Thursday, November 10, 2005

From Her Mind to My Blog

And that's the truth!
Shakespeare's Sister: "It’s not that I don’t like kids...’s just that if I wanted to be around them 24/7, I’d be a parent myself.

The NY Times has an article about a café in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood which is causing a controversy among parents in the neighborhood for its sign warning that 'children of all ages have to behave and use their indoor voices when coming to A Taste of Heaven.' (Also mentioned is one of my favorite bookstores, Women and Children First, which will eject misbehaving kids—though it takes a bit more rambunctious behavior than implied by the article to elicit such action.) Predictably, some parents are annoyed and accusing the proprietor of A Taste of Heaven of not understanding children and parenting.

'I love people who don't have children who tell you how to parent,' said Alison Miller, 35, a psychologist, corporate coach and mother of two. 'I'd love for him to be responsible for three children for the next year and see if he can control the volume of their voices every minute of the day.'

You know what I’d love? For people who have children to stop drudging up the old “people who don’t have children always think they’re experts on childrearing” canard every single time a childless person has an opinion on anything remotely related to children or parenting. When a dosey old spinster aunt looks down her patrician nose and sniffs, “If I had a child, he wouldn’t ever behave like that,” as the kid wails after conking his head on her glass coffee table, it’s a fair thing to say.

However, when someone suggests that a screeching two-year-old, whether screeching from pain or pleasure, doesn’t belong in a café, it’s not a fair thing to say. It implies that the childless are so bereft of the requisite knowledge to parent that we don’t even know that the volume of children’s voices can’t be controlled every minute of the day. Of course we know that. It may, in fact, be one of the primary reasons we don’t have children. The thing is, I think most parents who launch that condescending attempt at opinion-trumping know that we’re not dumb enough to believe their kids are squealing because of bad parenting. It’s just easier to hide behind that deliberate misconstruence than address what we’re really saying—that their kids are squealing in a café because their parents are bloody selfish.

Kim Cavitt recalled having coffee and a cookie one afternoon with her boisterous 2-year-old when "someone came over and said you just need to keep her quiet or you need to leave."

"We left, and we haven't been back since," Ms. Cavitt said. "You go to a coffee shop or a bakery for a rest, to relax, and that you would have to worry the whole time about your child doing something that children do - really what they're saying is they don't welcome children, they want the child to behave like an adult."

I’m truly baffled by the blinding self-absorption of a parent who can identify that people go to a café to rest and relax, but gets miffed that someone had the nerve to suggest most people don’t find a boisterous two-year-old conducive to relaxation. What’s astonishing about it is that I don’t think most other parents can easily tune out other people’s boisterous two-year-olds. I would imagine that a mother who’s on her own for the afternoon and chooses to spend it at a café sans-kids is among the least appreciative of café-goers when it comes to those who insist on toting in their squawk-boxes.

The point Ms. Cavitt seems to be missing is that it’s not her child that people want to behave like an adult—it’s her. No one expects a two-year-old to make a more nuanced decision than I am the center of the universe and this is what I want right this moment so this is what I’m going to do, but from her mother, we might expect a bit more. Of course she has a right to relax, but the whole world didn’t have a kid with her; she needs to find a new place to do her relaxing. It doesn’t seem so much to ask that when someone makes a life-changing decision like having a child that they actually change their lives, rather than expecting the rest of us to accommodate their new circumstances.

“The looks I would get when I went in there made me so nervous that I would try to buy the food as fast as I could and get out," said Laura Brauer, 40, who has stopped visiting A Taste of Heaven with her two children. "I think that the mothers who allow their kids to run around and scream, that's wrong, but kids scream and there is nothing you can do about it. What are we supposed to do, not enjoy ourselves at a cafe?"

Well, yeah. I mean, that’s the whole thing about having kids, isn’t it? You can’t expect to enjoy yourself in the same way anymore. Your favorite restaurant for an intimate gourmet meal probably isn’t family-friendly, and your neighborhood café probably isn’t, either, so if you go, leave the kids at home. Lord knows, there are plenty of places that cater to children and parents. I know they’re not “cool,” but no one who sees you dragging the stroller into one of the few indy cafés left in Chicago thinks you’re cool, anyway—they think you’re an inconsiderate, selfish boor insistent on forcibly turning every last little corner of kid-free America into a family venue.

(Hat tip Broadsheet.)
~Shakespeare's Sister"
It's not that I don't like kids, I do. I chose not to have them and don't regret that decision. I also prefer to choose to be around them, not be long suffering because I don't want to hurt someone's feelings. If parents had better control over themselves and their children, it might be a more pleasant experience.

For all concerned.

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