It's Cool - I Don't Think Your Three Year Old Is Being Rude (Even If You Do)

Monkey hot water bottle

It doesn't seem so long ago that friends with children were the exception, not the rule.

In fact, go back five years and the majority of my friends did not want children, did not like children and spent a lot of time complaining when expected to spend any time with children.

"Since So-and-so had a baby, it's all she can talk about," they moaned. "We've got nothing in common any more."

"Ugh, Thingummy keeps bringing her toddler round," somebody else would respond, "and doesn't try to stop him jamming biscuits in my Xbox. I didn't invite her toddler - I invited her! Doesn't she have a babysitter?"

I write all this in the third person because I didn't join in often. I have a couple of friends who had babies very young and they had eventually got past the no-other-topics-of-conversation stage; I was happy to wait things out. But I'll admit that I carefully phrased a few party invites to make it clear that there would be lots of alcohol and it would go on late and children were probably best left at home.

In fact, even as a new mother, I think that "admit" is the wrong word there. I still believe that anything centred around Eurovision and the dregs of your duty free alcohol experiments should be a childfree zone.

Still, five years on I find myself facing the opposite extreme.

Suddenly, those same friends who so resented children five years ago have three year olds of their own. Suddenly, they're not complaining about people bringing their kids along.

They are bringing their kids along instead.

And some of them seem to think that it's only the child I want to socialise with.

To be clear: when I suggest meeting a friend with a child for coffee, I assume that they will bring the kid along. When somebody suggests coffee with me, I assume they're expecting me to turn up with my baby. Unless otherwise specified, it's pretty much a given that parents of little ones will have the little ones in tow.

But, no matter how adorable their child is, it's the parent I really want to see.

Particularly now.

My one topic of conversation may currently be Matilda, but I want to have that babycentric conversation with another adult, not just with their three year old. I spend so much of my life singing nursery rhymes right now, I want to talk to a grown up.

Which is why I find it uncomfortable when the parent spends the entire two hours trying to coax their tired/shy/sulky child to speak to me.

"Tell Sarah what we did this morning," they say, as the kid burrows his or her head further into their armpit, desperate not to look at me. "Tell Sarah your favourite animal. Tell Sarah what you've called this teddy bear."

Honestly, I don't need to know. The child's favourite colour is not a pressing concern of mine. I would much rather hear how the parent is getting on at work or what the parent has been watching on the telly recently or whether the parent has any plans to get away for a weekend.

I understand that some of them are embarrassed by their kid's antisocial mood; they feel like their child is being rude. But, as the recipient of this apparent rudeness, I don't feel the same.

I've been that child. I've been tired. I've felt shy. I've flat out not been in the mood to socialise - particularly not to socialise with a boring old adult - at times when my parent(s) had plans.

And it was never that I was rude. I was brought up with good manners. I was so polite the local shopkeeper used to give me free sweets as a reward.

But small children have no say over their schedules. Just because their parents feel like grabbing a coffee with a friend, it doesn't mean the kid does. Sometimes - even as an adult - the thought of making conversation is exhausting.

I'm happy to leave that kid alone. More often than not, they perk up of their own accord soon enough.

And in the mean time, I want to grab the chance to talk to my old friend about grown up topics. The peaceful occasions when Matilda is asleep and this other child isn't bouncing around are so few and far between, I want to make the most of them. Frankly, even if the kid is being rude, sometimes I want to celebrate that because sometimes - sometimes - the world isn't all about infants; sometimes the world should also be about us.

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