Sometimes, on Sunday, I tell my wife I want to split up and go to separate services so we don’t have to bring the twins and deal with some of our fellow Christians who shoot daggers at us if our kids so much as let out a whimper or a giggle.
The last time we went to Red Robin as a family, I asked for the check before the food even arrived because my son had one single, brief crying episode.
I spent the whole ride to the airport yesterday vocally dreading what was gauranteed, in my mind, to be a miserable flight, and one which I was sure would end with sarcastic applause when the other passengers could finally deplane and be free from our upset children.
And then the flight happened, and Luke and Julia did pretty well. They fussed in spurts, but the rest of the time they laughed and enjoyed themselves (making them the only two people to ever find any pleasure on a Spirit aircraft). But I couldn’t enjoy their enjoyment because I was so worried about their next fit. I was paralyzed by the fear that they’d really lose it and go into stage 4 meltdown mode while we were still 2 hours from touch down.
They didn’t. Everything was fine. And even if everything hadn’t been fine, the plane still would have landed and all of the annoyed passengers would have quickly recovered and moved on with their lives.
I wasted all of that time worrying for nothing, about nothing, which achieved nothing.
So on the ride home I talked to my wife about my children-in-public phobias, and that night I came to my decision, or declaration, or whatever you want to call it.
I’m bringing my kids to church. I’m bringing them on airplanes without fear or shame. I’m bringing them to the store and to restaurants and out into society. I’m sorry, strangers, but I’m not sorry anymore. This is my family and their happiness is more important to me than your fragile nerves.
My kids deserve to be here as much as you do, and they should no more stay tucked away and hidden than you should.
Sure, I won’t let them scream if I can help it, and I’ll teach them to be disciplined and respectful in public just as they ought to be at home. But I won’t go out of my way to shield you from them, as I have up until this point. I’m not going to rush into the godforsaken ‘cry room’ every time my daughter makes a sound, and I’m not going to issue preemptive apologies to my fellow passengers whenever I board a plane with them, as I’ve done in the past.
I know you don’t love my kids like I do and you don’t delight in their presence like I do, but, frankly, few people delight in yours or love you like your parents do (hopefully), yet you still walk about unashamed. If you can, so can my kids.
After all, the worst a small child can be is irritating. Adults, on the other hand, can be vicious, obnoxious, invasive, irrational, petty, malicious, haughty, bitter, and abusive in a way that no toddler could ever match. All of my most trying experiences with other human beings have involved people my age or older. Personally, when I see a crying child a few booths away at Applebee’s, I feel sorry for the parents. But when I see a middle aged man talking loudly on his phone while communicating his food order to the waitress using gestures and mumbles, I feel sorry for humanity.
Restaurants have a right to ban kids if they so desire, but if we’re excluding entire demographics based on their worst stereotypical behavior, why stop there? Let’s prohibit businessmen because they might talk on their phones, and elderly people because they might make nitpicky complaints about the food, and large groups of women because they might carry on very loudly, and large groups of men because they might hit on the waitress, and my entire generation because we’re the worst tippers, and young, unmarried couples because they might sit on the same side of the booth and make out for 45 minutes. All of these behaviors are far more offensive than anything a rambunctious child could muster.
I’ve long advocated for parents to ignore the erroneous judgments of strangers, yet I haven’t practiced what I preached. I’ve been a hypocrite.
Thing are going to change now.
Prepare yourself, world: my kids cry, poop their pants, make noises at inappropriate times, and they might soon be within earshot of you. They are my family. We are a package deal. Get used to it.