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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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645 Responses

  1. Brett K
    Brett K May 14, 2010 at 5:12 pm |

    I quite like kids, but I do sometimes (read: very, very often) get really annoyed with their behaviour in certain public spaces. Honestly, there are some places that are not and will never be kid-friendly. Now, I don’t have kids of my own, so I’m obviously no expert on parenting, but to me it seems like the logical thing is to not bring kids to places where kids will not enjoy themselves. I understand wanting your kid to be a part of your life (and, of course, not having the resources to get a babysitter) but what is there to be gained by bringing an infant to a movie theatre, or a small child to a fancy restaurant? The kid will be miserable, and will make everyone else miserable as a result. No one should be confined to their home just because they have a child (and I agree that there is a great deal of sexism inherent in the whole “I hate kids” philosophy) but it often seems like parents are prioritizing their sense of entitlement over their kid’s comfort and everyone else’s sanity.

  2. thinkingdifference
    thinkingdifference May 14, 2010 at 5:15 pm |

    My parents always took me with them wherever they went. But they also disciplined me whenever it was the case. The problem is not the child, the problem is how the child is raised by parents, regardless of their gender. A child is like a puppy: in need of training. The puppy turns into a dog, and its cute bites and crazy runs are no longer fun, they become dangerous; then everyone wonders: what happened to that cute puppy?

  3. Brett K
    Brett K May 14, 2010 at 5:15 pm |

    I should clarify that when I said that kids shouldn’t be put in situations where they won’t be happy, I was referring specifically to leisure situations. Obviously no kid is going to be happy on, say, the subway or at the doctor’s office, but neither are adults. I expect to be uncomfortable in those situations; a crying kid isn’t going to make much of a difference.

  4. sam
    sam May 14, 2010 at 5:28 pm |

    I think much of the problem these days stems from the fact that parents want to be “friends” with their kids, rather than, you know, parents. And that extends to the attitude that their kids should be able to go anywhere the parents go (bars being the most egregious example). But it also manifests itself in parents who refuse to control or discipline their kids in any way, particularly in confined spaces, because they don’t want to be the “bad guy”.

    I’m not talking about physical discipline either – that crosses a line. But I remember when I was a kid, and would go to dinner with my parents, and would act out, pretty egregiously at times. My parents had a simple solution. One of them (usually my dad) would simply pick me up and carry me out of the restaurant, and would just stand there on the sidewalk (sometimes lecturing me) until I calmed down. I fully admit to being a brat sometimes as a kid, but my parents understood that no one else in the restaurant had signed up to listen to my tantrum. I just feel like I don’t see parents doing this anymore.

  5. Renee
    Renee May 14, 2010 at 5:37 pm |

    First let me start off by saying that this entire post irritated me. From start to finish it was nothing but disciplining parents. You like kids except…. there is always a but isn’t there.

    I do think that parents have a responsibility to evaluate their own child’s behavior and mood that day and decide whether it makes sense to go to a particular place at a particular time; and parents, ultimately — not everyone else out in public — should bear the burden of making sure that children behave according to the behavioral standard of a particular place, whatever that may be.

    And the above is clearly written by a person that is not a parent. Do you think we walk around with crystal balls to predict when a child is going to flip out or have reached their end? And really bear the burden? What were you thinking when you wrote those words. Children are not a BURDEN, they are little people. The idea that they have continually behave the way that adults do when they are children is ridiculous. A child’s mind works differently than an adults and it manifests in different behaviour.

    Oh finally, if you ever have a toddler having a meltdown, the best thing to do is to sit down and let them have it. Ask them to let you know when they are through. It acknowledges that they are upset and allows them a chance to calm down and then you can reason them. One day all of you so-called experts on what is appropriate in child behaviour are going to get the lesson you all richly deserve when you become parents. Until then, keep your biases to yourself, parents have enough to deal with.

  6. Jesse
    Jesse May 14, 2010 at 5:41 pm |

    I think that the issue is not that children should not be allowed in public spaces, but more that parents do not deal with behavior when needed. Recently I was shopping at a department store, and decided to leave, rather than continue shopping because a Dad could not discipline is children. He allowed them run around and throw chains at each other. (The kids, in their boredom, developed a game where one child stood a good distance away, and the other child threw a chain along the floor trying to hit the first kid). When he heard them get too loud, he would raise his voice and tell them to settle down. At no time did he actively engage in discipline.

