Don’t read the hundreds of comments

On this thread at Feministe. Remember: there are video games to play and plenty of lint to pick out of your bellybutton.

This doesn’t mean, however, that the topic is unimportant. And because it is so important, just be glad that you have me. I have kept up with that entire thread. I’ve even been told to “get over” myself by some of the thread’s more belligerent participants.

And I shall bring you two important issues that I have gleaned for the debate, which started out as “it’s not OK to say ‘I hate children’ and here’s why” sort of thing:

Issue #1

Being uncomfortable in public spaces. Being particularly uncomfortable in a public space wherein someone else’s sticky-palmed toddler decides to drool on your vintage Gucci bag (liberals don’t wear vintage Gucci? Puh-leeze.).

What I’ve gleaned from the discussion on Feministe is that THIS IS PERFECTLY FINE. It should also be perfectly fine for said uncomfortable individual to express whatever it is that’s bugging him or her to said little bugger’s parents. Because, and I’m sure every sane person will agree with me on this, entitled parents everywhere need to be taken down a notch.

HOWEVER,

It’s NOT FINE to express your discomfort in a rude manner. If you think that you can teach someone a little bit about politeness, be bloody polite. Don’t glare, huff, roll your eyes, sneer, and otherwise act like Jennifier Lopez in a dressing room. Don’t call parents “breeders” or “moo’s” – this will only inspire mistrust. I know this is hard to do. It’s hard to do especially due to the fact that sensitive people are, almost always, awkward people. But it’s the price of being out in public. We all share public spaces, and we all have the potential of getting on each other’s nerves. Adults deal with this in adult ways.

Obviously, some parents are not worth your time. Some people you just need to ignore. Use your judgment.

I have to do this a lot – because kids tend to stare and point, and even say rude things, when I’m talking in a foreign language in public. Sometimes I make eye contact, and smile, and say, “I’m speaking Russian [or English, if I’m in Ukraine], in case you’re wondering.” Sometimes, if the kid is being an absolute brat, I just make eye-contact, shake my head, and turn away. I once had a kid walk up to me and apologize for being rude, after his mother noticed. Other parents could care less. This is perfectly normal – the majority of people are idiots (yep, I’m a bigot and a misanthrope for saying this) and every time you leave your house, you’re bound to have to deal with their idiocy. It’s all part of the great circle of life.

I do however, try to cut people some slack. Especially people with little kids – because I am an older sister to a much younger brother, and I know what it’s like to be out with a little kid in public. I was lucky that my brother was always very mature for his age, but stuff happens. The fact that at 14, I could pass for 18 didn’t help either – many people automatically assumed me to be a “teenage mother,” and you know how we treat those in society. All of this leads me to Issue #2:

Issue #2

Does it “take a village” to raise a kid? And if it does, what does that even mean?

Here’s an interesting comment from that thread:

Either child-rearing is a community-participatory activity; or parents have sole discretion in the matter of raising their children. If it takes a village, the village gets to have an opinion on your suitability as a parent – and you have to hear it.

I agree and disagree at the same time. Why? First of all, “suitability” is the wrong concept. It implies that anyone has the right to say, “you’re not suitable to be a parent.” And that’s only something that a court decides when you, a parent, are doing coke with your kids off their Avril Lavigne CD-cases (no, I’m not trying to trivialize child abuse). A much better question would be – “are you, as a parent, doing right by your children?”

Second of all, parents are individuals – not an indistinguishable mass of diaper-waving losers obsessed with their child’s every bowel movement. Every parent needs to be approached on his or her own individual qualities. Every situation is different. There is no magic formula that will suddenly make all of us get along.

When I was out and about with my little brother and disaster struck, I remember some people being being super-helpful, without resorting to condescension or rudeness. These are the people who believe in the “village” concept – and do not abuse it. The Charlotte woman who helped me gather my stuff when my brother accidentally overturned my shopping basket – I salute her. The woman who said, “you know, when they get like this, my husband and I try x, y, and z…” when my brother was acting out on a long train ride, I salute her as well. The woman who sneered and said, loud enough for me to hear, “should’ve used a condom” – when my brother spilled a soft drink on himself at Burger King and started to cry, well, she sounds like an extremely bitter individual anyway – deserving of eternal pity.

Bottom line is, taking care of kids can suck. Encountering other people’s kids can also suck. Doesn’t mean we have to rip out each other’s throats (or other body parts) because of it.

5 thoughts on “Don’t read the hundreds of comments

  1. First of all, “suitability” is the wrong concept. It implies that anyone has the right to say, “you’re not suitable to be a parent.”

    That’s a fair criticism. I guess what I meant was, if parents are going to demand that the rest of society be an aid to their parenting, the rest of society gets some opportunity to potentially say “you’re not doing it right.” Or perhaps “you’re raising your child in such a way that the rest of us are going to have to pay for it long after you’re gone.”

    The woman who sneered and said, loud enough for me to hear, “should’ve used a condom” – when my brother spilled a soft drink on himself at Burger King and started to cry, well, she sounds like an extremely bitter individual anyway – deserving of eternal pity.

    Yeah, that’s plain rude. I’m not a fan of anybody’s kids but that’s no excuse for being an ass. But there’s a certain kind of parent who is convinced that any time someone suggests that they’ve brought a child to an inappropriate place or are allowing their child to behave in an inappropriate way, that person must be an asshole, especially if they don’t have any kids of their own.

    Those are the entitled parents, and you’re right; they need to “build a bridge and get over themselves”, like someone said.

  2. Very interesting. My only question to these children-haters is… were they never children? Did they never do loud, inconvenient things in public? I chalk this type of sentiment up to American society rotting from within. I mean, “I hate children”? How can you really defend that?

  3. Chet, you’re right. Like most people – I have been exposed to completely clueless parents. Funnily enough, these parents can be just as cruel to other parents as they are to childfree folk. Only in the former instance, the cruelty takes a kind of prescriptive form – as in, “MY little Johnny eats oatmeal every day, and the fact that you brought your kid to Burger King means you’re an asshole.”

    Lyndon, a lot of people who say these things are being facetious, naturally. I throw the word “hate” around pretty casually myself. But, the condom comment at the aforementioned Burger King did wake me up to a whole new reality – to people who are plain assholes. Oftentimes, I think they are insecure with their own memories of childhood, hence children make them more than just a little uncomfortable…

    I’ll never forget a night in Disney World (!!!) when a thoroughly inebriated woman ran smack into me in a crowded restaurant and said, I mean, really said this: “Watch we’re you’re going, you little shit.” I was about eleven years old at the time, and automatically blamed myself. Then again, I had been exposed to the cruelty of adults from an early age – and had learned how to cope with it by deciding that bad things that adults did were a reflection of my own sorry character.

  4. Thank you for taking a crazy-making thread and presenting the key points so neatly! I bow (or curtsy, if you prefer).

    The woman who sneered and said, loud enough for me to hear, “should’ve used a condom” – when my brother spilled a soft drink on himself at Burger King and started to cry

    That woman was really, really beyond rudeness and well into cruelty. What an awful thing for her to say.

  5. The fact that at 14, I could pass for 18 didn’t help either – many people automatically assumed me to be a “teenage mother,” and you know how we treat those in society.

    “When you assume, you make and ass out of u and, well, u…”

    🙂

    Not that, had you been the mother, it would have given that woman any more right to make the condom comment. Anyone who goes to BK and is offended to encounter a crying child is full of BS.

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