Parents often talk about the younger generation as if they didn't have anything to do with it.
-- Haim Ginott
Rosa was replenishing her glass with red wine when she announced, "I hate children." After taking a sip, she stared thoughtfully at the pâté and then, applying some of the paste to a seeded cracker, she added, "I really do." I had recounted a recent news story about a family that was kicked off a plane for the parents' failure to subdue and strap in their tantrum-throwing three-year-old. After they were booted so that the plane could take off and get the other 112 passengers to their destination on time, the couple was outraged. The airline refunded the family's tickets and gave them additional round-trip tickets to anywhere. But the couple was still pissed. They had wanted more time to convince their brat to sit down and buckle up, and then they had the audacity to be offended when a hundred other people and the airline staff wouldn't give it to them.
"I don't blame kids for their bad behavior," chimed Andrew, who teaches at an elementary school and who, contrary to Rosa, really likes most children. "I blame their parents. I think I'm a lot less tolerant, though, because I know that you can make them behave."
"Yeah, no shit," I agreed. "My mom traveled back and forth across the country with four young girls in tow, and she managed to keep us in line and teach us that it's not cool to disturb other people."
"You shouldn't bring children to Hillcrest," said Josue. He and Rosa opted for a dog in lieu of a child. "We are 'gays,' that's why we came to this town. And now we are getting invaded by breeders." The heterosexual Josue often proclaims his gayness when it comes to art, design, and lifestyle and is proud to display the qualities associated with the stereotypically stylish homosexual man. "Imagine if I went to Chuck E. Cheese and ordered wine and lit a cigar."
"Right," agreed Janet. "There's a time and a place. I wouldn't go to a kiddie park in the suburbs to loudly talk about the great sex I had last night. We're already rolling out the red carpet for breeders with tax breaks and special treatment at work. We need some affirmative action for the child-free." This earned a few "Here here!"s from the cheese-nibbling crowd.
When discussing an individual's right to live a life uninterrupted and undisturbed, whether it be on a plane, in a coffee shop, at a movie theater, or in a nice restaurant, child-free-by-choice people can be a rowdy lot. As annoyed as we often are by inconsiderate parents (e.g., someone who refuses to whisk away her screaming child when it is possible to do so), we rarely confront them. Instead, we try to keep the peace by coughing and staring in the direction of the offensive tot until it ceases its racket. The problem is that, more often than not, it doesn't cease; and the parent, upon noticing the silent cues indicating annoyance, simply doesn't care.
"I agree with Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, who said, 'The right to swing my fist ends where the other man's nose begins,'" said David. "To the parents who proclaim that us childless folk can't understand how hard it is to control a child -- as if that somehow authorizes them to be rude and inconsiderate -- I say, 'You may not know how difficult it is to stop smoking, but does that give some guy with a three-pack-a-day habit the right to light a cigarette under your nose?' If a guy insists on keeping his screaming kid in close proximity to others, he is being selfish and inconsiderate, any way you look at it."
Whenever a child is seated near me, I grimace and then immediately feel guilty for doing so. This is something I'm working on, because there's no good reason for guilt -- after all, one cannot deny the fact that a child is much more likely to be irritating or disruptive than an adult. "But it's not the child's fault!" shouts the defensive, indignant mother. Right. On this point we agree. It's not the child's fault that I am getting a migraine from the high-pitched shrieking noise emanating from your child's mouth. It's your fault, for not removing your child from the scene and taking it to your car or your home or a designated kiddie park where it can finish its little tirade without audibly assaulting innocent bystanders.
If I was over at the Urban Grind, relaxing with a book and an espresso, and a woman sat beside me and started to yelp in my direction, I would have no problem shooting her a "what the fuck is wrong with you?" look and then complaining to the establishment until the disturber of the peace was removed. So why (pardon the pun) do we don kid gloves when it comes to equally annoying and inappropriate outbursts from children?
To minimize my risk of having to deal with chattering children at the theater, I go to R-rated movies very late at night. Still, it seems there will always be at least one selfish and inconsiderate couple who insists on bringing their young, uncontrollable child along to the 10 o'clock showing of Saw II. Just as you, after ponying up ten bucks for a movie, assume I won't bring my boom box to blare the latest Eminem single in your ear, it is reasonable for me to expect you to keep your two-year-old quiet. So, the next time you want to see the latest horror flick, unless your child is properly trained to shut up and sit still for up to three hours in a dark room while psyche-damaging images are being projected onto a big screen, hire a sitter and leave the brat at home.
After sharing my rant with friends, the ever-protective-of-innocent-children Andrew said, "People wouldn't be so anti-kid if parents made their kids behave."