    That bothered me. And I choose to leave rather than listen to ineffective parenting.

    But I was also proud of the kids. They were bored out of their minds, and created a game to entertain themselves. Free play is needed to develop healthy minds. But this type of free play was inappropriate for public space.

    I also find it quite interesting that most “kid haters” define their right to a kid free space but refuse to recognize their ability to leave said space. If they dislike kids, stay home. Order in. Hire someone to do your shopping for you. After all, not having a child means there is more available spending money to the things I mentioned above.

  7. Deltabob
    Deltabob May 14, 2010 at 5:50 pm |

    I don’t mind children in spaces like restaurants, as long as the children are well behaved. This largely is the responsibility of the parents (and largely the parents’ failure when the kid is a monster).

    I grew up in a time and place where parents took their kids everywhere, including bars. I knew, and most of my friends knew, that we had to behave in these places. I was the rare “good” child who never ever acted out in public; and as a result, I have zero patience for or tolerance of children who don’t behave.

  8. Leah
    Leah May 14, 2010 at 6:07 pm |

    That post at Bitch PhD, and the ignorant comments from staff writers in its comment thread (equating those who dislike children with anti-Semites, etc.–always a great way to win an argument on the internet), are what finally caused me to remove BPhD from my RSS feed.

    I just can’t agree that kids are a feminist issue. There’s so much wrong with this idea. It embraces the relegation of fathers to sperm donors, forcing mothers to be the sole fulcrum of responsibility for raising children–which, in an insidious way, reinforces anti-woman attitudes.

    And it trivializes feminist, childfree women like me who do dislike children, but are not monstrous, baby-eating bigots as alleged by Sybil Vane & Co. I’ve already felt antagonized by the attitudes of child-related entitlement these women swing around. This demonization of people who dislike children just drives home the point that these women don’t want to engage in a dialogue; they want to judge others for not having the same values, beliefs, and interests.

    I’m so tired of this Balkanizing attitude in feminism. Do we really have nothing better to do than to engage in internecine bickering over whether disliking kids is tantamount to anti-Semitism? Shouldn’t we be, y’know, uniting as people who care about the freedoms and rights of women, and presenting our cohesive ethos to our real enemies, like those who want to dictate what we can and can’t do with our bodies?

  9. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable May 14, 2010 at 6:14 pm |

    I really dislike children being at bars. Bars are like my adult playground where I get to explore and make bad choices. Like it or not, you’re modeling to kids whenever they’re around, and I hate the inevitable guilt trip I have when a kid sees me drunk and dancing inappropriately with a guy I might not know.

    Otherwise, I’ve never had an issue with kids in public. On planes, in high-end restaurants, and so on. I’m really good at tuning out background noise, however. As far as having the waiter pick up the child’s dropped fork, that’s incredibly obnoxious. He or she is not paid to babysit.

  10. Faith
    Faith May 14, 2010 at 6:17 pm |

    “First let me start off by saying that this entire post irritated me.”

    You’re not the only one.

    “I understand wanting your kid to be a part of your life (and, of course, not having the resources to get a babysitter) but what is there to be gained by bringing an infant to a movie theatre, or a small child to a fancy restaurant?”

    Oh I don’t know. Maybe, just maybe, the parents are interested in having a night out. And maybe, just maybe, they couldn’t find a babysitter. Or maybe the couldn’t afford a babysitter. And maybe, just maybe, those of us who are parents have the totally obscene belief that just because we have kids we shouldn’t be forced to stay confined in our homes just because our kids might irritate someone else.

    “So if a toddler has a meltdown in a restaurant, he should be allowed to scream for 30 minutes while everyone else has to sit there and listen to him? The parent isn’t under some obligation to take him outside”

    And what about the parent, Jill? Toddlers and babies cry. They get upset. It’s what they do. Should a parent who wants to have a night out really be expected to pay for their meal or their movie and then sit outside the whole damn time? You sound shockingly like those people who believe breastfeeding mothers should take their kids to the bathroom or their cars rather than breastfeed in public.

