In the years of B.C. (Before Children), there was one thing I found more mind-numbing than watching paint dry. No, it was not work – a soul-destroying endeavour but never mind-numbing. Neither was it shopping with my wife for things to clutter the house – the choices always boggled the mind so much that it never had a chance to get numb.
No, the thing that never failed to bore me witless, that always lulled me into a comatose state, was listening to people talk about their little kids during social gatherings. It was as if the very act of becoming parents had somehow transformed these once-interesting friends and colleagues into a homogeneous species – one whose conversation skills were confined to talking about their precious offsprings.
And, boy could they talk! From their children’s bowel movements to their foul temperaments. These people would unceremoniously hijack any conversation and turn it into a verbal slideshow of their kids’ achievements and embarrasements. Worse still was the scatterbrained minutiae that they got into when talking about their little ones eg:
“Johnny had diarrea the other day and it was actually green! Can you believe it? Green! Then I remembered feeding him some organic vegetable juice made by So-and-So Juices, so I called them up to complain and this really rude chick, forgot what her name was but she sounded foreign, insisted that I write a formal letter of complaint. I mean who writes letters these days? … although it’s funny because I got a letter from mum the other day telling me how adorable Johnny was in the photos I sent her and … oh where was I? Oh yeah, the green diarrea. Anyway …hey Johnny honey, come over here to mummy and tell these uncles and aunties how your poo was green the other day. What, you thirsty, honey? Come and have some organic vegetable juice“.
It was during that time I promised myself that, when I become a father:
- I would never wax lyrical about my kids in social gatherings;
- I would never force my children to join in the lyric-waxing in front of other adults (sort of like forcing them to do a verbal selfie); and
- I would always be fully engaged with the friends/colleagues that I’m conversing with in a social gathering, instead of pretending to do so while forever keeping an eye (or two) on my kids and being at their beckon call.
I have, of course, now been a father for over six years. In those six years, I have been in, well … let’s see …, probably about five social gathering with friends (my kids’ birthday parties don’t count as they are more loco scatterings than social gatherings). Which means I have already broken those promises I made to myself five times! And I have been breaking those promises, not just in social gatherings, but also family gatherings, playground parent gatherings and even during chit-chats with complete strangers!
It’s not that I do it intentionally. It’s just that I can’t help myself!
To begin with, since I’ve become a father, my two boys have become the sun and I am just a little dark sphere which revolves around them 24/7. Because of this, I have no real substantive things to contribute to any adult conversation except to talk about my children. Sure, I can fake it and try to make some intelligent comments about Jodie Foster’s coming-out speech or Lance Armstrong’s going-bare interview. But, sooner or later, I would be exposed as a fraud when the people I’m talking to realise that the last Jodie Foster movie I saw was Taxi Driver, and the only time I ever saw Lance Armstrong perform in any capacity was in Dodgeball. In any case, I don’t need Jodie or Lance. I can share with friends plenty true stories of my elder 6 year-old boy L prancing around in my wife’s high heels and my younger 4 year-old son C taking unathorised PEDs (jelly snakes, chocolate biscuits).
Of course, whenever I start talking about my children in a social gathering, the crowd almost without fail begins to disperse away from me. They do this politely enough though, for instance, by asking whether I would like another drink (even though I already have one in each hand) or by excusing themselves to check on their own kids (even though they don’t have any). To prevent such an embarrassement, I have begun to shamelessly enlist the help of my children as soon as I sense that the crowd is losing interest in my parental soliloquy. After all, how can they be so heartless as to walk away from my cute boys talking about themselves? Unfortunately, this tactic has not yet worked, not even once, because whenever I’m about to begin my verbal slideshow of their lives, my children somehow manage to disperse away from me way before any of my friends and colleagues even realise what is about to hit them.
I must say, there are very kind types who actually show (or fake) interest in my rambllings about L and C. Sometimes, they even have the decency to look at me when I’m talking, as opposed to staring at the alcohol content label on their beer bottles! However, when the poor souls finally get a chance to get a word in, what do I do? I let my eyes and mind wonder as to where my boys are, what they are eating and why is one sitting on top of the other, administering a noogie.
So, the next time you come across people who talk incessantly about their children, don’t roll your eyes to the back of your head, and please feign some interest. Because I can tell you, the lack of an interested audience may well force them to resort to some truly desperate measures … like starting up a blog about their kids. And nobody wants that!
Keep on pounding.