Children should be seen and not heard?

Don't you just love it when you come across a real, live news story that you swear is straight from the pages of The Onion?

Here. Read this article my friend Leah shared with me.

The definition of "newsworthy" could warrant its very own post — so we'll sidestep that and jump feet first into the insanity.

Are people becoming more intolerant of kids, noisy or not, in public places? Or are more parents who bring their kids with them everywhere tuned out to how their sometimes noisy offspring may be affecting those around them?

Let me tell you a little story. It's about a girl named Sarah (really – what's the point of changing my name for the story?) who I knew during my teenage years and on up through my early twenties. She was a reluctant babysitter and a hesitant baby-holder. Sarah was confident she never wanted children of her own and didn't mind telling friends and family about her plans to lead a child-free, pregnancy-free, peaceful, quiet life filled with lazy Saturday afternoon naps. She had very specific plans to spend her disposable income on things other than diapers and daycare. She could have written the above article.

Sure, Sarah had contact with babies and children – in public or at church or through friends with kids of their own. But the hard, impenetrable shell remained intact. No babies here. Babies are loud. And messy. And LOUD. Sarah would shudder when she heard babies crying in public places. And had been known to move tables at restaurants – or leave altogether – when her Baby Radar detected a child within a 20 foot radius. Danger! Danger!

And then Sarah grew up a little. She fell in love and got married. And for the first time, allowed herself to consider what it might be like to have one of those baby people. It might not be so bad.

And the rest is history. I eventually learned that there really is something to this whole Mama thing. And I've never looked back.

So when I read this article, it occurred to me that the intolerance of babies suggested by the author is likely a reflection of something a little deeper. Is it possible that we've finally reached the point of no return as far as patience? We live in constant demand for instant gratification. And we have very few opportunities to exercise genuine patience in this world. Is it possible that it's bleeding over into the way we treat families?

I choose to doubt that people are really, truly annoyed by babies. But Jeff and I still go to a lot of trouble to plan public outings around naps and meals so the chances of meltdowns are minimal. And we have a strict policy of leaving any public place should we start making noise enough that it may be bothering people around us. (Which is why we eat a lot of meals at places that let you throw peanut shells on the floor. They never seem to mind as much.)

I also choose not to look at a pitifully unhappy little child in a restaurant and believe that he is TRYING to ruin my meal. Kids only have so much social capacity and ability to reason. Give them a break. And toddlers rarely give you more than about six seconds of notice when they feel a meltdown coming on. And babies — good gosh. They are BABIES. I can promise you that there is no mother on this planet that has a screaming baby in public that wouldn't make him stop screaming if she could. She wants the baby to stop screaming just as badly as you do. Probably more!

I am certainly not suggesting that crying babies are music to my ears. Or that pouting, fit-throwing toddlers should be invited to come sit next to me. I'm just saying — get over yourself. To quote the eloquent George Costanza, "we are LIVING in a SOCIETY!" You don't always encounter people on the best day of their lives. Sometimes their kids are having meltdowns. Sometimes their babies are hungry. Should they be banned from going in public? Ridiculous.

Don't go all Sarah Martin on them. Just have a little patience.

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.  – Dalai Lama

2 Responses to Children should be seen and not heard?

  1. Courtney September 21, 2010 at 8:23 am #

    I think that it’s a little bit of both. Of course babies can’t help it when they cry and most of the time there’s not anything parents can do about it. But speaking as a person who is happily childless, I don’t think all parents are as conscientious as you are. I used to work in a bookstore and I was APPALLED at what some parents would let their kids get away with. A lot of parents would let their children just trash the kids section and not do anything to stop them or clean up after them. Lynn Hood would certainly not have let me get away with that kind of behavior in public! So I think people could be more patient with families, but some parents could also be more aware of how their child’s behavior affects others.

  2. Lisa F September 21, 2010 at 4:53 pm #

    You are always welcome to come hang out in my classroom where children are definately heard on a regular basis. Then stay awhile, watch the dismissal proceedures and how the children act when their parents are around. Kids will treat their parents with less respect than they give the teachers. It’s awful. And the parents don’t respond with discipline. That’s probably the kids that the author was writing about.

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