    “or when parents get angry at people without kids if we voice our dislike when a kid runs into our table or scream in restaurants. ”

    You really don’t seem to have any understanding of just how stressful it is to have children. While parents do have a responsibility to do their best to control their children, sometimes – many time even – children simply can’t be controlled. Parents get angry because they’re just as frustrated as you are and they know that there isn’t anything that they can do to make the situation any better. That’s the part that you just aren’t seeing as someone who clearly does not have children.

  11. Faith
    Faith May 14, 2010 at 6:19 pm |

    “I just can’t agree that kids are a feminist issue.”

    Yea, clearly kids aren’t a feminist issue. I mean, it’s not like mothers and our children are ever treated poorly.

    Oh wait…

  12. Faith
    Faith May 14, 2010 at 6:23 pm |

    “When he heard them get too loud, he would raise his voice and tell them to settle down. At no time did he actively engage in discipline.”

    What exactly would have been appropriate discipline in such a circumstance? Should he have spanked them? Did you ever think that maybe it isn’t your place to decide whether or not a parent is disciplining correctly? Parents have different parenting techniques. As long as those techniques aren’t abusive, it’s none of your business how a parent disciplines their child.

  13. Jackie
    Jackie May 14, 2010 at 6:25 pm |

    I feel people go after the children, because it’s impossible to have a straight talk with a parent about their child’s behavior, without it turning into an arguement or them claiming the person is attacking their skill as a parent.

    I think there should be more of a social expectation of parents to consider the adults around them. I think that parents should not only expect to be talked to when their child acts up, and they don’t respond, but also expect to apologize to the stranger they may have upset or disrupted.

    It seems these days parents are allowed to live in their own world, and when someone causes them to face reality that it’s not only themselves and their children in it, they will have a meltdown.

    There’s a reason this issue keeps coming up, because there is little to no improvement from the majority of the women out there. Even your reply earlier was on the defense, instead of understanding where the other person was coming from. If you feel your toddler needs to have a meltdown in an adult place, you take them to the washroom or outside. Doing otherwise, is equivelant to an adult going to Chuck E Cheese, bullying the kids around, and demanding to know why adults aren’t being given respect.

    If more parents simply showed even consideration for how they were disturbing other people, that would make people feel less on edge. Most of the time when a person without children tries to confront a parent about their child’s behavior, they are immediately shut down. Now those parents, still clueless that their behavior has an effect on others wonder why people glare at them when their child acts up.

    If people want to stop this hatred of kids, perhaps they should start seeing that their kids don’t become the target, because their parents are impossible to communicate with unless you’re another parent.

  14. Faith
    Faith May 14, 2010 at 6:26 pm |

    “This demonization of people who dislike children just drives home the point that these women don’t want to engage in a dialogue; they want to judge others for not having the same values, beliefs, and interests.”

    You have every right to not want children. What you don’t have a right to do is shit all over children and their parents. Children are one of the most oppressed, powerless groups in society. Hating them absolutely is a form of prejudice.

  15. Faith
    Faith May 14, 2010 at 6:28 pm |

    “If people want to stop this hatred of kids, perhaps they should start seeing that their kids don’t become the target, because their parents are impossible to communicate with unless you’re another parent.”

    Maybe that’s because people who don’t have children and who do hate children are so utterly clueless about what it means to be a parent and just how difficult that can be.

  16. Renee
    Renee May 14, 2010 at 6:33 pm |

    So if a toddler has a meltdown in a restaurant, he should be allowed to scream for 30 minutes while everyone else has to sit there and listen to him? The parent isn’t under some obligation to take him outside? I’m sorry, but I think that’s ridiculous. I know parents have a lot to deal with, but there are certain standards for public behavior.

    Actually don’t say you’re sorry because you are not. You are about disciplining both parents and children so that they march to your tune like the pied piper. The method I mentioned actually works to end the tantrum quite quickly. When you rush in and interrupt you only encourage the child to get louder and the situation to get even more out of control. Kids scream get over it. Kids are loud, get over it. They are part of our world and tolerance means making exceptions for them even when it disturbs your precious latte. What I see in this post and damn near the entire thread is nothing but unabashed adult privilege. Yes I said…leave room for them as long as they don’t express themselves, play, or be children.

