Ok, this is one that gets me all sorts of fired up so bear with me while I get my thoughts out. I am of the opinion that people under the age of say, 17, deserve to exist as a part of society. I think that they are valid human beings and as such I think they have a right to leave their homes and be a part of the world in places that are not playgrounds, schools, or chain family restaurants. I do NOT think they should be everywhere all the time. They should probably not play at factories, or at research libraries, or at upscale restaurants after 8pm. I am the first one to be annoyed when there is a screaming toddler at the next table when I’m out for a late-night, date night with my husband. Children are children and (for the most part) do not have the self-control that adults do and therefor cannot be expected to behave properly in all situations. That said, I get seriously pissed off when people act like the very presence of children, just out in the neighborhood, is not just an annoyance, but an affront to adults.
Living in New York, just walking a few blocks, we encounter countless people. More often than I expect, there are people who are appalled that a person who has not yet reached physical maturity is allowed to walk on the same sidewalk as them. Did you know that children are generally shorter than adults and that adults might *gasp* have to be aware of their surroundings in order to not bash into them as they hurry to wherever it is they’re going? It’s true.
I have encountered plenty of people who feel it is their duty to tell me that children don’t belong on the sidewalk. I hear a lot of “Hey, watch your kid!” and “Could you please control him?” as my children walk by my side. Sometimes they even have the audacity to bounce or skip which I’m sure it’s just to draw the ire of random strangers walking by. I usually quickly shout back that I am “so sorry that my child dared to exist!” or something else that it seems only serves to fuel their vitriol for the youth of the world. I’m not quite sure how we’re supposed to get anywhere or do anything. Maybe we’re supposed to just stay inside all day. Should there be designated lanes for us like there are for bikers, lest we accidentally get in the way of some adult in a hurry?
I treat my children like human beings under the assumption that, in fact, they are. I wonder how much contact these anti-child people have with actual children and I worry that the answer is anything other than “none.” I hear a lot of people say things like, “I don’t like kids.” Worse, I hear a lot of parents say things like, “I don’t like kids, except for my own.” I used to think that I didn’t enjoy children. I didn’t see very many of them. Then my friends started having babies. I found that children were often pleasant to be around and that they actually had things to offer to help me grow in my own humanity. I have found that kids (maybe aside from toddlers) are annoying in public about as often as adults are, although they may be louder. Unlike adults, children have the excuse of not having as much self-control, life experience, or knowledge of social norms.
Now, as a mother, I enjoy spending time with children. I like my kids’ friends. I look forward to being the chaperone on the field trips because I get to chat with the kids in the class. I’m the first to volunteer to help with an art project, because I am awed by what kids come up with when given minimal direction. The ideas that children have about the world are, in my opinion, invaluable. I honestly believe that most adults would benefit from a good discussion about why mountains exist with a 4-year-old or a conversation about the value of sharks with a 7-year-old.
I’m not saying that everyone has to “like kids” or even spend time with them. I am certainly not in any way advocating that everyone should have children of their own. I am saying that everyone has to tolerate and even respect them when they are out and about in public. I am saying that children deserve to be there just as much you or I. Overall, what I’m saying is, if you don’t like my kids, or any kids, being out in the world with you, will you kindly keep your damn mouth shut! Unless it comes to the demise of our species, they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Perhaps you long for the days when children were to be “seen and not heard.” Since I’m willing to bet that most people aren’t too keen to go back to the days when women stayed in the kitchen, men were the sole rule makers, and the sight of a bare ankle was scandalous, let’s go with the idea that children are real people and not property. If you’re on board with those things, then by all means, yell at me about my kids on the sidewalk…you probably need the outlet!