I read an interesting editorial-ish type of article recently. The last three paragraphs resonated with me so much that found my neck hurt from all the nodding I was doing. I don’t always 100% relate to or agree with everything written in Jezebel, but this one hit sort of close to home. Here are the parts that really got to me.
All of us, child-free or child-having, has been subjected to a poorly-parented kid. That would be the one screaming in the middle of the nice restaurant who isn’t being removed, because mom or dad wants to eat their meal hot and has learned to ignore the wailing. That might also be the kid who, after eating all the sugar packets at the table (because it’s easier to let him than to tell him not to) goes careening around the restaurant babbling and bumping into things and other diners. Or it’s the kid who delights in throwing everything up, down and around: food, silverware, sugar packets, torn-up napkin bits, toys and anything else with which mom or dad supplies him to keep him from screaming while they eat even though the mess is disruptive and thoughtless. Mom and/or Dad, in those cases, is enabling the bad behavior, if not causing it, by their desire to live as close to a child-free life as possible by ignoring the screaming, or the mess, or the child, to the detriment of anyone else that hasn’t learned to tune out that child.
At the end of the day, the real issue is the parents, not the kid. I don’t hate kids, and I’m more than happy to interact with them in kid-appropriate spaces: parks, family-friendly restaurants, diners, museums, amusement parks and even movie theatres if I happen to subject myself to a showing of a child-friendly movie at a reasonable hour. But if you’ve brought your kids into a bar at night where I am drinking (and where you used to drink when you were child-free), no, I’m not going to watch my language in front of your kid. If your kid is kicking my seat after the second hour of Grindhouse, yeah, I am going to turn around and ask him to stop and you to make him (and I’m going to think you’re a terrible parent for bringing him). If your kid tries to climb up my leg while covered in ketchup while you snarf back wine and tell your friends how adorable he is, I am going to have something to say about that. And if the patron of my local liquor store, say, asks you to leave your 4-foot-wide stroller outside so that other people can get in and out and they can conduct their business, I’m not going to feel sympathy for your potentially stolen stroller that costs more than my car. You had the child, your bought the status-symbol stroller and you’re the one now asking the world to change to accommodate you rather than you changing to accommodate the needs of your child and the rest of the world. Life’s not fair, man, and kids change it. You might want to do everything you used to do before kids, but that ain’t how it works.
On the other hand, if you’re a single lady struggling to get a small stroller up or down the subway stairs, I’ll totally help. Hell, I’ll even hold your (very polite) child by the hand and help her down the stairs while you carry that stroller if you ask me nicely. I don’t mind if he wants to stare out the subway car windows by standing on the seats or points at my hair and wants to know if he can touch. I like that you brought her to a museum, and her laughing at this Disney cartoon makes it more fun for me to watch. Running around the park is awesome. I could care less about your mommy happy hours, or the early bird kids specials at the restaurant or even tripping over a stroller that you valiantly folded and tried to get out of the way. But at 8:30, I don’t want to see you giving me a nasty look for laughing too loud at a dirty joke told over a $50 steak and a $15 cocktail, and your kid better not be seasoning the carpet with your au jus. I chose my path, you chose yours. You act like a parent, then we’ll both act like grown-ups, and everyone will be better off. It seems like a fair compromise — and one that, by becoming a parent, you kind of already signed up for.
Basically, if you chose to breed, you implicitly chose to parent. But there are definitely childfree people out there who get uppity at the sound of a baby crying who need to learn to share. (Not that I totally did that last week or anything and sort of still feel like a jerk for staring at the mom and kind of giving her a “Can you DO something about that loud-ass kid already?” look. In my defense, I wasn’t feeling well and was cranky. Also, am an asshole from time to time.) Kids learn from multiple examples and if EVERY adult around them is acting like a great big baby, where are these kids supposed to magically pick up how to be respectful people? From the dad who ignores the kid trashing Starbucks? Or the cranky lady who yells at him to do something?
I don’t really know where I am going with all of this, other than I know I am One of Those Horrible People Who Has Dared Not to Breed and Therefore Has No Heart or Compassion but dude. I’m trying. Really. All I ask is that your kid doesn’t dump his sippy cup on me. Deal?