    @Leah
    I am going to do my best in responding to you because you pissed me off even more than the OP and I didn’t think that it is possible. It is a woman’s issue because WOMEN HAVE CHILDREN. How dare you say that something that is so important to me is not important enough to organize around. I don’t care if you are childless, dismissing something that is a concern for MILLIONS of women is nothing but selfish arrogance and it makes me absolutely fucking ill. SHAME ON YOU.

  17. Faith
    Faith May 14, 2010 at 6:34 pm |

    “Now those parents, still clueless that their behavior has an effect on others wonder why people glare at them when their child acts up.”

    We aren’t clueless. We’re just fed up with being treated like freaks and totally obnoxious assholes just because our kids have the audacity to be kids in public.

  18. me and not you
    me and not you May 14, 2010 at 6:34 pm |

    I spent a lot of time when I was a kid screaming in the car. If we were misbehaving while we were out, one of my parents took us outside. We learned very quickly that misbehavior didn’t work.

    Related story. Kid I babysit is spoilt as shit. Mom and I are out running errands with kid, mom wants to get some school supply stuff and stops by the local teacher’s store. Kid perceives this as a toy store and goes apeshit over some something or other that she wanted. Mom starts to waffle and try to negotiate, and my response (after being yanked outside the minute I was a brat) was to say, nope kiddo, you can’t behave like a grown up, you don’t get to be in a grown up space. We’re going outside. After five minutes minutes outside when she saw I wasn’t going to back down, she calmed down. We talked about it. She went back inside and apologized to her mom.

    Since I was a kid, I’ve known that kids behave like you expect them to. Yeah, glaring at the mom whose kid is sleepy is a little bitchy. But you can let the kid work out a tantrum somewhere else.

  19. Jackie
    Jackie May 14, 2010 at 6:38 pm |

    “I also find it quite interesting that most “kid haters” define their right to a kid free space but refuse to recognize their ability to leave said space. If they dislike kids, stay home. Order in. Hire someone to do your shopping for you.” – Jesse

    Ooh, right, I forgot people without children should know if they dislike children that they should stay at home 24/7. How dare a person who doesn’t have the same blind love for your child, share public space with you! What about people like myself with hearing sensory issues, who avoid children because sudden loud or high pitched sounds hurt their ears. Oh sorry, aside from wearing earplugs 24/7, you can’t go out in public!

    I’ve heard this from other parents. In fact one parent asked me, when I told her to discipline her child if they should stay home until their child behaves, and not go out. I say yes! Most likely they made the choice to have that child, and a part of making that choice is the responsibility that comes with it. I didn’t choose to have a hearing sensitivity, I try my best to tolerate certain situations, but most of the time before I even get a chance to explain this to a parent I’m told “YOU’RE NOT A PARENT!” or “How dare you say MY child misbehaves!” as well as the above suggestion that I should stay at home.

    I’m disgusted Jesse, that you believe that anyone who doesn’t tolerate kids, can’t participate in society. This is why people who are childfree have such demeaning things to say about parents. They are actively discriminated against by people like yourself, told that they have no right to go anywhere, unless they’re willing to fawn over every single child they see.

    Oh, and what about people who shouldn’t have children, people who might hurt them. Well based on your notion, that you must have a child to participate in public society, there will be more children born to parents who feel ho-hum about them. Is that okay with you Jesse? That people have children, because of people lke you and the societal notion, that a person isn’t fit to be out and about, unless they’ve made a baby?

  20. Katrina
    Katrina May 14, 2010 at 6:40 pm |

    I agree with Renee. Children ARE little people. A crying toddler is a PERSON who is for whatever reason upset about something, not just some brat.

    Personally, I am the type who thinks kids do belong everywhere, and that adults who are offended at the mere sight of them are bigots and should remove themselves. After all, kids are still people despite just having different abilities, and as such should be accommodated everywhere. So I do agree with what was said about taking kids out more often and that they are just as much a part of society as those older. I just think we shouldn’t be promoting adult privilege by acting like kids aren’t people but just humanoid emotional baggage who need to be controlled all the time just so some adults who might be nearby can feel more comfortable.

