Alright, everyone. I know we can’t agree on everything. Or most things. Or anything. I know this world is full of strife and contention, controversy and division. I get it.
This is what it means to live on a mortal planet populated by the fallen hordes of sinful, prideful, vengeful beings. We argue, it’s what we do. And, honestly, I guess that’s good for business. I make a living writing about ‘controversial’ topics. What would I do if I lived in a land where nobody argued about anything? The good news is that if I found myself in a place of that sort, I’d presumably be in Heaven. But the bad news is that I’d be really hard up for blogging topics.
In any case, as much as I appreciate a good ol’ fashioned, knock ’em down, drag ’em out online cyber-brawl, I think it’s time we retire a few of these debates.
One in particular: whether or not parents should bring crying children into public places.
Enough of this already.
Can’t we reach a compromise here? Can’t we exercise a modicum of consideration for our fellow man? Can’t we all exhibit a shred of common sense?
I am not known to be the sort of guy who seeks the middle ground, so if I’m asking for a compromise that ought to tell you something.
Perhaps you’ve read the latest viral post on this subject. If not, I’ll sum it up for you: some guy runs a blog called ‘Dad on the Run.’ His sister apparently went to a ski resort recently with her young child and her husband. The child screamed and cried in fits for two nights straight. After the second night, their neighbor in the next room left an angry note under the door, scolding them for bringing a baby to a ski resort and ruining everyone else’s relaxing time. Sis showed the letter to bro, bro took to his blog and scolded the letter writer for scolding his sister.
Next, commenters and other bloggers proceeded to scold the brother for scolding the letter-writer for scolding the sister.
Now you probably think I’m going to scold the scolders for scolding the scolder of the scolder, don’t you?
Look, there’s no doubt that it’s absurd for anyone to suggest that you shouldn’t bring your kid on vacation. From what I understand, this was a family resort. Families, I’m told, often include children. According to some studies, before a child is older he must be younger. This is the way it works for most — if not all — people.
Should we, parents of young children, never check into a hotel? Daytrips only, until the youngest is 14, should that be the rule? Should we pass up an opportunity to enjoy some quality family time because we wouldn’t want to upset the cranky stranger with sensitive eardrums? Should other adults be entitled to utter and complete peace and quiet everywhere they go? Should babies be shunned from society entirely?
No, emphatically, on all counts.
You might remember that I’ve waded into this debate in the past. I wrote of an encounter I had with a young man who made judgmental, vulgar remarks about a poor mother in a grocery store as she struggled to calm her tantruming toddler.
That was a clear-cut case. The dude was a jerk, plain and simple. Parents have to shop for groceries. Sometimes they have to bring their kids. Sometimes the kid cries. Nobody should have an expectation of silence and tranquility in the aisles of a supermarket. If they do — that’s their problem. It’s not anyone’s responsibility to protect their delusion that they’re living in a Children of Men utopia, where babies and children don’t exist.
As for the letter — whoever wrote it went about it the wrong way. They could have switched rooms. They could have gone to an adults-only resort in the first place. The letter was petty, immature, and unhelpful.
That said, I can’t blame them for being upset after two sleepless nights listening to someone else’s kid fuss and cry. It’s frustrating enough to be kept awake by your own kids — but someone else’s? On vacation? That’s tough. That’s annoying.
I have ten-month-old twins, and I’d be annoyed. I’d especially be annoyed if my wife and I were able to escape for a night or two, only to find our babies’ crying replaced with another baby’s crying. What a cruel, cosmic joke. It’s like Groundhog’s Day, but without the ground hog or the Bill Murray.
Of course, kids are great. I love kids. A lot of people love kids. People who have kids love kids (hopefully), and even people who don’t have kids might love kids. But no matter how much anyone loves kids, nobody loves listening to them whine and shriek. We are all bound by — if nothing else — our severe distaste for such sounds.
Still, these noises are part of life, to some degree or another. Nobody gets to be completely shielded from it. And anyone with such an expectation obviously suffers from a severe case of Entitlement Syndrome.
My kids cry in public sometimes. We don’t like it, we’re embarrassed, but it happens. We don’t need you to enjoy listening to it, but you are going to have to tolerate it on occasion. We can’t roll them around in a sound proof bubble (not opposed to the idea, just not aware that the technology exists), and we can’t always leave them at home.
Sometimes there isn’t anyone around to watch them. Sometimes — gasp — we want to go out and do things as a family. Yes, we don’t necessarily need to bring our children into your vicinity, but we want to. We like being together, if you can imagine such a thing.
We don’t need anyone’s permission, nor do we require their blessing, nor do we particularly care if we’re interfering with anyone’s attempt to live out an existence completely devoid of noise, energy, and youth.
But I promised a compromise, and here it is:
Although nobody is entitled to absolute uninterrupted silence and tranquility, there are some places that society — if not the law itself — has deemed ‘childfree.’ It’s important for the integrity of these areas to be preserved, particularly for the sake of parents who themselves would like to perhaps enjoy a few fleeting moments insulated from the precious twang of a young child’s temper tantrum.
So, while everyone else needs to deal with the random crying-fit at the grocery store, or on a plane, or at a hotel, we parents of young kids need to stop doing insane things like bringing babies into grown-up movies at the theater. There is no excuse for this. It is pure selfishness, through and through.
Since my kids were born, I’ve been to one movie. One. And guess who else made it to the showing? An infant. Infants can only do two things — cry and poop — and this one did both throughout the duration of the film.
Knock that off, parents. We aren’t the only ones who get to demand consideration and empathy from strangers. They can expect it from us every once in awhile. My wife and I don’t go to movies very often precisely because we wouldn’t want to disrupt everyone else. I’d say 95 percent of parents make the same sacrifice. Why do the 5 percent think they’re a special case?
We should also stop bringing small children to fancy restaurants at night. I don’t even understand the inclination here. Who wants to spend 37 bucks on an entrée when you can’t even enjoy the meal because you’re joined at the table by fidgety, fussy munchkins? We should knock that off, too.
If we’re at a place where people go to read, study, learn, or pray — like church or a bookstore or a museum or a Himalayan Buddhist monastery — it’s our responsibility to remove our kids if they’re making too much noise. We don’t have to leave church and go home, but take them to the back, take them out until they calm down. Do something, for God’s sake.
If we’re out at a social gathering and our children have breezed through naptime and are now in full-on Stage 4 nuclear meltdown mode, it’s probably time to bring them home.
If we’re at a wedding or a celebration of some kind, and our tots are interrupting adult conversations, crying, screaming, fussing, acting out, etc., we need to calm them, take them outside, or take them home.
This stuff is obvious so I hesitate to write it, but we’ve all met parents who are in serious need of this reminder.
These are the sorts of sacrifices we consented to when we signed up for this parenting gig.
In the end, our kids are our problem, and we should be uncomfortable with allowing them to be everyone else’s.
Meanwhile, everyone else should have a little patience and understanding, and never throw condescension and insults at a parent who’s in the midst of a difficult parenting moment.
This, also, should be obvious.
And there you go.
Now we can get onto arguing about other things.
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