Children Are Human Too

no children

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!

Guilt, Fragility, and Perfection

Today I was riddled with guilt. What was it that caused me such angst? I wanted my husband to come home after work. He does not go out after work often and when he does I rarely have a problem with it. Today was a rough day. Brady had no school so I had both boys all day. They fought over toys all morning. I had to take them both with me to vote and was stared at like a freak for having two children with me to perform my civic duty. Declan refused to nap and was a tired, cranky mess the rest of the day. I texted my husband some choice words about how my day was going. He told me he was coming home instead of going out for drinks. I felt like a terrible, worthless person. I told him to just go out. He came home anyway. I was very, very happy to have him home.

Sometimes, like today, life seems very busy and exhausting and out of control. Part of it is that I have a two-year-old and he is, well, two, and he whines a lot and is demanding and clingy and doesn’t want to nap and is also getting heavy. Part of it is that I have an over-scheduled (to be remedied soon) first-grader and I feel like I am constantly schlepping myself and my kids from here to there and back again. Part of it is that my stupid foot hurts and seeing a podiatrist has brought little relief. Part of it is that I have no paid work at the moment and the complex feelings that brings up are eating at me.

But what it really is, is this, it’s the fact that I feel ridiculously guilty for having even typed out these words. Why should complaining about my day cause me such shame? Why should I feel like an utter failure because sometimes I need help? Why should I feel that if I don’t do every difficult task put before me and do it perfectly without complaint, that I am a terrible mother/wife/daughter/sister/friend? Why do I hate myself for not having the amazingly fulfilling Facebook-Pinterest pinnacle of perfection life?

I miss a lot of things about that glorious, semi-reality of my memory “the time before kids.” I miss being able to go anywhere I wanted any time I wanted and not having to figure out how to get two other people there as well. I miss not having to negotiate each part of the day with little people. I really miss getting up in the morning and only having to get myself ready to be anywhere. But one thing that I truly miss about the days before I had children is the luxury of feeling vulnerable. I miss being able to NOT be the strongest person around. Some days I just really want to be sad and broken and fragile. I want to be taken care of. I want to need to be taken care of.

And of course sometimes I am. I call my mom sometimes and I cry and I tell her that it’s hard. Sometimes, after the kids have gone to bed, I tell my husband that I can’t do it anymore. But I know that I can, and they know that I can. I appreciate the strength my kids have given me. While I have always been a responsible person, my kids have made me an adult. As a mother I have a need to be there, not just for my own children, but for everyone. It is my interpretation of the job description. It doesn’t leave much room to be weak. So sometimes, maybe, I need to break a little, just to remind myself and the people around me that although I am strong, I am also fragile.

As women, and especially as mothers, we are saddled with a myriad of expectations. I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing – expectations help to push us to grow and succeed. But the expectation of perfection is one that no one can live up to. Perfection does not exist. Trying desperately to mix together being a gentle mother and a strong disciplinarian and a sexy vixen and a vulnerable girl and a professional success and a proper feminist and a kind friend and everything else that I feel a need only sets me up for failure, guilt, and disappointment.

What is my point here? I’m really not sure. But I really needed to get this out. Maybe putting it into words will lessen the effects of my personal quest for perfection.