My blog I've ignored for 2 years while attending the Brandcenter
I’m going to set the scene for you. You and your significant other have just survived the ordeal of getting the kids loaded into the car, driven to your destination, and unloaded. You finally made it to wherever it is you are going and are settling into your activity (movie, dinner at a restaurant, park, whatever) when an all too familiar sound begins to creep its way toward you. The horrible sound of one of your kids having a shit-fit meltdown.
Much like a giant man-eating plant, the beginnings of these shit-fit meltdowns are small, but if you do not contain it quickly, it can grow out of control. Vines of screaming and whining are springing from its base. They spread out in all directions annoying everyone and interrupting everything in its path. The vines grow and sprout louder screechier tentacles that wrap themselves around your legs. They hold you in place as they climb up your torso. You’re trapped. You can’t move. You can’t breathe, the day is ruined, AND YOU JUST GOT HERE, IT ALL IS SO UNFAI–
Wait a minute, that’s not our kid.
You notice your breathing has returned to normal. Where once you were in a suffocating embrace praying for a quick death now you are free. You frantically look around you and see that your children are not the cause of the man-eating plant from hell. That’s not our kid. That’s some other poor sucker’s kid.
The combination of adrenaline and the feeling of joy returning to your body makes your face flush, and you feel funny. Also, the air smells sweeter now, and you love everything a little bit more.
You’ve just experienced your first N.O.K. (Not Our Kid) moment. It’s a phenomenon my wife and I started experiencing this year. As parents, we have a Pavlovian response to hearing a child go Chernobyl. We have become so accustomed to the sound of meltdowns that our mind and body react on pure instinct.
STEP 1: Diagnose the Problem.
Why are you crying? What is it? What happened? What? Why? WHY? WHY! ARE! YOU! CRYING! WHAT IS IT?! WHY????
STEP 2: Remedy the Problem.
Offer a new solution.
Offer the original solution.
Threaten (you mean it this time).
Our first NOK moment came as we enjoyed some Chic-Fil-a with our boys. We were at the mall and were feeding them before we headed down to the kid’s play area. We like taking our kids there so they can run, climb, and run head first screaming into some other kid who was running and screaming. It’s just like watching the ‘Puppy Bowl’ only less cute.
As we were enjoying our waffle fries, we heard the all too familiar sounds of a kid going supernova. My wife and I locked eyes. Our bodies went rigid. We just locked eyes with each other scared to move. A second later we both realized, that this time, it wasn’t our kid. They were quietly enjoying their waffle fries and nuggets.
Our bodies slowly eased, and we both started breathing again. Still, without breaking eye contact, I slid my hand across the table and placed it on top of my wife’s. She smiled at me. I remembered why I fell in love with this woman and smiled back as I shook my head and said “Not our kid.” Then went back to enjoying my spicy chicken sandwich that tasted ten times better than it did two seconds ago. Everything tastes better when it’s not your kid.
N.O.K’s are a new experience for my wife and I. We are much more used to their painful cousin the T.O.K (That’s Our Kid) moments. T.O.Ks are not fun. T.O.K moments make you question ever eating out of the house again. They make you question the whole notion that humans should ever procreate. T.O.Ks will cause you to question everything you’ve ever done as a parent up to this terrifying and embarrassing moment. They are awful for everybody. You’re annoyed and apologizing to strangers who you think are burning a hole through your head with their glare.
N.O.Ks though…N.O.Ks feel like snow days when you didn’t study for an exam. They feel like getting that extra hour of sleep when Day Lights Savings Time rolls back an hour. Or that time I ordered the 2-Cheeseburger meal from McDonald’s (the #4) and they gave me two double cheeseburgers instead. N.O.Ks make you feel like the king and queen of parenting.
My wife and I have enjoyed our N.O.K moment so much that we’ve high-fived each other during someone’s T.O.K moment (which is a total faux pas). You never want to gloat your N.O.K moment in the face of someone who is suffering through their T.O.K moment. It’s bad form. If there were parenting referees they would have thrown a flag:
“Personal Foul: Taunting, (points at my wife and me) those two assholes over there, 15 minutes in Build-a-Bear, Automatic – FIRST DOWN!”
So, next time you’re out with your family and witness an explosive T.O.K moment in public. Don’t glare. Shoot them a smile that lets them know you’ve been there and that it’s okay. Then take your partner by the hand. Pull them close to you, look into their eyes, smile and say.
“Not Our Kid.”
Then as the two of you walk into the sunset hand in hand feel free to quietly talk about how happy you are not to be that poor bastard with the screaming banshee for a child. Then take the family out for some frozen yogurt.
It’s a beautiful day. You’ve earned it.
established 2013, curated by the Hour After Happy Hour Writing Workshop
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Mr. Fenske is a professor at VCU Brandcenter in Richmond VA. The site is an extension of his efforts in the classroom, except for the cartoons, which seem to grow out of some disaffection he feels with the world. Thank you for visiting. © Mark Fenske
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