Monday, December 26, 2011

Why so anti-child?

Lately it seems like I can't turn around without hearing something about how awful it is for people without kids to have to go out in public and see kids there. Especially when they're doing things that kids do, like crying, nursing, moving around, making noise, or sometimes misbehaving.

Of course these people don't consider themselves to be anti-child. On the contrary, they love kids! It's just the badly-behaved kids, which their own children or nieces and nephews never were. They blame the parents. What were parents doing bringing their children into a church or a restaurant or on a plane? They should have known it would end in disaster. Or else the problem is that they're not "dealing with it" in the way the commenter thinks it should be dealt with. Parents nowadays don't discipline their children, etc. etc. etc.

Here's a few quotes that I've run across in the past week. Each was in a public forum that got plenty of responses, so don't worry that these stood on their own without someone to tell them they were wrong.

This one is from Catholic Answers Forums:

It amazes me that almost every week there is someone in the church who will allow their small children to scream and cry during a large portion the Mass. Just for once, I would like to see the priest give pause, look in the direction of the noise and wait until the offending parent gets the hint and removes the little darling to the back of church so others aren't disturbed. What ever happend to the quiet reverence?

Well, I attend a church where they do just this. Of course the parents live in fear that they will be the recipient of the priestly glare, so they don't go into the church at all, but stay packed in like sardines in the uncomfortable vestibule, unable to hear much, while the children are learning nothing about proper church behavior because there isn't so much as a chair for them to sit in. I sometimes end up stuck back here holding my son (because there is no other option; if I put him down he'd vanish in the crowd) for the whole hour. When I leave the church, my back is killing me and I can barely walk.

For Christmas, we went to a different parish. I stayed in the pew the whole time, and John was in the vestibule with Marko for part. It was amazing to actually get to participate in the Mass, and to have a place to sit. For once, it didn't feel like a cross, but was actually feeding my soul.

Oh, but parents shouldn't get their souls fed, of course. Parenting involves sacrifice, gosh darn it, and just sitting in a pew entertaining a child isn't sacrificial enough. Meanwhile, hearing a peep out of a baby is too much sacrifice for a childless person, because they never volunteered for the job.

Of course, most of the comments were along the lines of, "Well, of course kids should be welcome in church, but parents shouldn't just let them scream and scream during the whole service." I suppose this is true, but for one thing, I've never seen this happen. Ever. And for another, that's the parents' job, not yours. Parents should do their best, and YOU, person who doesn't like to hear crying, should suck it up and assume that they are. Not try to get your priest to glare more. Not catch the parents after Mass and berate them. Not be a snot on an internet forum. Assume they are doing their best, sit near the front, and tune out the noises that distract you.

Here are some gems from the comments on an article about kids on planes and in restaurants:

I blame parents for the behavior of children ANYWHERE. If they are energetic and loud and can't sit quietly on a plane - don't take them on a plane to annoy others - or anywhere! If your baby cries a lot - don't take them on the plane, movie theater, or anywhere else the noise is going to interfere with others enjoyment. If you were driving for hours in a closed car, how would you feel with all that? Where is personal responsibility? I have two adult kids. When they were young and their behavior was unacceptable I would sit with then in the car until they quieted down. I would not ruin others' days out by making them suffer through my children's behavior. If you decided to be a parent then you must adjust your behavior and expectations. You are no longer free to just go out like you did before you were a parent.


Also, when on a 4-5 hour flight, a screaming child should not be allowed to disrupt everyone else's trip. If the people must take their children on-board, they need to contol them, give them a sedative. There are so many over-the-counter options. Stop invading my right to privacy!!!!


I fly business class, and I am getting truly fed up with the increased presence of families with children who scream and yell and cry during the flight. I pay a LOT of money for a good comfortable, PEACEFUL experience, and I do not believe I should have to listen to the kids or even other passengers act like complete idiots. I'm tired of the airlines reminding me that the kids have rights too. What about my rights to have some peace and quiet on transatlantic or transpacific flights?

