Don’t want kids? Don’t like being around them? That’s fine. Really, it is! But I’m going to let you in on a little secret.
Kids exist and you’re going to have to deal sometimes.
Have kids? Love taking them everywhere with you? That’s fine–but I’m also going to let you in on a little secret.
Not everyone appreciates kids everywhere you go, and you have to accept that.
It seems there is a lack of patience on the part of many purposefully child-free people, especially if you read any blogs or comments related to this topic. But on the flip side, there are just as many oblivious parents who can’t see the other perspective, either.
My husband and I were married for seven years before we decided we wanted a child. That means we had plenty of time to enjoy drinks at a bar, sleep off a late Friday night or roll into a leisurely brunch on a Sunday. We had many peaceful dinners and plenty of spur-of-the-moment travel. In other words, we fully and consciously enjoyed our child-free years, knowing they would possibly come to an end.
Admittedly, I sometime groaned inwardly when we signed up for a tour which ended up being full of kids. Or wondered why a parent would take a child to a nice, quiet restaurant full of adults on dates. I even became annoyed when a screaming child dared interrupt my Target browsing. But here is what I did: I kept it to myself. And when I became a mother, I realized that most parents are really just trying to keep it together.
I’m going to speak as my 3.5-years-ago-self for a moment. It is okay to not want to be around kids for certain things. It’s okay to want a nice meal without being seated next to the chicken nugget crowd. I fully understand and recall the desire for adults-only venues, events and experiences. What is not reasonable is to think you should be able to pass through life surrounded only by adults with nary a peep from a wee one. It is not reasonable to expect children to emerge at age 18 with a full set of social graces and good manners. They need practice. And as a society, we are all part of that education whether we realize it – or even like it.
Now, I am going to speak as my current self. I’ve made the mistake of taking my child somewhere I thought was kid-friendly, only to be stared down. My little guy has had a meltdown in a trendy store. He’s run off in a museum. We’ve been a spectacle, we’ve been the circus show. I’ve heard, “I didn’t know this place was going to be full of snot-nosed brats!” It is okay to want your child to have the full spectrum of human experiences and to hope that those you encounter in public will be a bit forgiving when it doesn’t go quite right. It is not reasonable to expect everyone to think your child is the bee’s knees and allow them to misbehave and disturb others who are trying to enjoy their own time. Kids need practice and examples from which to learn. And as parents, we are contributing to society whether we remain conscious of that fact or not.
It can be tough to be gracious in an annoying situation. It can be hard to realize that not everyone wants to be around your kid. Like so many things in life, it’s uncomfortable to step outside of your own little world to see what a situation is like for someone else.
So, I extend a hand to my purposefully child-free brothers and sisters. We have to meet somewhere in the middle. Our contract needs to be mutual respect, or at the very least – tolerance. The child-free-by-choice crowd and those of us toting toddlers can coexist – as long as we recognize that we’re all part of something much bigger. Though only parents sign up to parent – children learn from all of us, whether we smile at the little one next to us or respond to them with a scowl. And as a parent, I think it’s only fair that I hold up my end of the bargain by remembering my own pre-kid days. If we come across each other at the local coffee shop, let’s say hi, shall we?