After I had my first son, one of my mother’s friends made that remark that she could not believe that I had kids. She seemed to be a combination of shocked and amused with the idea that I was a mother. Whenever I heard someone make that specific remark, I would always laugh it off jokingly but I was never sure of the seriousness that followed that statement.
I had assumed that it was because I was an only child and that they had seen what I had experienced and figured I had no desire to put a child through what I had been through. It had not dawned on me that because I was an only child that I was perceived as someone too selfish or un-nuturing to love a child. Conception was not an issue but my ability to share and love seemed to a point of doubt. I am sure I had never expressed the sentiment that I never wanted kids to anyone. In fact when my peers where having kids long before I had considered it, I was the one volunteering to babysit. I was the one buying gifts and goodies. It was BECAUSE I was an only child that I wanted to be the best extended auntie I could be.
As far back as I could remember I have wanted kids. I had some of the same typical dreams as most girls: a husband, two kids and a dog named Bill. By baby number two this same person and a few others expressed the same sentiment. I had already been a mother for 4 years before I had my second child and from what I could recall I wasn’t so bad at being a mom. In fact, I felt I kind of thrived on it. Nothing felt more natural to me than being someone’s mother. So why in the hell did people keep saying that to me?
The people who seemed to believe this assumption were people who had an actual account of how I grew up as a child and I believed it was from their knowledge of my upbringing that they developed this unfounded assumption. As an only child and product of divorced parents, it could have been easily assumed that I did not want a child to bear witness to the countless arguments and curse matches my parents would engage in at my expense. Maybe these sentiments were a reflection of the instability I encountered as I was often moved from place to place. I could see where there would be cause for concern and doubt that I would have kids (kinda).
Whatever the root of the remark came from I think that its horrible thing to say to a person. I know that the intent behind the initial comment was never malicious but it definitely makes you question how people view you as an only child or as person period. I always wanted to ask that one particular friend of my mother’s who seemed to express it most often, what did she exactly mean by that but now as a grandmother of two and mother of three it doesn’t seem like it would merit much of a conversation.
No matter what the circumstances are or the motivation behind the statement, it is never flattering, clever or cunning to tell someone who is expecting or has had children that you can’t believe they have kids. Unless, they are, of course some drunken, drug riddled, convict who has a history of misconduct and carelessness that would prove detrimental to any child (which wasn’t even close in my case) and even those sort of people can make change. I mean at least wait until the person becomes a total fuck up before you tell them “I can’t believe you have kids” it would probably make more sense in that aspect.
So let me be clear when I say never state to a person “I can’t believe you have kids” unless you have clear-cut evidence that this person is incapable of successful parenting otherwise such a comment is demeaning, hurtful and offensive regardless of the perspective. There is nothing humorous, flattering or complimentary about expressing to someone who you are shocked, surprised and /or amused by their ability to parent a child. Just congratulate them and expect the best.