Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Joy of Being an Anti-Parent

The Busy Black Woman has no children of her own, but she has younger cousins, nieces, nephews, play god-children, and the children of her friends to dote upon.  And despite the fact that none of these little cherubs actually belong to me, I am particularly tickled and blessed to have them in my life.

Case in point: I was in a F.O.U.L. mood on Sunday--cussing and PMSing while driving with the single-minded intent to ratchet up my cussing and fussing once I reached my destination.  The husband's attempts to reason with me proved futile as he sounded just like an adult from a old Peanuts cartoon.

We arrived at my parents' house, but no one was there, so I drew my guns to take aim at whomever came through the door first.  Five minutes or so later, the first person through the door was my father, but sensing that it was in his best interest to keep walking, he hurried past me to take cover in the kitchen.  Next in was my mother, but right behind her toddled in the Baby Niece who looked up at me, smiled, outstretched her arms and cried out, "YaYa!"

And with that, Hurricane BBW got downgraded from a category 4 to a drizzle and a gentle fall breeze.

The blessing of being an anti-parent (which is defined loosely as a grandparent, aunt, uncle or real/pretend godparent) is that we get to enjoy all of the perks of parenthood without any of the day-to-day responsibilities.  Sure, we pitch in and assist as necessary with diaper changes, feedings, putting down for naps, and general supervision to ensure that no bones are broken.  But the key difference is that we visit with these precious some point, someone is going home.  And that of course means that unlike their parents, we get to sleep through the night.

Of course, grandparents outrank everyone when it comes to anti-parenting, as it is universally accepted that grandparents will pretty much do whatever the heck they want, sometimes just to spite the parents.  My grandparents allowed my brothers and me to eat ice cream and cake every day after school and then turned us over to my Mom an hour later.  There were rules against jumping on their plastic-encased furniture and not embarrassing them in front of the neighbors, which were easy enough to follow since we had already been pre-rewarded with cake and ice cream...and the resulting sugar rush kicked in once we got home.

The second string anti-parents are a little more considerate, but only to the extent that the parents are our sibings and best friends, and they have incriminating information to use against us as needed.  Unlike grandparents, we actually listen to the parents' requests, weigh the pros and cons, and then chuck them out in favor of--you guessed it, candy and ice cream before dinner and/or bedtime. 

It all starts off harmless enough...we offer to give the parents a break by taking the kid(s) out for a few hours.  And since we are not paid babysitters, the parents happily accept.  But as soon as little Junior or Miss Missy is safely strapped into that borrowed car seat, one or more of the following will happen: (a) true cultural, educational, and/or scientific enrichment gained at a local museum; (b) the viewing of an age-appropriate film for younger kids or the viewing of a slightly age-inappropriate film for older kids; (c) an "oh-crap-don't-tell-your-Mom-I-did-that" moment; (d) cursing, speeding, and inappropriate music on the car radio; (e) for younger kids the purchase of some useless, annoying trinket; (f) for older kids the purchase of something the parents explicitly forbade them to have; (g) the loss of something very important or sentimental; (h) the empty threat of a spanking or punishment for bad behavior; (i) the re-telling of an embarrassing story involving the parent; and (j) a pinky swear or an outright bribe to keep certain aspects of the outing a secret. 


But parents know this because that is exactly how they remembered their childhood outings with that favorite uncle, eccentric auntie, or infamous godparent.  No permanent harm done and the kid will probably not remember much about these visits until years later in therapy.  So relax and enjoy the quiet until I dump your kid off, all hopped up on ice cream and candy!


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