All of us know some of one and some of the other. There are plenty of people out there that hate children. Really hate children. If a building was on fire and they had a choice between saving someone’s pet or someone’s child, they would choose to save the animal. I know people like this, I’ve worked with them. I’ve actually heard some of them say these exact words to me. They are the ones that glare at you and your kids at restaurants, movies, cafes and other public places. They panic when they see you on the airplane. They make snide remarks to their other childfree friends about why abortion should be legalized. They gripe about their taxes going to education or playgrounds or other child related public policies. But do I hate them? No. But they seem to hate me, my children and what we represent. An imposition in their child free lives.
But let’s look at the opposite end of the spectrum. The entitled, the spoiled, the obnoxious, the whiny, yelling, stubborn babies that believe the whole world revolves around them. And their children are just as bad. Let’s face it, there are a lot of parents out there that give the rest of parents a bad reputation. I’m sure we all can name one or two of our friends or acquaintances who are guilty of selfish parenting. They make going out in public difficult for everyone, not just the childfree.
I once had lunch at a restaurant and watched two moms chatting and eating while their two little ballerina darlings (probably 4 years old each) smeared ketchup and mustard on the mirrored walls behind them. The whole restaurant watched in fascination and yet the moms did nothing to stop the budding Picassos. When the manager came over and asked the moms to stop their little darlings, one mom rolled her eyes at him and said, “it’s just a mirror, its not like it won’t wipe off.” When she went to grab her daughter’s hands, the little dear flew into a raging tantrum that silenced everyone else in the restaurant. The mom then decided to let the little dear roll around on the floor screaming for several minutes as every single person in the restaurant stared at her. At this point, even her friend was looking at her funny. Finally, the mother got a clue, picked up her little angel and walked out. I kept staring after the woman mystified. Did she not believe that her daughter’s actions were inappropriate? Is this what she allowed her daughter to do in her own house? Paint the walls with condiments?
A friend of mine and her 2 year old daughter were playing at the park when a bigger child of 6 kept pushing her daughter off the play equipment. My friend tried to reason with the 6 year old not to push someone so much smaller, but to no avail. At one point, the 6 year old actually spit in the 2 year old’s face and shoved her down. My friend was naturally upset and yelled out for the 6 year old’s mother who had been chatting with friends and not paying any attention. When confronted with her son’s actions, the mother said (and this is a direct quote), “What’s the big deal, he’s only 6 years old. He doesn’t know any better, he was only playing.” No apology for her son’s actions, no explaining to her son that spitting in someone’s face is considered a socially inappropriate action. Nothing but indignation that my friend should be so upset at her son. She even said “Why can’t you be more understanding?” I don’t get this. If he was my kid, you can safely bet I would have chewed his ear off and although I don’t spank my kids, that boy might have been deserving of the golden rod. I take that back, that mom should have been the one beaten. A 6 year old should know better, or should know better with proper parenting.
In some ways, I am resigned to the hatred between the two groups. A recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle about cafes that cater to families triggered vicious comments from both parents and childfree alike. One side claiming that the mommy brigade with their SUV like strollers were ruining the café and dining out experience for the rest of the world while the other side cried out for parents and children’s rights to go out in public.
A few years back, there was outcry over a sign placed in a café over in Chicago. A Taste of Heaven owner Dan McCauley posted a sign that read “Children of all ages have to behave and use their indoor voices when they come to A Taste of Heaven.” This triggered talks of boycotts by neighborhood mothers’ groups and overwhelming support for the owner from all corners of the globe. The brouhaha surprised me when it happened. Don’t we all teach our children to use indoor voices inside? Why is it wrong when an establishment’s owner requests the same thing? Well the mistake is in my question “Don’t we all…” for clearly not all parents do.
This also leads me to the interesting debate over breastfeeding in public and Bill Maher. Mother blogs across the country spouted “We hate Bill Maher” titles after his statements against the La Leche nurse-in stance taken when a breastfeeding mother was asked to cover-up, go to the bathroom or leave at an Appleby’s restaurant. The number of blogs commenting on this situation gives you an idea of the depth and touchiness of this issue. Mothers are up in arms. Again, I’m not sure why there is so much controversy. I applaud a woman’s right to breastfeed their baby, wherever they want. But is being discreet problematic? There are so many outfits geared for discreet breastfeeding, is there a need to whip out a large mammary gland as a spectator sport? Is it then ok for people to stare at your breast as you breastfeed? Nobody should take away a mother’s right to breastfeed their child, however, a little discretion is all we ask for.
