You’re not a parent, so you don’t know

Every so often on a very large board I used to participate on, someone would report that they’d gotten this treatment:

“You’re not a parent, so you don’t know.”

Usually this line is uttered in response to someone who has expressed a desire that a parent prevent his or her children from screaming “A thousand bottles of beer on the wall” in a nosebleed-inducing screech while straddling the back of your seat on an airplane.

No matter what someone uses to put down your intelligence, it’s rude. But I find it especially rude to imply that because the person you’re talking to may not have children, she doesn’t understand discipline, compassion and hard work.

Having said that, I recently remembered the only time in my life that I’ve ever said to someone, “You’re not a parent, so you don’t know.”

Three years ago, my brother-in-law was staying at our house. I can’t remember if it was for a five-day visit or for the summer, to be honest, but he hadn’t been around our children very long.

upsidedownHe’s a great guy and our children adore him, particularly Kiddo#2 who had a terrible Uncle Crush on him and, after he left from the summer-long visit, asked me to print out a picture of him to hang in her room.

Like unto his Patient Brother, my Patient Brother-In-Law is a computer geek, always arriving with his laptop and many awesome finds for us to admire.

And so it was, one afternoon, while my Patient Brother-In-Law was out on the lawn wreaking havoc with the children and my Patient Husband, I went downstairs into the family room to take care of some detail or other, and I saw it:

In the dark, in the silence, low on the carpet, the steady glow of a standby light. My brother-in-law’s laptop, laid carefully on the carpet right in front of the television stand. Right in front of the TV, in front of the VCR, in front of the DVD player.

Fighting giggles, I moved it to a higher location, and then I tracked down my Patient Brother-In-Law, and I uttered those terrible seven words as preamble to my explanation of why I’d needed to save his laptop’s life.

Because sometimes, if you aren’t a parent, you don’t know that to a toddler in pursuit of Clifford or DragonTales, the world is your step-stool.


  1. Deb

    Reading this reminded me of the mistake I made after I became a parent: the laptop on the floor, with the USB cable still connected. Princess closed the “lid” and stepped on it to reach something (gaining the 1.5 inches the closed laptop gave her was very important) and crushed the screen.

    Not covered under warranty! Why don’t they cover “toddler damage?” The world is against us parents, I tell you…


  2. kherbert

    I’m not a parent, but I once told a boss you really don’t get kids do you.

    It was at the museum and we were hanging an exhibit that was shadow boxes of an illustrators work. This was in the Children’s Art Museum. I told them they were hanging the exhibit to high.

    They (director and 2 installers) said no this was the standard height.

    I sat on the floor and said no it is too high all I can see is the frame.

    They said your sitting on the floor.

    I started laughing and said “You all really don’t get kids do you. How tall do you think a 5 year old is. Let me show you want they are going to do when they get frustrated.” I grabbed both sides of the shadow box and pretended to pull myself up.

    They agreed to lower them.

    1. cricketB

      You can tell which pictures I put up, and which OnebitCPU put up. My arm is bruised from the mailbox — it’s about two inches too high for me — not quite enough to insist he “do it over, and do it right.” I let our daughter hang the pictures in her room — they’re perfect. Good thing about karate: If OnebitCPU does horse stance, he’s the right height to understand my problem.

  3. Jason Block

    I love the unbridled joy in that picture.

  4. Promise

    Ugh. My sister says this to me all.of.the.time. Because, apparently, when she had her first child at 16, she instantly became knowledgeable of everything pertaining to children. While I, who have worked with children for over 16 years, apparently know nothing as I cannot have children of my own.

    1. philangelus

      Do you know not to put your laptop on the floor in front of the television, right where a 3 year old would stand to turn it on? If so, you have enough knowledge to survive in my home. 😀

      1. Promise

        Yup. 🙂 I actually know how to do and get her kids to do a lot of things that she can’t. She still can’t figure out how I can get the 18 month old to go to sleep when she can’t.

        1. philangelus

          You want to come over here and put my 18 month old to sleep? 🙂 Because I’m a one-trick pony with that kid, and if he doesn’t go down, I end up reading a lot of

  5. cricketB

    I just finished coaching another mom not to say, “You’ve never taught grade 6, so you don’t realize that girls need to have at least one other girl at the table.” Say instead, “Daughter wants someone at her table she can talk about horses and clothes with, not horror movies and gross stuff.” I enjoy watching the kids with non-kids-aware people. At the family reunion I realized I’d lost my toddler-supervising habits (but I can still wrangle a stroller through the stairwell at the mall parking lot for new moms).