On Being A Considerate Parent
So there’s this post on Feministe about “shorter, cuter, more honest people”. I have a lot of issues with this post. A lot. Starting with the fact that the author wants to make this a childfree vs. parent issue. Then there’s a little jab at American cultural values, and we round it out with this idea that it’s a good thing to have your toddler in a bar all night. So, where to start? Heck, I’ll just cover the spread. First up, let me just speak up as someone who was that kid in the bar in the middle of the night. The child isn’t having fun. No, not even if they get up and start spinning in circles. They’re not spinning in circles, whining, breaking things, or screaming because they enjoy being dragged from pillar to post while you ignore even the most basic concept of respecting their needs. They’re (at best) overstimulated. More likely they’re tired, cranky, scared (especially by the drunk people), and really in need of someone to step in and put their needs first. That person should be their parent. Be considerate of your child. They are indeed a person and as the one responsible for their well being you should treat them as one.
Now, in the interests of full disclosure let me just say that I am a parent. I have been a single mom in the past. I am a married mother of two now. I know all about the sacrifices of parenting. And yes, I think little kids are awesome. They’re sweet funny people that make me want to kiss their cheeks all the time. They’re at their cutest when they are well fed, well rested, and engaging in age appropriate activities. This is not a “Kids should be seen and not heard” post. I think it’s great to take kids on trips abroad, to museums, to the park, to nice restaurants, to festivals, and even concerts that don’t involve a single Disney character. I think that all of those trips should be made when they can be comfortable and enjoy the experience. Kids that are enjoying an experience generally aren’t crying, yelling, or pouting. They’re happy to be there, they may well want to dress in special clothes, and they are at their best when they have time to process what is going on around them and feel safe doing it. Protip: They don’t tend to feel safe when every adult around them is out of control. *hint hint* Drunk people are not in control. They often say things that small people do not need to hear, and frequently do things that small people do not need to see.
Parenting is work. Like any job it can swing the gamut from rewarding to frustrating, but it is a job in which you need to put forth your very best effort. It’s the hard parts of parenting that often matter the most precisely because you’re the ultimate authority in that child’s life. This argument that adult specific places are about isolating women or not treating kids as human might work better if we didn’t go out of our way to make kids comfortable in most situations. Granted, not all. But enough that I can’t buy any claims that they are being oppressed by not being welcome in a bar at 4 am. Children have very different biological and social needs than adults. They need more sleep, and aren’t as capable of processing input in social situations without a competent guide. Yes, that means giving up some experiences once you have a child. Does that mean you can’t still have a social life? No. It’s fine for you to go out. Have a blast. I’ll even buy you a drink. But, only if you get a sitter so your kid can have a good night too. Can’t get a sitter? Might be time for a night in. This isn’t about American values vs. the world. This is about basic child development and loving this sweet funny person enough to do right by them even if it means you miss out on watching the sunrise with an alcoholic beverage in hand. Sometimes sacrificing your fun is the biggest part of being a good parent.
As for the idea that other people can’t say something is bad parenting? Yes, yes we can. You know why? Because kids are vulnerable people. They need someone to step up for them at all times, but especially when their parent is failing to do right by them. This is not about a harmless parenting choice. This is about neglect, possibly abuse, and acting in the best interests of the child. That’s the criteria that counts here. Do I love it when a kid flips out in the grocery store? No. But I get that sometimes such things happen. However, there’s a huge difference between a grocery store where you need to be in order to get food and a bar where you want to hang out and get inebriated. Social services agencies geared toward protecting the welfare of children exist for a reason. That reason isn’t that becoming automatically makes you a good decision maker. If it did? Legions of folks wouldn’t be bearing the internal and external scars of no one putting their needs first.