You Were a Child Once, Too
The topic of DC restaurants banning kids came up at a meeting last week. Josh and I personally don’t patron restaurants that ban kids any more than we would patron a restaurant that banned Jews. (Well, technically, if they banned Jews, we wouldn’t be allowed to patron the restaurant. But you get the point.) Ban a behaviour — such as screaming and crying — fine. Ban a group of people — no.
But I’m also of the ideology that the moment I leave my home, I am no longer an individual in my individual space, but I’m now an individual who is operating as part of a greater community. There are plenty of benefits of being part of a community but there are also drawbacks. Leaving my home means that I don’t get everything my way. I don’t get everyone to stop talking on their mobile on the train. I don’t get people to stop wearing perfume. I don’t get people to walk faster on the sidewalk.
When I can’t handle the fact that other people are going to impede on my world with their sounds and smells and space-grabbing measures, I get carryout. But when I can handle the fact that I can’t shape the world around me to my personal liking, I end up having interesting experiences when my own existence bumps up against the people around me.
I think the reason we discriminate against kids is because we have no chance of ever becoming a kid again. Whereas we don’t discriminate against the elderly (even though, as a society, we treat them like crap) because we know that we will one day become the elderly.
Esquire recently had a piece on Mr. Rogers, a series of connected stories about the man. He was asked to write a chapter in a book for ophthalmologists about how to interact with kids in their office. His chapter started with this sentence: “You were a child once, too.”
I think if we all start from that space, remembering that we were once children, it would not only help us to not be frustrated with them but would also give us the door to reach them.
I’m going to guess that you interact with kids on a somewhat daily basis. Either you are a parent or an aunt or a teacher or a member of a community who encounters kids when you exit your house.
Spend one week saying to yourself before every interaction, “I was a child once, too.” When you come from that mindset, you realize that just as you never purposefully tried to annoy the people around you when you were a child, the kids you’re interacting with are not trying to negatively impact you. Their crying is not personal to you. While it may be affecting you, it’s not about you at all.
Your child or your niece or your student or the kid in the grocery store may be annoying you. But this isn’t their intention and if they were guided toward a different way to act and if they had the ability to choose that different way to act as their default state, they would act in a different way.
The only way that can happen — that crying, screaming kids turn into functioning members of society — is to keep them around and teach them a better way to act. They won’t learn it by being kept out of spaces. They’ll learn it by the adults around them silently saying to themselves, “I was a child once, too.”
People think that because I’m a parent, I must enjoy being around babies. I don’t. I like the babies who belong somewhat to me — nieces or nephews or cousins or close friends’ children — but all the others are just tangible reminders of what my body can’t produce. My family is not the size I want it to be, and while I accept that and am at peace with it, I don’t want to be around babies and think about it.
So I understand all the arguments about wanting a baby-free space. But I still can’t get behind discriminating against kids any more than I can get behind discriminating against a person for their sex, race, or sexuality.
Image: Lars Plougmann via Flickr via Creative Commons license