A few months ago when my best friend from high school was visiting for the New Year holiday, we had dinner one night at a local Mexican restaurant. About 10 minutes into our meal a young girl sitting at a table near ours started screaming at her father, “DON’T CLOSE IT! DON’T CLOSE IT!” and I looked over to see that he had taken away her coloring book and was making a motion that indicated it was time to eat. Jon and I tried not to laugh because how many times have we lived that exact moment? How many times have I lifted Leta to put her in the car, tried to pry the book out of her hands to get the seat belt locked in correctly, and have her yell, “AHHHH! YOU’RE GOING TO CLOSE IT! YOU’RE GOING TO CLOSE IT!” And then positioned my body behind the car so that Jon would back up over me.
My friend looked up from her burrito and asked almost disgustedly, “You find her screaming funny?”
“Yeah, well kind of,” I said. “I mean, it’s like she’s doing a spot-on imitation of my kid.”
“It’s not funny,” she said. “It’s annoying.”
Jon and I looked at each other knowingly, and then we tried to change the subject. What were we going to say? I remember when I was childless how I was annoyed by kids who screamed or cried in public. But then I had one of my own, and the most miraculous thing happened. Now? Now when I’m out and I hear a kid shrieking or making a noise so piercing that it permanently ruptures the synapses in my brain, I am overcome with a sense of relief, a relief so intense that I almost reach orgasm, because that kid screaming? It isn’t mine. And I don’t have to deal with it.