This tweet appeared on my timeline this morning. It obviously struck a chord with a lot of people as it had several RT’s and favourites, but it irked me:
“Totally in favour of child free planes. Kids should be made to go to Wales on holiday. Didn’t do me any harm”.
I replied: “nice sentiment – kids are part of society. Which would you choose with child – 40 min plane trip or a 7hr train journey?”
It wasn’t the holiday in Wales part that bothered me. I love Wales. What I didn’t like was the anti-child sentiment. I appreciate that this may have been meant as a jokey comment, I don’t know, but I do know that there are there are a lot of very judgemental people about who make life unpleasant for families with young children.
These are the same sort of people who think children should be banned from restaurants, apparently such a popular idea that Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine once discussed it on his show. I find this anti-child attitude really saddening. Children are a part of society, as are their parents, and the bad attitudes towards them are akin to discrimination.
Now fair enough, there are some restaurants I wouldn’t dream of taking my child into, grown up, softly lit places that are obviously not for children, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about everyday cafes and restaurants that have a child menu, where there’s no reason for children not to be. How can they to learn how to behave in public places if they are kept inside, away from the disapproving glare of the child haters?
I know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of hostile stares when my own child has had the temerity to behave like, a child.
To those who are actively unpleasant – do you know how it makes someone feel when you stare and tut? Perhaps they’re thinking what a bad parent you must think they are ,or that they must be, perhaps this makes them more flustered which in turn makes their child play up more. Perhaps they’re really embarrassed by their child and starting to hate them for showing them up. Or perhaps they’re just hating you instead. None of it is really going to make the situation better.
Instead of being hostile why not smile and show a bit of sympathy. I always appreciated it when people talked to my child in this sort of situation. It often removes the tension, not to mention the fact that it can distract the child and change their behaviour. Just the acknowledgement that most people have been there at some point in their life and that the onlooker doesn’t see it as a reflection on the parent can make a big difference to the way they feel.
Of course there have been occasions when I have been irritated by someone else’s noisy child, but until I had my own daughter I’d never thought about the fact that the parent probably felt a lot more bothered by their behaviour than the minor distraction it caused me. Being treated like a pariah is not pleasant, so try and have a little tolerance and understanding. If a child is crying, it’s usually because they are distressed. Getting angry about this solves nothing and is undoubtedly a lot less effective than sympathy. And remember, you don’t know the backstory, there might be things at play of which you have no idea, so don’t judge.
When you are older or ill, you might need looking after by some of those kids who today you are requesting be banned from your flight, train carriage or restaurant. The same kids whose world is being fucked up by your needless aeroplane trips, intolerance and inaction. You should hope they’ll have a little more respect for you, as a human being, than you are showing for them today.