When the kids were small, babies even, it seemed I could never go anywhere without getting a lot of unwanted advice.
At the shopping mall, there'd be the immaculately turned out mother-of-one, pointing out that my baby -- youngest of four -- had lost a sock, and "oh-by-the-way, your three-year-old just pocketed a packet of gum from the check-out display". Shame.
There'd be a grandma type, asking me why my newborn wasn't wearing a hat "in this weather", or my neighbor across the street saying, "Don't your kids ever wear coats?" Feelings of incompetence.
There was some other kid's father from school, who asked with irritating regularity, "Don't you want to give those boys haircuts?" Upsurge of mulish obstinancy.
And then there was the woman who said, as I complained to anyone or no one about the endless irritation of raising small children, "Oh, you know what they say. 'Little children, little problems. Bigger children, bigger problems...'"
At the time, I felt as if I'd run into some wicked witch in Grimm's Fairy Tales. What kind of thing was that to say? It was meant to be comforting, perhaps, but it sounded like a curse, and full of foreboding. Little children, little problems. Bigger children, bigger problems...
The day before yesterday, at a shopping mall's parking lot, I got out of my car, idly turning round to lock it, and I heard a woman screaming, nay, shrieking at her kids. "GET OUT! OUT! Get out of the Goddamn car! Get out now!" She suddenly saw me from across the lot, and I could see her struggling to regain some self-control. She brought the decibel level down a few notches, and I turned away. And I thought to myself, Little children, little problems. Bigger children, bigger problems... If only she knew.
I find myself thinking much the same thing when reading blogs of young mothers. So much whingeing and kvetching and moaning, and not enough enjoyment of little kids for what they are: little. They're little, and they're yours. Of course children can be exasperating and exhausting and tiresome and just a feckin' handbasket of aggravation. But they're a boatload of fun too, and even though clever complaining ups blog statistics, one has to hope that some of these kids don't ever read their mom's essays, later on. Because they'll feel awfully unwanted and unappreciated. But I digress.
Little children, little problems. Bigger children, bigger problems... Truth to tell, little is so relative. When your oldest child is five, a ten-year-old looks mighty grown-up to you. But when your oldest is almost 26 years old, someone else's twenty-one-year-old son looks little. A little kid, really, twenty-one years old. His whole life ahead of him, full of potential, opportunity awaiting.
Except not in this case.
I went to a visitation on Friday night, and a memorial service on Saturday, for the twenty-one year old son of old friends. He dropped out of university second semester of his freshman year, and was in rehab for long months. This spring, he moved to a halfway house in Florida, part of transitioning back to a new life, free of addiction. He was going to return to school, and was reconnecting with his family. He was a strong, smart kid. An outstanding sportsman. A quick wit, and full of laughter. So well-liked. So loved by his family and close friends. He had everything going for him, all the talent, and all the support you'd ever want.
And then three weeks ago he was found in his room, unresponsive, apparently from a drug overdose. He lingered for 10 days in intensive care, but died a week ago Friday.
How my friends would love to go back to the days of "little children, little problems".
"Bigger problems" are unbearable.