In my not so humble opinion, families with children should be completely barred from business and first class. End of story.


Surely I'm not the only person who is upset and offended by this? You can plan ahead, you can make decisions based on the way your child usually behaves, you can pack toys, you can have a relatively well-disciplined child, and there may still sometimes be a meltdown. That's life. Children are part of society just like everyone else... why aren't people a little bit used to them by now?

But no, the solutions are "well, you have kids now, you can't go out," "just sedate them," and "my rights trump their rights."

Just once, I would like to see someone say, "Gee, this isn't convenient for me, but it's not convenient for the mom and dad either. We're all suffering together, and they have the right to be here like I do. I guess I'll just be thankful that when this is over, I get to go to my quiet house and sleep through the night." Actually, before I had kids I would think just that. When I heard a baby cry on a plane, I thought, "That poor mom! She must be mortified! Thank goodness it's not my kid and no one's expecting me to do anything about it." Even then I was aware that just hearing a child cry was the easy part.

And then there's the good ol' nursing in public debate. I don't know why I get involved in these. I guess it's because I am aware of their effects on moms. When you're a jerk about breastfeeding in a public forum, all of a sudden the nursing moms who read it think, "Is that how everyone feels about me? Are they all judging me?" And even though the mom reading it probably is draped in the world's biggest breastfeeding burka/circus tent, she still feels like everyone is staring at her thinking all those mean things they read on the internet. I remember feeling this way. SO self-conscious, even though nothing anyone could possibly complain about was showing.

Here are a few excerpts from the Facebook debate I was recently in:

But let us not deny the needs of the child; evidently you're going to get a lacrobat when nursing him in public. A mother who can't deprive of socialization for 15 minutes to spend quiet time with her baby, and allow the baby to eat comfortably and be focused on the mother, is very, very sad.


My response towards mothers who don't have adult conversation or tired husbands- this job you signed up for is one of sacrifice, these children you choose to accept, this husband who works long hours- this is what the better or worse part is. But to those women, I do not pity you. This is the road you choose and with the joys come the pain.


It is true, you will not find mention of nursing in the past - but it is not because no one had a problem with it. It was because women had a better understanding of their place in society and their dignity. It was never discussed, because it never came up. Culture today has been severely impacted by the inhumanity of socialism and their pragmatic creed of 'it it needs to be done, do it'.

Again, the message is clear: You, mother, need to sacrifice so that I don't have to deal with the reality that you are caring for a child. And I will call that "sacrificing for your child" even though what I'm asking is that you sacrifice for my comfort. But since you're a parent, you have to love sacrificing, no matter the reason, because otherwise you're a terrible parent. I don't owe you any sympathy because I never asked you to have kids.

Oh, and "back in the day" (I have no idea what day we were speaking of at this point; probably the Middle Ages, because I had claimed, I believe correctly, that women nursed all the time wherever they happened to be and no one said a word about it. My interlocutor claims that women in those days knew their place and must not have nursed in public after all ... at least, I think that's what he was implying) this question never came up because, in the midst of struggling for survival through cold winters and famine and plague, people were worrying more about beauty and dignity than about what "needs to be done."

In this, and in so many other online discussions, I feel myself being a target for others' hatred of children. Sure, my child is usually quiet in public. I've flown on planes with him, and he slept. When he makes noise, we take him out of church. And when I nursed him in public, I'm pretty sure no one ever saw anything. But you attack any mother, I feel you are attacking me too. You're saying that any support or acceptance I receive from society is dependent on my making the parenting choices that you believe I should make.

I don't mind my family and friends telling me how they think I should do things, because they do have a role in my parenting. They help. They support. They listen. They do their share. So I think they have a right to their opinion, though I may disagree. But strangers who have never burped my baby or played with my toddler -- or even laughed it off when he annoyed them -- have no right to tell me how I should do things. Either you have some interest in my child or you don't. If you're not willing to help out, I don't really want to hear your opinion.

