Best Practices For Pretending You Like Children
You probably like your siblings’ children on principle because they are your blood, and because they are cute and exciting and don’t come home with you and you’re probably not obligated to touch their poop or deal with them after nine p.m. However, at some point the novelty will wear off and the constant screeching and whining and accepted tolerance for snot will get to you and you will find yourself thinking idle thoughts that, if acted on, could land you on an episode of 48 Hours. And other people’s children, jeez — don’t even get me started. Here are some methods for how to deal.
Talk to them like adults. Your angst will be magnified when you catch yourself addressing a child in the same voice you might talk to a puppy. Talk to children like adults and you’ll at least preserve your dignity. There’s also a pretty large chance they won’t have any idea what you are talking about anyway.
Ask them Sesame Street versions of philosophical paradoxes. “So one grain of sand isn’t a pile… and two isn’t a pile… but one billion is! Why is that?” They won’t come up with anything groundbreaking, but hell, no one else has, and if you’re lucky enough and equipped with an iPhone they might say something stupid enough to get you a few hundred-thousand views on YouTube.
Give them things their parents won’t let them have because it will make them like you and therefore they will be easier to deal with. A couple weeks ago I attended a hippie thirty-something barbeque (I know, first mistake) where the ‘cheeseburgers’ were vegan and every side dish came from a garden or co-op and the people at my table were having an earnest discussion about the rationale of naming one’s recently-rescued cat after Wendell Berry. I brought Cheetos because I didn’t realize I was about to enter the modern version of the Manson Family, and at some point a forlorn eight-year-old (wearing something that could only be described as ‘thrifted burlap,’ natch) sauntered up to me and asked, “What are those?” An evil smile crossed my face as I dumped a pile onto his plate and thought to myself, “You’ll never be the same!” Do things like that.
Lie to them. It’s funny and harmless. And trust me, the outcome can be hilarious. Example: once when forced to deal with a friend’s notoriously unruly nephew (who had five minutes earlier kicked my Mike’s Hard Lemonade down the stairs, unforgivable), I told him there was a T-Rex locked in the basement whose hobby was feeding on five-year-olds, but that’d we’d struck a deal to keep him at bay so long as the kid behaved himself. It worked like a dream.
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If you’ve been looking for a chance to say something then this very well could be it.
I wish to God I’d had a list like this when I was 23.
Answer phones better than anyone else has answered phones before. Relay messages so brilliant, they bring people to tears. Turn the coffee run into the choreography of Swan Lake. Become best friends with every intern and every underling and every taxi driver you encounter.
I remember taking the pen and notebook from that woman outside the courtroom, flipping to a clean page in the book, and writing, JESSICA IS SAD in big, bold, uncoordinated letters. “My sister is going to be a good writer someday! Look at how nice her lines are!”