Weekly Writing Challenge – How do you feel about children in adult-oriented places?
One of my friends can’t stand children let alone badly behaving ones. Many moons ago I took her out shopping in York. It was sale time and a certain child was running around in a specific shop barging into old people, us, other kids, and adults – he did not discriminate. His mother made no attempt to contain, divert, remove or chastise him.
After the third circuit this child suddenly gave a cry and went flying into a rack of size 10 dresses. My friend looked smug which was a vast improvement from the ‘I’m going to either strangle you or throw you across the room” glares that she had been casting prior to his demise. I’m still not sure if he fell over by his own volition and I don’t really want to know because I’d be amused and at the time would have probably applaud her if she’d had anything to do with it. Of course I would also have been shocked and appalled at the possible injuries he could have sustained from such a deliberate act and would never condone such action!
So how to answer to the question set by DPchallenge “should we allow children in adult orientated places?” My friend would obviously vote no but I’m not so sure. As I’ve not had the joy of raising children it is difficult to appreciate a parent’s point of view. However, I do have many friends/family with young children and have dined/shopped/road tripped with them with varying degrees of success and have some opinions on the matter. From what I have read and the people I have spoken on this topic I find that the common view for non parents and some people with chicks that have left the nest is that a child misbehaving, screaming or generally invading our space irritating and annoying. My friends who are parents, on the other hand, generally find the whole situation mortifying, embarrassing and feel like they are being judged. One of my mother’s favourite stories was about the time her 3 year old daughter threw a tantrum in the supermarket because she wouldn’t let her have some sweets (a classic story). She recounted the feelings of shame she felt, the glares she received and the sense of failure in her role as a mother because she could not control/comfort me. When she picked her child up and bodily carried her out of the shop still kicking and screaming she could feel the cold condemning hand of children social services about to descend on her shoulder.
So do we exclude children from adult settings? Do we stigmatize and isolate parents and their off-spring? And if we do how do children become socialized and learn to be a functioning member of society?
To answer I need to consider the point of view of each person involved, cultural aspects and societal expectations.
Points of View from Different Perspectives
A child’s point of view. I’m bored, I want to play, I don’t understand the conversation, I’m scared, I don’t like the food, I want someone to take notice of me, I want to run around and laugh because I can’t contain myself, it was very nice but I need to leave now and do something else, oohhh look a little person over there and I want to met them, I like being with grown-ups, I like being part of the conversation.
The parent’s point of view. They need to learn how to behave in company, I would love to leave them at home but I can’t afford a sitter, I’m dreading a tantrum and subsequent embarrassment, I actually like taking my children out and being with them, they think I’m a bad parent.
The adult without a child. Some people can’t control their children, rude children should not be allowed in adult spaces, I came for a quiet time out with my friends/partner/family, Awww isn’t she/he cute, how nice to see kids out with their parents.
So there appear to be plus’s and negatives for all parties when children are present in adult settings.
Culture and Societal Expectations
Travel extensively, experience different cultures and you too may notice the difference in expectations, beliefs and values when it comes to child raising. Some countries are far more child and family centered and adult settings are less defined. People appear to be more tolerant and accepting of children. One thing I have noticed on my travels is that children living in economically poorer countries very rarely display tantrums or do the whole ‘I want thing’. I travelled for 5 months in South America, often on public transport, and witnessed one outburst of bad humour from a small child. Children were tolerated, played with and entertained by the community as a whole. Thailand is a great example where people love children. One of my friends has a Thai partner and when we eat out the two year old comes with us. As soon as we sit down Tom is whipped away by the waitresses who pass him around like a package until it is time for us to pay the bill. Meanwhile his mother chows down without a second thought whilst his English father’s eyes spin in his head trying to keep track of his son. Other diners tolerate the baby being passed around and are often happy to join in and cluck over the child for a while. Eventually Tom is deposited back on one of his parents’ laps, along with our change, totally unfazed by the whole experience. Can you imagine that being acceptable in America or England?
But how does this discussion and story telling contribute towards answering the original question?
Well a bit of tolerance and understanding from all adult parties seems to go a long way to making a harmonious, tantrum minimising experience. Parents should understand that crowded noisy places, full of adults eating unpalatable food, talking about stuff kids don’t comprehend is not fun or interesting for their little ones. Use of child friendly restaurants, times outside rush hour and self supplied kiddy entertainment could all be ways to cut down the likelihood of tears and an undignified exit. Parents should also understand that a misbehaving child is not everyone’s cup of tea and they should have strategies in place to calm, divert or deal with a situation.
On the other hand adults without children should be more understanding about the trials and tribulations of raising kids and the need to teach them how to behave in society. Banning them from every adult establishment may not be the answer if we want to socialize our offspring and teach them how to interact with others . Ask to be moved if someone’s child is annoying you – I’m sure the staff would not have a problem with this request. Challenging a parent is probably not a good idea. They are, more than likely, going to be very embarrassed and fully aware that others are judging them as bad parents. They may get very defensive. Try to empathise a little.
If the above strategies were put into place maybe we could have children in what is deemed in our society as ‘adult settings’ – just like other countries in the world. So yes, apart from the obvious things like children should not be let into strip clubs, x rated movies and other such venues I think children can be present in many adult spaces. Maybe it just takes us all to make an effort to be more tolerant, understanding, empathetic and willing to discipline in order to create an environment is child and adult friendly and that does not, exclude, isolate or stigmatize any member of our society big or small.
Am I just being naive wanting us all to get along ? What do you think?