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Back Off and Let Me Enjoy My Kid

Photograph by Getty Images

I'm out to lunch with a bunch of gals, all of whom have children older than mine. The mother of a 13-year-old girl is mid-story, telling the group all the nightmares that are her teenage daughter. Her tale seems endless, with one "Oh God, please don't let that be my daughter someday" story after another. I'm fairly certain that everyone seated at that lunch makes a mental note to race home to Google, "raising kids in Idaho."

As my friend finishes her story, the rest of us pick our jaws up off the floor, then she turns to me—the mother of a 2-year-old daughter—and says, "Just wait. You'll see."

I want to hurl myself across the table and strangle her. Instead, I smile and politely say, "Don't yuck my yum." She looks at me as if I'm crazy.

Since becoming a parent, I've noticed that we parents (myself included) spend a lot of time teaching our children rules we don't actually follow ourselves. Lessons like "Always be kind!" are bandied about moments before dad flips someone off in traffic. Kids shouldn't be competitive, but mom is so pissed that the other mom got elected president of the Parent Association she can barely show up at school. And we teach our kids they must always be polite when we ourselves are anything but.

For modern-day parents, manners are our top priority, except when it comes to our own.

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One lesson we've taught our 5-year-old son is, "Don't yuck my yum." This is to say, when someone is eating something he may or may not like, it's rude to say, "Yuuuuuuck." Or my son's favorite, "Blechgrossewwwyuckdisgusting." In other words, if I think something's yummy, don't tell me it's yucky. It ruins the fun and takes the joy away from me (or someone else) for no particular reason. It's a toddler-friendly combo package of "Live and let live" and "Don't rain on someone else's parade."

I'm keenly aware of what may or may not be in store for me when my daughter discovers that "whatever" is a teenager's answer to a full conversation.

So I wonder why parents feel the need to yuck each other's yum. Why do we have to ruin someone else's joy with our cautionary tale of just how crappy raising kids can be? As the mother of a little girl, I'm keenly aware of what may or may not be in store for me when my daughter discovers that "whatever" is a teenager's answer to a full conversation.

But right now, I'm not there yet. I've got a chubby 2-year-old who wants to put on makeup with me and thinks my lap is just about the best seat on Earth. My girl wants to wear pink and loves fairies and can entertain herself with an empty tissue box for hours on end. She's sweet and excited and is teaching her older brother a thing or two about sharing and kindness.

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There's enough yucky moments in parenting; why ruin someone's yummy ones? No parent needs to be warned about what's in store. Trust me, they're keenly aware. They just don't care. They're busy playing princess and doing their daughter's nails.

So if kids can learn not to grimace when their dad orders liver, then moms can learn to hold their tongues when someone's loving being madly in love with her child. One mom may raise the teenage daughter from hell, while another may get a girl whose worst crime is a messy room. None of us know what's in store. We can just try our best and enjoy the yummy moments of parenting. And more important, let someone else enjoy hers.

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