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Feb 19 2014

How Do You Tell “That Parent” that She is Being “That Parent”?

By at 12:14 pm

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Somewhere between watching the twentieth video clip of my friend’s son doing his signature jig to Gangam Style and listening to an epic recap of his latest trick, I realized I had just about had it. And this is how I came to find myself googling “How to tell your friend to please stop talking incessantly about her child,” my search yielding 8,600,000 hits and making me immediately feel less alone.

Do I sound heartless? I hope not. I really don’t begrudge new parents their abundant zeal for waxing poetic about their child’s adorableness or their eager recounting of sleepless nights and diaper disasters; I tend to indulge their rambling stories with pleasant equanimity, and with close friends I sometimes possess a genuine interest. And heck, I was that parent once too. I remember what it’s like.

But this particular friend is not super-close and somehow, whenever I call or shoot her an e-mail, I always find we end up talking mostly about her son as I wait endlessly for her to ask me about my own two kids. It happens extremely rarely. And when I am able to get in a few words edgewise, it’s all she can do to wait for the end of my sentence before she breaks into the next brilliant thing she just remembered her child said. I’ve had it with her obliviousness, but notoriously horrible at even polite confrontation–I might or might not have once cried when I had to ask my carpool members for the money owed to me–I have simply no idea how to tell her.

We all know that parent, for one by one they succumb like clockwork: hip young adults so convinced they’ll resist turning into those zombie-like drones at the beck and call of a baby, who, upon being born, immediately becomes the complete and total center of their universe. The people who swear up and down that their witty repertoire will never become littered with talk of infant bowel movements and sleep patterns. The men and women who once avowed not to fill their Facebook news feeds with photos of their baby’s first smile or a momentous jar of solid food.

Those people were once so safe in their certainty and disdain for those of us who got to be those parents first, and yet sure enough, with their tender babes’ arrivals comes a metamorphosis so swift, our friends are barely aware of the sudden shift in their personas. “You must see this adorable position Aiden got into in his sleep last night!” the person crows as he shoves a camera into your face, swiftly forgetting that just last year he was making snide remarks about how many photos you took of your offspring. “You are cordially invited to Princess Sophie’s royally themed first half-birthday party,” reads the invitation from parents who once rolled their eyes when you casually invited them for cake for your child’s second birthday.

I don’t gloat at these victories but note them passively, weary with the near-inevitability of the transformation. I could offer snide remarks of my own, some thoughts on karma, but what’s the point? Sometimes it’s tough–one guy I know was so obnoxiously steadfast in his promise to never become that parent and yet, now that the blessed day has arrived, there’s a whole photo album of him with his baby in matching NFL jerseys as they watch the Super Bowl together. I admit I have trouble resisting the urge to parrot his obnoxious words back to him, but I unfollow, or tune out as I smile noncommittally, but I never say, “I told you so.”

Because most parents–like me–eventually calm down once they realize their enthusiam is matched equally by every other parent for their own children. They get it, soon enough: there are few people out there who can genuinely care for extended periods of time about what your kid said/did/made/ate, no matter how astonishing or adorable it was. If you’re lucky, you have a spouse or partner who cares just as much as you do about these things. There are grandparents, and extremely close friends. It’s a short list, and I’m lucky I can add a former boss and two of my dad’s colleagues who are also genuinely invested in my children and eager recipients for the latest photos. But I try to hold back for other people, because I recognize that it’s rare for friendly acquaintances and casual friends to care so deeply about the minor triumphs, tantrums and other anecdotes of your children. I save it for really adorable occasions, like when my son recently pondered the new car I am considering leasing and said matter-of-factly: “There is just one problem, Mommy. How can we fit this in our car now to take home with us?” (We are all still that parent, occasionally.)

But how do I gently tell someone her constant stream of chatter about her child is slowly alienating me? How do I explain her zeal for her child is so genuine that I don’t feel I can disabuse her of the notion that every detail of her child’s life is incredibly interesting and important to me? Especially considering that she rarely affords me any opportunity to talk about my own–I’ll listen to your prattle if you listen to mine–how do I point out to her how inconsiderate she’s being?

Google hits are nice, but I’d rather rely on the kindness of Kveller readers. So tell me: what’s your best advice for dealing with that parent?

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