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I’ve been a Dad for roughly five years now and there’s an interesting phenomenon amongst the cult of parents. It’s what I’m going to refer to as a “disposition of negativity” towards their children. What does this mean?
All parents seem to share an unspoken bond of pain as a result of their children. Sleepless nights. Lack of “me” time. Changes to your martial relationship. Loss of patience. Financial obligations. “We can’t have nice things.” The list goes on.
Because of this, it’s easy for parents to make unmindful comments like “ugh, kids are the worst” while referring to their own kids.
Is that true though? Are kids really the worst? Or is that how you felt in that particular moment because your kid took a dump on the floor because they couldn’t (or chose not to) make it to the bathroom? (Drawing from my own experience here…)
I have to remind myself: question your motivations for saying things. Question what you’re telling yourself. Is what you’re saying actually true? Do you really feel that way? You might discover that you don’t believe what you’re saying out loud. Often you’re merely venting—expressing an emotion in the moment—and you might realize “hey I don’t actually hate kids, others or my own”.
So why do we say these things? Are they the expression of fleeting, surface emotions? “My kids are always screaming and complaining! ARGH!” Are they? Are they always doing that? Maybe not. Do they do it a lot? Yeah, that’s possible. But in the moment you say always because that’s how it feels. But sometimes it’s good to stop and ask yourself: is this really true, or is it just how I feel?
When you talk with other parents, it’s easy to bond over your shared trails and tribulations. To anyone on the outside (or even other parents) it might sound a lot like you hate your kids. They might even think “do you even enjoy your life?”
I think this happens a lot in technology. It’s so easy to have this kind of disposition of negativity through shared trial. It reminds me of something Clive Thompson wrote in his book Coders:
When you meet a coder, you’re meeting someone whose core daily experience is of unending failure and grinding frustration.
I wonder if that’s why cynical takes are so common in tech? It’s that grinding frustration of trying to make the computer do something that leads you to vocalize that frustration—“everything sucks”.
That’s probably worth remembering, both for the conversations you observe, but also the ones you’re involved in yourself. Ask: deep down, do I really feel the way I just expressed?
I think you might find that you really don’t think and feel the things you often tell yourself and others—especially the negative/cynical/pessimistic ones.
Kids are the best. And computers are fun. And they’re both really hard sometimes too.