My son is turning eleven this month. I am just in awe of how the time has passed and how much he has grown and changed. I have loved every age and stage of his life thus far, and it only seems to be getting better. Babies are great, but there is something really special about being able to have real conversations with your kid. I love the freedom of having an older child. Not just because I have more time to myself as he is out having adventures on his own, but now that he is older we can do more things together. He likes going places with me, hanging out, meeting new people, and he can help carry the backpack now! He actually digs punk shows and has started collecting CD's and pins for his jacket.
There was a time not so long ago that the conversations and activities of me and my friends were incredibly boring to him, but now when people come over to visit, instead of running off to play with his toys he is right in the middle of it all, listening in and making conversation. I keep catching myself almost brushing him off, telling him to go play while us grown ups talk. I have to remind myself that he has a place with us, since one of my goals in parenting is to expose him to all kinds of thoughts, people, and lifestyles. I'm learning to bite my tongue and just enjoy it when he wants to stick around.
There have been times when we have been hanging out that it has felt awkward. Most of the people we tend to hang around with don't have kids and I can tell when we meet someone new that they don't always know how they should act around mine. I decided it may be helpful to give the kid-free folks some tips about chillin with the little ones. Kids can be so much fun to be around and they can be just as trying. It is the same with most grown ups, I suppose. The thing I want to most convey is that when you have a child in your life you have the chance to be an enormous influence on a fresh mind. You can be the person this kid looks up to and remembers for years to come simply by being a cool person to hang out with.
Tip #1: Say hello. That's pretty easy, right? I'm am surprised at how often someone will come up and say hello to me or whoever is in our group and not bother to say hello to my son. It is almost like his age or size makes him invisible. Like he doesn't count. My son feels hurt when people overlook him in this way, and I'm sure any other person, child or adult, would feel the same. Saying "hello", "goodbye", "How are you?", and all the other standards are good manners that apply to dealing with kids, as well.
Tip #2: Don't feel like you have to censor yourself. I know very well that when I take my kid to a punk show that he is possibly going to hear expletives, see people dressed up in strange costumes on stage or see teenagers groping each other in the corner. Us parents can deal with that. We don't want to make anyone feel uncomfortable or like they should cater to us. We came to see the show, after all. Of course I wouldn't want my kid to hear racial slurs or anything like that, but I don't hang out with people like that anyway. And if you are still using "gay" as an adjective than you need to grow up--my soon to be eleven year old doesn't even say that. My point is, just go about your business and we'll be fine--when you make us feel like we are cramping your style then you ruin the good time for everyone.
Tip #3: This is a really important one, right up there with #1. Please don't do a lot of rambunctious play with kids unless you know for sure that the parents don't mind. It seems very common for people to break the ice and buddy up to kids by playing tag, wrestling, playing footsie, etc. First of all, a lot of us are trying to teach our kids to be nonviolent and it is hard enough without people encouraging them to partake in impromptu boxing matches, even if it is just for fun. Secondly, I guarantee you that my kid or any other can outlast you. There will come a point when you are tired of playing and stopping is the last thing on his mind because he is all wound up from the excitement. You are going to end up annoyed, the kid is going to be confused and frustrated because you don't want to play anymore, and I am going to be having a rotten time trying to calm my kid down and redirect his attention. If you want to break the ice and play around with a kid, do us all a favor and strike up a lively conversation, break out some pens and paper, or offer to take him for a walk.
I feel lucky to have some great friends who are excellent with my kid, making our time together fun and stress free. I appreciate them so much and my son adores them. Love ya'll! And congratulations to new mama Miranda and mama-to-be Julie!
—Candyce P.O. Box 2431 Fort Smith, AR 72913 email@example.com
(contact info from 2004 - current info in 2011 not available)