Thursday, October 10, 2013

Allowing Children to be in Public

I read this on a friend's facebook page in response to my friend posting an article from a father who had a bad run in at a local grocery store while his child was having a melt down...

"Parents, control your brats. I'm sick of hearing ear-piecing screaming everywhere I go. Not all the world is a Chucky Cheese restaurant. If you can't control your brats keep your goddamn legs closed long enough to buy a box of condoms. Don't bring your screaming toddlers into the movie theater two minutes before the movie starts and sit right behind me. Don't bring your crying babies into the coffeeshop where people are trying to read and have conversations. Don't bring your children incapable of lowering their voices to indoor level into restaurants where I budget money to have a nice night out at a place where people are supposed to be able to spend precious time with friends and hear each other. Leave the kids at home. Start a baby-sitting coop where mommies take turns watching each others kids. Establish public behavior expectations for your kids. If you can't keep them quiet, keep them away from people. Keep them home. They're not as adorable to other people as they are to you. Stop letting them pick their noses and grab cookies and put them back on the serving plate. Stop letting them take a bite out of cookies and put them back on the serving plate. Stop letting them eat sticky candy and touching everything and making the whole world sticky." ~Mary Hunt

I wanted to respond on facebook, but I didn't want to butt into a conversation that I wasn't invited to. Plus facebook isn't always the best place.  My blog, on the other hand, is perfect. 

Both friends are skeptics/non believers/atheists etc, so what better place to vent a bit, than my atheist blog. 

Where do I start? Is there even a place to start?

I have as much control of my children as I do of ignorant bigots and idiot strangers. Okay, maybe that isn't entirely true. I can bribe and punish my children more effectively that I can others, but that isn't to say that sometimes parenting small people, who have their own decision making skills and their own unique personality flaws, doesn't almost seem impossible. 

My mother always told me that the more children I had, the easier mothering would become. My mother is a pathological liar.

Parenting is difficult. I made the choice to become a parent (with each child) and I stopped at two children, but that doesn't make parenting any easier or harder than someone with one or twenty children. Having that much responsibility on your shoulders to raise responsible citizens that don't turn into serial killers is sometimes marginalized or looked at as being an easy job; and if we can't handle it, then we should magically go back in time and chose not to have children. Sorry peeps, it doesn't work like that.

I have ofttimes witnessed the eye rolls of others, judging the struggling parent who is juggling grocery shopping while trying to teach their child the proper way to behave in public. Children are stubborn little things. They don't always have the cognitive power to understand the 'why' behind mommy not letting them eat the grapes she just put in the basket right this instant, or the 'why' behind mommy saying no to the sugary cereal. It's not easy to explain things in easily understandable words to small, young people. And it's not easy rationalizing with them either. Nor is it easy feeling like the 'bad guy'.

To be clear, my children are angels. Sweet little demonic angels. I have been lucky that screaming tantrums didn't grace my children. When I was walking through the grocery store, saying no to all the wonderful treasures my children thought they absolutely needed, they would play opossum. Not kidding. My little K and her Irish twin sissy, little M, would lie down in the middle of the aisle and NOT MOVE. Luckily that doesn't bring the kind of attention as a flailing, screaming child does. But I didn't train them to do that. I didn't threaten them within an inch of their little precious lives, I didn't practice at home with duct tape and rope... nope (I know, what kind of mother AM I?)  That is just how they chose to express their frustration. 

...Mommy said no?  Okay, I'll just practice the civil disobedience mother patiently taught me at home and refuse to move away from the sugar coated, frosted chocolate, diabetes themed cereal and become practically immovable dead weight... 

They didn't scream, kick or bite. They just 'died'. 

Do I consider that a tantrum? HELL YES. 

Did I handle it in the same way that I would have if they had been screaming?  Yes. 

They were not going to get their way. That would be horrible parenting. No parent worth their weight would give in; THAT could turn a child into a brat. A child pushing their limits does not make them bratty. We ALL push our limits.  We just do it in different ways.

I push my limits while driving, while planning my day, when asking favors of friends, when I really want something from my husband. We all do it. Just little young people are still learning how to do it effectively. Positively reinforcing negative behavior isn't how you teach someone positive behavior.