Another article heralding the end of family pre-boarding courtesy on Southwest airline triggered over 300 comments. The antagonism towards parents was surprising. Even those comments disagreeing with the new policy change did so with considerable animosity towards families with children. Making remarks like “ending pre-boarding for families with children is plain stupid. I liked being able to sit as far away as I could from those snotty nosed kids and their entitled jerky parents.”
I’ve found a lot of interesting blogs and articles which expounds on the hatred of these two groups and I find it fascinating. Real live people who passionately hate children (and their bonehead parents) versus loudmouthed, self-righteous, self-absorbed parents who can’t seem to care enough to discipline their screaming angel who is now pouring syrup all over the café floor. Ooooh, who to root for? Whose side is right and whose is wrong? How about neither side? They both have good and bad points but the biggest problem is the sheer intolerance I see from both these groups. There are plenty of childfree sites out there that don’t hate children. All they want is for parents to start acting responsibly towards their own kids, like don’t let them run screaming up and down the restaurant aisles while you ignore their behavior. Don’t let them kick the airplane seat the whole time during a crowded five hour flight. I find this quite reasonable. I am a parent of three, and I agree wholeheartedly with teaching children the social niceties. And if they can’t behave, you need to discipline them appropriately. We have an obligation as parents to raise our children correctly and teach them what is proper behavior at all times.
Entitled parents are selfish parents, who don’t care that the actions of their children are imposing negatively to others. They make it harder for the rest of us who are trying to raise our children right and teach them proper behavior. No my children are not always properly behaved. But when they act inappropriately, I jump on them, I don’t let it slide. How parents discipline their children is vastly different and I will not criticize anyone’s style. However, I do have a problem with the no discipline approach I have seen in many parents. Children are not your friends and you should not treat them as such. They are children and need to be parented, that means disciplined, appropriately. Entitled parents believe that nothing their precious children do is wrong. I was once sitting in the café area of Barnes and Nobles and watched a 3 year old grab a mug and smash it into a thousand pieces on the floor. The mom did not tell her child the behavior was wrong, but this was not the worst offense. When a bookseller came over to clean up the mess, the woman chided the employee for having breakables in easy reach of small children. No offer to pay for the broken ware, no explaining to little Zoe that what she was doing was not a good idea. In fact, I don’t recall her saying the word “No” at all. Ah, but that is a rant for another day.
At the same time, there are plenty of childfree sites I have found that spout an ugliness towards parents in general that I find deeply distressing and disturbing. One site called parents “breeder trolls” and came up with a list of offensive terms to denigrate parents and their children. For instance, someone who desperately wants to get pregnant has “baby rabies” or someone with multiple pregnancies has a “freaklitter.” Female breeders who whine and moan are “mooing” and a “SHAM” is a stay at home moo (mommy). I won’t link to the sites (and there are many!) because I don’t want them to rabble rouse on my blog. And while most do try to make a distinction between a good parent and a “breeder,” the problem is that it becomes difficult to distinguish between the two amongst all the venom. Hatred in any form is ugly. What makes hate filled remarks against parents and children any different from the Klu Klux Klan and their hate filled positions against minorities? I would say any wholesale hatred against a group is discrimination and it is wrong.
I respect a person’s right to not have children. One of the smartest choices a person can make is one where they decide a life with children is not for them. Realizing that good parenting is about sacrifice, and that this sacrifice might not be what they want in their lives. Many of us have thought of somebody (Britney Spears) who clearly should have thought more about the sacrifices of having children before having them. I admire those who have made that choice. Just as I admire all those parents out there who work hard to provide a good home and safe nurturing environment for their children. The children of today are the future of us all. There is no denying it. Instead of spewing hatred and ranting and raving against one another, we must work to make sure that our future turns out the best possible way for all of us.