I think God gives us an extra dose of tolerance for our kids so we won’t kill them before they reach adulthood. It also helps us deal with their myriad bodily functions without batting an eye. Back in the working world I was periodically handed a paycheck, but as a mom I’m more likely to be handed a booger or a chewed-up wad of gum. Not only am I accustomed to my kids’ bodily functions, I am also completely attuned to their fragile little psyches. I am, however, woefully under-equipped with the same tolerance or sympathy for other people’s kids. Before I go further, let me assure you that I am not, nor do I ever intend to be, a preschool teacher. I hope that eases your mind when you hear what a jerk I am.
I think back to volunteering in the church nursery. I dreaded being the one to smell a poop. The one who smelled it ended up changing it. I think my co-volunteers had very poor senses of smell, or a greater tolerance for letting kids run around (and sit!) in their poop, because I ended up changing a lot of diapers. Changing my own kids didn’t so much as provoke a gag reflex, but when it came time to change someone else’s kid, I was on the verge of losing it. I would start to sweat and have a vomit-related incident in my mouth. Tiny babies were fine, but when it was a 3 + year old with no potty training on the horizon and jeans that looked big enough to fit me-- big ugh. The same tolerance that allows me to pluck boogers out of my kids’ noses without a second thought, was absent last week as I wiped a kid’s vomit off of the cafeteria floor during lunch duty.
This inequality extends to kids’ behavior, too. While I can endlessly justify my own kids’ behavior, knowing the full back-story (he’s really tired, she didn’t eat much today), I am far less tolerant of others. I remember picking my son up from 4 year old preschool and having his little classmate give me the full run-down of his day through the fence: “Mrs. See, Jake had trouble listening again today.” I was miserable that my child had a miserable day, but I had to fight the urge to make a childish retort or send the little reporter flying over the gate.
Am I the only one who has found herself being snippy, short, self-righteous, preachy and heavy-handed with other people’s kids? Play-dates were often miserable because “the other mom” always seemed to be looking away when her kids clocked, clobbered or grabbed mine. On occasion, I found myself acting more like a 3 year old than a 35 year old as I glared and grumped my way through certain play-dates from hell.
I thought I was the only one with this mama-bear defensiveness until I noticed that during my sister’s phone calls she spent an inordinate amount of time griping about her neighbor’s 4 year old girl. This little girl was just enough older than my sister’s own kids to be deemed an unsavory influence. I never quite got what the problem was— using bad language, or perhaps wasting the last juice box by taking only one sip— but it was enough to make my sister happy when the offender moved away. The truth is, we love our kids best, and God made us this way.
Last week my son and his friend were playing games on my computer, yes this very computer, while I cooked dinner. I walked by and saw a disturbing sight. The playmate was fondling himself—hands down pants in zero underwear glory—then typing on my keyboard! I thought I might barf right there. You should have seen me with the Clorox wipes after I sent him home. When I told my husband, he said, “That’s why I don’t let the kids use my computer.” Thanks. Now if that had been my own son doing the down the pants exploration perhaps I wouldn’t have been so grossed out. Never mind, it’s just plain icky.