Ray Tolbert remembers the first time he heard a meltdown…and realized it was not his kid.
I’m going to set the scene for you. You and your significant other have just completed the ordeal of getting the kids loaded into the car, drove to your destination and unloaded everyone. You finally made it to where ever it is you are going. As you’re settling into your activity (movie, dinner at a restaurant, park, whatever) an all too familiar sound begins to creep its way toward you. It’s the horrible sound of one of your kids having a shit-fit meltdown.
Much like a giant man-eating plant their beginnings 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 snaring everyone and everything in its path. The vines grow and sprout louder screechy 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 breath. The whole day is going to be 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.
Your face is flush. It’s a combination of adrenaline and joy. 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 kid 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 new solution.
Offer original solution.
Threaten (you really mean it this time).
Our first N.O.K. 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 boys there so they can run, climb and sprint head first screaming into some other kid who was sprinting 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 super nova. My wife and I locked eyes. Our bodies went rigid. We just stared towards each other for a moment too 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 slide 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 I went back to enjoying my spicy chicken sandwich that tasted 10 times better than it did two seconds ago. The world tasted and smelled better and much like the person in the example above I loved everything a little bit more.
N.O.K.’s are a new experience for my wife and me. We are much more used to their painful cousin the T.O.K. (That’s Our Kid) moments. T.O.K. s are not fun. T.O.K. moments make you question ever eating outside the house again. They make you question the whole notion that humans should ever procreate. TOKs will make you question everything you’ve ever done as a parent up to this terrifying and embarrassing moment. They are awful for everybody involved. You’re annoyed and apologizing to strangers who you swear are glaring a hole through your head.
N.O.K.s though, N.O.K.s 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. Or that time I ordered the 2-Cheeseburger meal from McDonald’s (#4) and they gave me 2 double cheeseburgers instead. N.O.K.s make you feel like the king and queen of parenting.
There have been times when my wife and I have been so enthralled in our N.O.K. moment 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 NOK moment in the face of someone who is suffering through their own T.O.K. moment. It’s bad form. If there were parenting referees they would throw a flag:
“Personal Foul: Taunting, (points at me and my wife) those two assholes over there. 15 minutes in Build-a-Bear, Automatic – FIRST DOWN!”
Next time you’re out with your family and witness an someone having an explosive TOK 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 great day. You’ve earned it.
—Photo Celine Nadeau/Flickr