person and getting matched and hatched, you’re going to have to get some kids skills.
So here is guide to getting along with your friends’ kids (and their parents):
1 Be prepared to have a shit time. Understand you probably won’t get to finish a sentence. Understand that this will probably not be a time when you will be gossiping and drinking for three hours. There will be bodily fluids, bad smells and crying. And a kid might puke up a bit too.
2 Don’t bring the kids chocolate or sweets as a present. Just don’t, it’s annoying.
3 If you do want to bring a gift, bring a book. The kid won’t be interested, (unless you bring one that has buttons that make fart noises), but the parent will be so grateful that you haven’t brought Haribo.
4 When you first meet the kid just say “Hello, my name is John/Jane” and smile and then move on. Don’t push for any more.
5 Small children don’t really have conversations. Don’t ironically say something like “So, read any good books lately?” of “So what’s your take on Syria?” It is a tired gag, all the parents have done it and heard it. If you actually want to engage with any child, sit quietly and look at the book you have brought as a gift. They will flock to you as if you had brought some freaking Haribo.
6 Do not be offended or upset if a child snatches something off you that you have innocently picked up, shrieking “THAT’S MINE!” That’s just what they do – all of them. Don’t tell them off, you’ll never be forgiven. Just sit quietly as if you were in the presence of a demented, bi-polar, semi-homicidal dictator. (Because you are.)
Similarly, if they interrupt do not say “Shhh the grown ups are talking.” Whatever total garbled nonsense they have to say will be more interesting to the parents than whatever total garbled nonsense you have to say. It’s for the parent to tell the kid to shut up and go away. A damning critique of the modern child-centric rearing practises, yes – but it’s just the way things are.
7 To seal the deal, you must compliment the child. But what on earth can you convincingly say about this potato-like, lumpen, rude, boring kid? It’s easy, you just say: “Is it normal for a child to be so chatty/mobile/creative at such a young age?” It’s not really a compliment, but the doting parents will take it as such. They will be eating out of your hand and invitations will pour forth.
Nail on head ! Haha.
I’m now at the age that my social circle has slowly been taken over by grandkids. Now, that’s a whole other story.
Be sure to keep the flattery and complements at the ready.
Loved this. As someone who doesn’t have kids, I pride myself on the fact that I already do six out of the seven above….but I have to confess to finding it laugh out loud hilarious when I overheard a friend asking a one year old ‘so, what do you do for a crust?’ Having read your post, I now realise I was probably too busy laughing to see his parents rolling their eyes at each other.
nancy k says
I am a former, long time kindergarten teacher and I find the above information… interesting? The most useful are #’s 3, 4 & 5. Kids are simply small humans…they have distiinct personalities that need to be acknowledged, taking into consideration their developmental level. If you use common sense and treat a child respectfully, they respond. Trust me, kids can spot a clueless adult a mile away and will take advantage.
does “…. interesting” mean “good” or “crazy” in this context? and kids might be small humans but they’re not small adults. their lack of a super-ego and total solipsism is very weird for people not used to it.
Erika E. Robbins (@eedgerley) says
Ha ha, thanks for this. A very amusing, yet helpful read. I’m at the start of this, as a few of my friends are starting to have kids, but I’m sure many more will over the next few years.
OMG you are describing me. 34 with no kids and ALL my friends have kids. Luckily I appear to follow all the rules, but honestly I have no idea how anyone does it – I’m exhausted after a few hours. But while we are on this topic, if you have any advice for presents for kids (I just seem to buy books – I should get a discount at Waterstones) do let me know, I have ENDLESS godchildren now and its quite exhausting trying to think of new ideas.
I will always put up any super new gift idea for kids up on this blog! And how does anyone do it? we BARELY do, we drink and feel miserable and shout at each other and want to run away most of the time…
Oh thanks that’s amazing! I took your advice when I bought my goddaughter a present two weeks ago (the stacking blocks) and I also bought stacking blocks for my nephew (did a bulk buy on Amazon – everyone is getting blocks for the next year). You’ve no idea how helpful that was. Hence why I want more helpful tips – I see Xmas looming……..!
stacking blocks are the absolute best toy for any under-3. fact.more as I have it!