It’s like trying to wrestle a greased pig while simultaneously trying to teach it algebra
I don’t like kids. It’s not something one is supposed to admit in polite society. People get upset and take it personally. “I love kids,” they will tell you.
That’s nice, but we weren’t talking about you. I also don’t like tomatoes, but wasn’t looking for your input on that either. Maybe you don’t like blueberries or roller coasters. Maybe sports aren’t your particular cup of tea, or you don’t enjoy chess or Brussels sprouts. I don’t happen to enjoy the company of children.
I was a precocious child, an early talker, and reader. It’s possible I was never really much of a child, just a short, prematurely-aged curmudgeon. It wasn’t until I left home at 14 years old, for a mission trip to the mountains of Colombia, South America, for the summer, that I realized other people saw me as a child and not as anything close to an equal.
I had always been polite to adults, but only because I had been taught to be polite to everyone. As far as respect went — well, you had to earn that with me no matter what your age. You didn’t get a pass just because you told me you were in charge. I still feel that way. It’s like coming up with your own nickname.
Consequently, I was not an easy student. I was a quick learner, so I was mostly bored in school. In the first grade, they sent me to third grade for reading class. That didn’t happen often enough after that, so for most of my primary and secondary education, I had to sit and listen to the teacher drone on about subjects I had already tired of and moved on. I considered school largely a waste of my time.
If you ask me, we should have been able to do the whole thing in like eight years, not twelve. Three hours a day, not seven. There’s too much child care going on and not enough education — too much rote learning and not enough discovery and critical thinking.
I often made friends with people older than me, including adults. I don’t mean we were real friends, but I probably thought so at the time. I thought of them as my friends. People I knew. Equals.
All too often, I found that kids my own age were too — childish. Kids who couldn’t be away from home overnight without crying, or who weren’t allowed to get dirty. We used to call them momma’s boys. I had no time for this.
Because I thought I was pretty much on the same playing field as everyone else, I viewed myself as simply a shorter, less experienced, less financially secure adult. It didn’t occur to me that anyone wouldn’t like me or accept me as long as I held my own and treated people decently. So I was shocked when my mother told me once that the reason some old man had been rude to me was that he didn’t like kids.
“What do you mean, he doesn’t like kids?” I said.
“He probably never had any of his own,” my mother told me. “Some people just don’t appreciate children. Also, he’s an older man. Maybe he’s just not very patient.”
I was flummoxed. Hadn’t he been a kid once himself? How could he not like kids? It made no sense to me. It was like not liking yourself. What else didn’t he like? Candy? Christmas? Music? Laughter?
Now that I’m a middle-aged adult, I can honestly say that I don’t like kids. Not across the board, mind you, but as a general rule, concerning a small subset of the species. I have three step-children and seven grandchildren, and I adore the shit out of each of them. They are an endless source of wonder and surprise. The world is slightly better just knowing they might stop by and show me a thing or two.
They range from 1 to 34, some of them bigger than others, and they’re all mine. My kids, I like. Yours, not so much. Strangers’ kids, not at all.
For the record, I also don’t give a shit about your dog, cat, turtle, parakeet, or houseplant. I’m happy for you, at least as happy I get for other people, but I don’t care about the other living things in your house. They don’t concern me.
I have lost all sense of the endless patience one is required to have in dealing with a four-year-old who is largely useless in society but who insists on doing everything themselves.
Even watching kids eat, I find myself having to look away as sauce drips down their arms, as they destroy napkins and drop food — everything in a state of disarray and constantly on the edge of catastrophe. I watch in horror, just waiting for the disaster that is sure to follow. It rarely comes, but sometimes it does. That chance is enough to keep me on edge.
Children lead lives of inexplicable dishevelment, full of irrational desires and explosive emotional outbursts. Their internal logic is beyond the grasp of mere mortals, so there is no point in trying to predict their behavior. It’s like trying to wrestle a greased pig while simultaneously trying to teach it algebra.
There are plenty of people who love children and spend their time coaching, teaching, and making them better people. This is important stuff. We need these people.
I just don’t happen to be one of them.