Am I the only one who's been running into this nasty attitude, or is it everywhere nowadays?


Anonymous said...

Full agreement with this - all of it.

The Sojourner said...

The thing that blew my mind was the person who said that children on a plane interfere with his right to "privacy."

Um...You have a right to privacy in your own home and a few other select places. I'm a journalist; I know this. In a place like an airplane (or a restaurant, or a grocery store...) you have whatever right to privacy the owner of the place in question gives you. They might say people can't take pictures on their plane or in their theater. (Which would possibly inconvenience a journalist.) They might even say people can't bring children into their establishment. (Which would possibly inconvenience a parent.) But an individual patron doesn't get to dictate the rules and they certainly don't have a constitutional right to privacy in that sort of situation.

The whole problem of people seeing church as a "me and my feelings" thing is a whole separate rant and I should go do the dishes that are threatening to overrun my apartment.

Sheila said...

Right, public is public. If you want to participate in the public sphere, you have to give up most of the rights you enjoy in private, like setting the thermostat where you like it, picking the music, and not having to deal with people you don't want to.

I think we've picked up a very Protestant understanding of what church is for. Mass gives grace, whether or not you can hear what the priest is saying and regardless of how old you are. People never believe me when I tell them that before the Reformation, it was not considered crucial to a) be able to see, b) be able to hear, c) be in a pew, or d) be still and quiet. You just showed up and wandered around the church, settling in the spot you preferred (perhaps a side chapel, or up by the altar if you wanted to catch a glimpse) while the kids poked around staring at the statues. There were no pews, no missals, and no "reverential silence."

America in the 1950's is not the standard, people! We're a 2,000-year-old church!

Anonymous said...

I completely agree, very well stated. Just another example of the selfish and hedonistic society we live in. We are very fortunate to attend a pro-child, pro-family parish. Once Sunday after leaving exhausted from spending Mass in the vestibule packing around a 25 pound toddler our priest came up to me and said, "You and your children are welcome to stay inside. We are so glad to see young families here and they don't disturb me a bit." When the pastor is supportive, the parishoners seem to be a little more charitable as well. Outside of church, however, I have experienced many unpleasant interactions with individuals like the ones quoted in your post. I used to take it to heart, but am getting better at letting it roll of my back (most of the time). I have a friend who is a lot more outspoken than myself and responds to her critics by saying, "What makes you think you have more of a right than my child to be here?" Usually the offending grouch is shocked into silence when their own rude behavior is pointed out to them.

Sheila said...

I used to attend a parish with my family where the priest was very supportive of little kids, even my unruly siblings. If they cried, he'd say, "He's praising God!" If they ran up to grab at the flowers, he'd say, "Ooh, he wants to be up here! Maybe a future vocation!" We hardly ever got an unkind comment from the parishioners there ... the daily Mass crowd, in particular, loved seeing little kids and would give us tons of encouragement.

The people really do follow what the priest does!

The Sojourner said...

Random story: My little sister will sometimes be seized by a desire to KNOW SOMETHING in the middle of Mass. Sometimes "What's Father doing?" but sometimes "What do giraffes eat?" (She's barely 5 but wears size 8 clothing, so she probably gets people thinking, "She's old enough to be making her First Communion, she should be quieter in Mass!")

I've found, personally, that if you try to hush her she just gets more insistent about asking her question, whereas if you whisper, "They eat leaves" she'll say "Oh!" and go back to her coloring page or whatever.

Not saying she couldn't be better behaved, but occasionally I imagine somebody sitting behind me wondering why I'm engaging a child who looks 7 or 8 in conversation instead of telling her to be quiet during Mass.

Sheila said...

Right, which is why you'd hope that everyone around you is thinking, "I'm sure she's doing her best," not judging you. Unfortunately reading a lot of criticism on the internet makes me assume that everyone is judging me.

Generally speaking, though, I'm pretty sure they're not. They're just praying and minding their own business!

Betsy said...

Agreed. That's all. :-)

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