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In addition to my Sexist duties, I also write a little arts feature called “What’s Your Problem?,” which looks at the creative obstacles of local artists. This week, I probed the psyche of Sarah Masterson, author of the DC BABY books. Masterson has a lot of advice for parents in her books and on her blog. But she was more than happy to oblige when I asked her for some advice for people, like me, who are more child-fearing than child-rearing. Here, Masterson answers my pressing questions about fear and loathing in kid town.
I fear children. Will this ever go away?
You might learn to grudgingly adapt to nieces and nephews through a process of desensitization (if they’re exceptionally cute). But no, the fear is primal, permanent and justified—-and it will never go away. That said, it’s astonishing how many child-fearing adults eventually end up as parents. Makes for some crazy kids, who come of age accustomed to lording over their deeply frightened minders.
When a child enters my sphere, how might I attempt to relate to it?
As with a strange dog, it’s best to ignore it and avoid eye contact until it submits. Seriously.
Do children find it condescending when adults give them special attention and talk down to them?
No more than alt-weekly journalists feel condescended to when their subjects try to come up with “edgy” answers. But really, in my experience kids are wily beyond belief. And they’ll rise to the occasion, given the opportunity. But like most adults I know, they’re also egomaniacs and can be swayed of any crumb of adoration you toss their way.
As a parent, what is the worst thing that a childless—-or child-fearing—-person can do when relating to you or your kids?
Smoke. It’s impossible to explain to a child why adults would choose to do something bad for them, so we offer implausible explanations that “they don’t know it’s bad for them.” Or-–-and this one is baffling to our four-year-old-–-“they know it’s bad for them but they just don’t care.”
I come across a parent-less small child in the wild—-on my sidewalk or in the grocery store. Do I ignore them in order to avoid appearing creepy, or attempt to hang out with them until a guardian returns?
If you’re a woman, you hang out or at least keep an eye on them until a guardian returns. We instruct our children that if they ever get lost to “ask a mommy for help.” Men, too, should ask a mommy for help. [Insert lame double entendre here.]
How do I react to an older person who assures me that I will someday “change my mind” about having children? I find this scenario haunting.
The best response I’ve heard is, “I’m sure I will change my mind, because ‘other people wanting me to have children’ is the best reason to have them.” You have to realize that deep down, breeders are a bit desperate to have you join their club. We don’t want to be alone in this. We don’t want to be taunted by your brazen freedom, the luxuries and ambitions we’ve forsaken to become soccer moms. We need someone to share war stories with. We need carpool buddies. We need empathy. We need you to suffer the indignity of the postpartum muffin top along with us. No matter how much we adore our own children-–-and we do – we’ve suffered for them. We’ll spend the rest of our lives trying to convince ourselves once and for all that procreating was the right thing to do.
What is the biggest misconception you’ve found that childless people have about parents?
That we stopped caring about you, your social life, the latest trends, world events, etc. We do care; it’s just that we have no time to discuss it because little Wingspan is late for pilates.
Photo of Sarah and Ava by Elizabeth Dranitzke of PHOTOPIA