I've noticed an increasing number of rather hostile interactions lately. There are a small group of people who, upon entering pretty much every public location, cause the blood pressure of other individuals to raise, furtive glances to be thrown to one another, and quite often, the tsking of tongues. Who are these beastly, soul sucking individuals who elicit such scorn?
Yes. The young. Perhaps some of you are shocked to hear this. But it is likely you know of what I speak. As my own growing brood (far too!) quickly shed the "awwww, how adorable" phase of their infancy and are entering "kid-ness", their cuteness factor has seriously declined to anyone not related to them and their "likely to annoy me" factor has increased dramatically for gen-pop.
Take the following two images:
What is causing me to have these thoughts? Aren't the children our future? Are we not to teach them well and let them lead the way? Show them all the beauty they possess inside? Give them a sense of pride? Trust me on this - the children's laughter is not reminding us how we used to be. In fact, it apparently is ruining our (as adults) good time.
I've recently had a few saddening and somewhat confounding experiences where the mere presence of a child who is not absolutely silent is enough to set off an older adult to the point where they feel free to express their opinion regarding my (and my friend's) parenting ability.
Living in a small beach community where many people are long finished raising their own children and apparently would like to never see another child again (at least one that does not bear resemblance to themselves), I've discovered that child tolerance is low. In fact, one tiny community over, the residents fought hard and voted against the public school levy so that their precious tax dollars did not go towards the public schools in their area. Excellent! My, that's foresight for ya! Bravo, I hope they enjoy that extra five bucks a month. Too bad no one thought to do that when their children were in school.
The other evening, one of my dearest friends in the world was visiting us with her adorable just-turned-two- year old. We decided to brave the local pizza restaurant five minutes from our house with our three cumulative children at a respectable hour of 5:15pm.
While my current external children are a bit older and easy enough to placate with crayons and an iPhone (gasp! yes, I do this!) while waiting for dinner to arrive, it's often less easy to distract a hungry two year old.
At the first sign of "maybe he's not going to be very quiet", my friend promptly took her son outside while we waited for dinner and he happily looked at some flowers and bothered no one. My husband had already gone out to the car to look for errant happy meal toys that might appease a bored tyke during our short (read: longest fifteen minutes ever) wait for pizza and spaghetti. Apparently, though, to the patrons directly to our left, nipping potentially wayward toddler behaviour in the bud as soon as it was obvious that he wasn't going to sit quietly, wasn't good enough. They needed to make a loud and pointed comment that I, sitting alone now with my two very very quiet (as in, completely silent and occupied) children, could hear.
Essentially we had a transaction of words that involved her sneering at me and stating how my friend's son was not "trained" properly (yes, she used that word) and should not be "allowed" to act like that (act like a two year old, I suppose). I reminded her that he was two and my friend took him out immediately, but she continued to state that "proper parenting" or something or other and I basically became deaf with rage and my usual very mild mannered self just wasn't having it anymore. I was not going to sit there and listen to some rude woman criticize my friend and just take it simply because she was "older". So I told her that one does not "train" children like animals, and when she refuted that, I told her I thought she sounded ignorant. Her friend told me, "I was as mouthy as that little boy". Mouthy? Like a 15 year old yelling at her mom? Basically, what they wanted was for me to apologize for my friend's son and take their hurtful words. Well, I didn't. I'm 34 years old and as I see it; if you're being an asshole to me, I don't care how old you are, I'm not going to stand for it.
(In a humorous bit of timeliness, Stephen Colbert covered something quite similar to this the other evening on his show, The Colbert Report). I'm super down with respecting one's elders, but not when they're being jerks. Sorry, that's just how it is.
I wish I could say this was the only time I've experience full on "kid hostility". I was at lunch with my friend and her two children and my two children. All four and under. None of them ever left their seats once, screached or screamed or carried on in any way, other than the fact that they were children, laughing, talking and making silly talk with one another. Do you want to guess where we were? PANERA. Panera people! At lunch time. LUNCH TIME. That place is louder than JFK the day before Thanksgiving at lunch time. And some fellow (yes, older) had the audacity to come up to me after he finished his lunch and said, "I can't believe how loud your children were". He was sitting behind us in another booth. Let me also make note that there were about 25 OTHER children within spitting distance at this same time. But I had to get the comment. Is it the pregnant belly? Were my children really being that loud? I'm usually quite attuned to these things and try very hard to nip any overly rambunctious behaviour in the bud immediately without shaming my kids in public. And if they throw tantrums (which none of them had done) then I'd remove them and we'd chill outside for a while, or just take our food to go.
I think that it's not just that kids can be noisy and that is annoying - because people will put up with adults being noisy, or not even hear it at all, but the second some people hear a voice in a higher octave laughing or crying - it's all over for them. It's just something about children that really gets under some people's skin. Case in point. That pizza place we went to the other evening? The table directly behind us had six adults having a completely fun time, laughing, talking loudly, drinking, and enjoying themselves. In fact, they were so into themselves that no one from that table had any idea we were even there, nonetheless even looked our way when angry woman in next booth decided she needed to judge my friend's parenting openly to me. Do you think anyone cared about the six top having a good time? No! Because they were all adults. Loud (louder!) than my friend's baby, but no one batted an eye. I didn't even think about it - because, hey, they were out, enjoying pizza and having a nice time with their friends. But the kid acts squirmy? All eyes on him and the parent.
Should children be seen and not heard? Do you agree with Brat Bans? Should children be relegated to fast food joints with separate play areas only until the age of ten and then use empty threats to ensure good behaviour when we dare uncage them into the sophisticated and mature lands of the the local family pizza joint or Outback Steakhouse?
I fully believe that it's probably not the best idea to take overtired and very young children to places that tend to be "for more mature audiences", ie. swanky restaurants where the loudest sound you hear is the whoosh of the flames as they light your bananas foster - and for which you made reservations 3 weeks prior. But when the mere presence of children in everyday locations is enough to set off hurtful comments to already exhausted parents, at say, the check out line at Target, that's when I get a little pissed off. Parents with one child under the age of one - let me assure you of something right now. You have no idea what you are in store for. Right now, your sweet little cherub is an adult MAGNET. He's cute. He's quiet, he's immobile and pretty okay with being relatively non-verbal. Six more months and that is all done. Hands up. All done. Bye bye. Your kid will become a toddler - and therefore annoying - with very very little you can do to stop the occasional outburst. You will not always be able to arrange your grocery trips to accomodate that perfect balance of well-rested and appropriate blood-glucose level. One day will NOT look like the next. You will not always be able to afford a babysitter to help you out when you absolutely HAVE TO BE SOMEWHERE.
Okay, hey, I'm not going to pretend that there aren't some overly indulgent parents out there who think their child can do no wrong and allow them to run around screaming, visiting tables at restaurants that do NOT seat other family members or friends, and are actually just plain disruptive and annoying. Parents need to be involved and making sure that they are guiding their children. Discipline is key to raising functioning adults who can navigate this world. And sure, some parents do nothing to reign in their kids or show them proper behavior, or know when it's time to maybe leave a situation because their child has escalated. I can see where that get's to be annoying. It annoys me! But it's the ZERO tolerance people I'm talking about. And that's just not fair. Children are human beings and the weight of the world and the pressure for conformity will crush them soon enough - but apparently not soon enough for a lot of people.
And, in a change of topic, sort of - I've got about six and some change weeks left until this baby is carved out of me and I bring another loud and frightening human into the world hellbent on annoying someone who just wants to enjoy their Big Mac in silence.
Coming soon - playroom makeover and plans for where we'll be putting the new baby! Woooooo!