Children should be taught to express themselves in a regular tone of voice, they should be taught to debate and stand up for themselves, but those lessons are learned over time. It's not a miraculous thing. Neither is learning to walk or ride a bike. Sometimes people fall, sometimes things don't come out right, sometimes people overreact. The same thing applies to children. How can anyone hold a small child to expectations they cannot met as an adult with decades more experience? How pathetic. 

Just to set the record straight, my children are also not allowed to act crazy in Chuck E Cheese either. What an ignorant thing to say. My children are expected to use their indoor voice at all times. Sometimes it doesn't happen and I have to gently remind them. Adults do the same thing. That doesn't mean that adults shouldn't be allowed to enjoy public spaces.

No one is perfect. And people should not throw stones, regardless of housing situation. People misbehave, no matter their age. Children know how to irritate their parents, they know their parents so well, they know the exact pitch to hit with their screams in order to get the fastest response. Trust me, while my children would go all opossum on me in the store, restaurants were so very different. I assume because restaurants tend to be loud, my children felt the need to scream above the noise to be heard. I have removed my children from restaurants to take them outside and have always done my best to help them reset. Does it always work? No. But as a parent, raising a child who I hope will one day save the world, I am doing my fucking best. 

Maybe instead of being such a judgmental shrew, Mary could rethink how SHE could be a better person in that kind of situation. Did you see a mother of two tending to one child who was hurt or needed help, and witness the child behind her take a cookie, bite it and put it back? How about you walk your lazy ass over, pick up that cookie and any others it touched with a napkin and dispose of it. Mother's don't automatically get eyes in the back of their head once a child in placed in their arms. Crazy, I know!

I hate to be the one to remind you, but this world isn't a man's world, it isn't a childless person's world, it isn't even a child's world. What kind of narcissist would expect people to live around HER? Should I ask permission prior to taking my child out to eat on their birthday? Some days people feel awesome and ready to conquer the world, other days, people don't feel so great. The same applies to young people.  Just because we are out to celebrate, doesn't mean my child feels like it. Sometimes they don't tell me because they are still learning to put their emotions into words.

Granted, there are some lazy parents, parents who have given up, maybe they didn't want to be parents to begin with. Maybe they have struggles that you don't see. Maybe the child has special needs that aren't apparent to the judgmental eye of folks.  Sometimes the child screaming is screaming because they can't get their parent to understand them and the parent could not care less. But every single parent I know does their best. They love their children and want their children to behave themselves too. But it's a work in progress. 

No one thinks their child picking their nose is adorable. When I see my children itching themselves or picking at things, I try to guide them to do it in private and to use a tissue. Children itch what needs to be scratched, they are still being modeled to be accepted into our society as 'normals' and sometimes it takes practice. What a dumb thing to say. I have never told my children that picking their nose and touching things is socially appropriate, how did you come up with this stuff?

Sometimes it feels like we are so used to complaining about and bashing others that we don't take a moment to have basic human compassion and empathy for them. I understand how frustrating it can be to plan a date night, budget in money for a movie and dinner (AND a babysitter) just to sit down next to a table full of rowdy children.  Does it kinda suck? Sure, but I've been the mother at that table of loudmouth, excited children. I can sympathize and it's not a crime to ask for a different table or move to the bar. I've done that as well, because I am a full grown adult that understands that people don't live around me. If I am uncomfortable, whatever the reason, I remove myself. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. Life goes on.

I don't want to touch upon the misogynistic things she said about keeping legs closed, that is an entirely different can of worms that my feminist punk ass won't get started on. Dude... whatever happened to not saying things if you don't have anything nice to say, especially when what you have to say is borderline vicious?  Maybe Mary's mother should have done a better job raising her.  Since raising perfectly proper children is obviously as easy as tying your laces.

We no longer live in an era where children are seen and not heard. Same with women and mothers and minorities. Don't like it? How about you stay at home and not go out in public since it seems like you don't even have the skills you require to be out with the rest of the world.

One last thing I want to point out:

No matter how much you clean your kids or wash their hands or prevent them from eating sticky things, most children, by nature, tend to be sticky. (That is why most parents carry around wet wipes.) Fucking deal with it like a gawd damned adult.

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