When my kids were two or so, we took a class at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan. There was one little girl in the class, a beautiful blond, about the same age as my twins. She had a lovely smile, a cute little laugh, and I couldn’t stand her. I didn’t even know why. I’m not proud of this. But there you have it.
See, we’re supposed to like all kids. Think they’re special, or cute, or funny. Like babies. Who hasn’t heard the dictum: all babies are cute? Puh-lease. All babies are not cute. Some babies look like a cherry tomato after it’s been in the fridge too long: wrinkled, red, and ready to burst with something that probably won’t look or smell too good.
Kids are the same way. I’m here to tell the truth: there are kids – little kids – that I don’t like. They’re bratty, or pushy, or too whiny. They’re bossy, they don’t share. They just rub me the wrong way. Do I think this makes me an exemplary parent? Of course not. Can I help it? Not a chance.
I have a good friend, whose kid I do have to see all the time. Were she my daughter, I’d probably think she had a charming, big personality. She’s not my daughter, though. So I find her pushy and overbearing. The other night, my family was having dinner with hers. In the middle of our conversation – which included parents and children – she practically screamed out “May I say something?” Now, on the face of it, that seems polite. She said “may I” after all. Except that this kid screams it out as an order, while someone else is in mid-sentence. And she did it at least three times during dinner alone. I’m sure her mother is pleased as punch that she’s saying “may I.” As for me, I’m just thinking about the punch.
There’s the girl in my daughter’s class who is constantly telling me and any other mom who will listen all the terrible things our kids have done to her. “R. was mean to me two weeks ago last Thursday.” She’ll whine. “She wouldn’t let me braid her hair and dye it orange.” Or “You should yell at A. He once said that I’m a tattle tale.” If the tale fits, honey, wag it as you walk away.
There’s the painfully shy daughter of a friend who, when she thinks no one is looking, hits the other kids. The kid in the playground who’s always throwing rocks at the pigeons. The seven-year-old at camp last summer who wore belly shirts and platform shoes, and always had a big wad of gum in her mouth. And the boy with table manners so atrocious that I can’t have him to dinner anymore. Last time he was here, he picked his nose with his fork and ate it. I kid you not.
I’m sure that my kids can be offensive, too. I’m sure my daughter’s squeaky voice drives people nuts, and my son’s know-it-all quality gets on other’s nerves. But they’re my kids, so I love them. And there are plenty of kids I love to pieces. James is so sweet I could eat him for dessert. Ellen is the most well-behaved child on the planet. Luke is gorgeous and unfailingly polite. So I’m not a total monster…just a bit of one.
I feel guilty about it. I try to consider why these kids behave the way they do, where they are developmentally, to remember they’re kids. And I’m not. I’m supposed to be above such petty childish reactions.
But remember that little blond two-year old I mentioned at the top of this post? Several weeks into class her father showed up. Long hair, sandals, a toe ring, a leather choker with a silver peace charm hanging from it. A pushing-forty trying to look pushing thirty. Then he looked up. “Hi Nancy” he said. It was an old boyfriend. He had been condescending, manipulative and an overall jerk. It had been years since we broke up, and I was still furious with him. So maybe that was it! Could I have sensed all along that that kid was his and that’s why I didn’t like her? I’m gonna say yes. And from how on, when I don’t like a kid, I’m not going to feel guilty or make apologies, I’m gonna trust my instincts.
An slightly different version of this post originally appeared on NYC Moms Blog.com