I had a funny experience yesterday. I was at a kid's birthday party, holding the kid in question, and a woman---a very nice woman, I should add---kept telling me how GOOD I was with the baby. She was juggling her nine-month-old twins at the time. I didn't know what to say. Of course I was good with the baby. What did she expect?
And that was the moment when I realized that probably not everyone there was quietly judging the parenting skills of of every attendee present. We were one of the few without kids, and I worked to hide my irritation at babytalk (hey, some babytalk is great...constant flow, not so great) and silent editorials on what everyone could be doing better. It really does amaze me, for instance, how people put kids front and center in every conversation, not to mention life decision, and yet ignore what the kid seems to want to do in that moment. Like be alone, for instance.
She pushed the point. "Have you spent time with him?" she asked. I nodded, and handed Riley a couple more Cheerios, which he gleefully mashed into his mouth. "I can tell," she continued, beaming and taking it upon herself to bolster my confidence. I wanted to tell her, believe me, lady, you don't need to worry about my confidence. Plus, I thought silently, I'm 31. Shouldn't I know by this point how to be good with a baby? But again, not everyone spends down time assessing how crappy most people are with their kids.
And I think it's getting worse. Not them, I mean--me; I will probably always feel superior to people who are parenting thoughtlessly. But not being a parent is starting to feel worse and worse. I have too many wrinkles and gray hairs not to be raising a child by now, and it sends me into a slight panic. True, most of my friends with children are years older than me, and my husband reminds me that we have time, but that silently loud voice of judgment in my head is starting to turn its pretty eyes on me. "If you're so good," it asks, "prove it!" I could; maybe I should? Is now the time? I can't tell. I don't know how to know.