  21. Diz
    Diz May 14, 2010 at 6:42 pm |

    Long time lurker, felt the need to comment for the first time, especially because of Renee.

    I have a four and a half year old daughter, I don’t let her scream and wail in public because not only does it disturb everyone else, but it doesn’t teach her how to be appropriate. Refusing to control your kids and letting everyone suffer for it does not benefit the child and it’s lazy parenting. The result of the whole “let them be kids and scream and cry” are those asshole teenagers who are obnoxious, entilted and a pain in the ass to deal with in public and will most likely turn into adults who are boorish as well.

    You want to let your kid steamroll you into submission because they’re “just being kids”? Fine, but expect people to be annoyed when you can’t quiet your child down like any responsible parent would.

  22. Emily WK
    Emily WK May 14, 2010 at 6:45 pm |

    I just can’t agree that kids are a feminist issue. There’s so much wrong with this idea. It embraces the relegation of fathers to sperm donors, forcing mothers to be the sole fulcrum of responsibility for raising children–which, in an insidious way, reinforces anti-woman attitudes.

    It does NO such thing. All the above shows is that you neither read nor understood the argument about why kids are a feminist issue.

    Let me break it down – children are oppressed. They are an oppressed class in this society. If you need examples of how that works, let me point out that it is currently illegal for me to strike you because you piss me off, but my children have no such legal protection in many (most? all?) states in the US.

    Feminism is about lifting up the oppressed and helping them out from being oppressed. So when people talk about children as though they aren’t human, or don’t deserve respect, that is a feminist issue because it is a class of people who are being oppressed simply by virtue of their existence in said class.

    Unless your brand of feminism is just about women, in which case, you can have it and your confusion makes a lot more sense.

  23. Lynnsey
    Lynnsey May 14, 2010 at 6:47 pm |

    We were recently eating at the outside patio of a Cleveland brewery on a Saturday visit with our then 17-month-old son. He sat in his stroller, ate his dinner, and played with my husband’s (keylocked, as to not call China) smart phone. He got a little fussy at one point (thus the phone), but was very well behaved overall. We have taken him out since he was a couple of months old (he was a winter baby and we live in a snowy area, so we got off to a slow start) and have gone to a lot of middle-level restaurants since we tend not to eat a a lot of chains.

    At the table next to us was a woman with a child I would estimate to be 2-3 years old and what I’m guessing were the child’s grandparents. They were there when arrived and had drinks, but (we eventually realized) were waiting for the father to arrive. This child threw a crayon that almost hit my husband. Ok…no harm, no foul. Then he threw another…that hit him. We expected the mother to do something (she did apologize). Then he threw a quarter…that hit him. Then he threw a fork at his mom. Once dad arrived things got even worse. He got angry about being in the chair, so they let him run around. They still didn’t do anything when he grabbed a glass from the waiters’ station across form them and intentionally (I watched him…it was definitely intentional) throw it on the ground where it obviously shattered. They acted as though it wasn’t his fault.

    This is the behavior that bothers people and needs to be addressed. I have taken a walk or gotten my food to go when my son had a meltdown in a restaurant. There is a line and rational people know where it is. On both sides, however, you have people who rabidly deny the rights of others and that is the bigger problem.

  24. Emily WK
    Emily WK May 14, 2010 at 6:49 pm |

    Well based on your notion, that you must have a child to participate in public society, there will be more children born to parents who feel ho-hum about them. Is that okay with you Jesse?

    I’m not Jesse, but I don’t see where that was said. Feel free to point it out.

    Society can’t exist without children. Nobody thinks that you, the individual, has to have children. What you do have to recognize is that children MUST exist for humanity to continue and to expect them to be relegated to second class status and not be permitted access to certain parts of the world will (a) not teach them anything about how to behave in those parts of the world and (b) punish their parents. Yes, having children is a responsibility. Yes, it’s hard. But for every single time you see one kid screaming in public and their poor parent is trying their best and has had a really hard week and worked extra hours and the babysitter canceled again and they had a fight with their spouse and are coming down with a cold and CAN’T DO IT PERFECTLY EVERY TIME? You don’t see the other kids who are doing just fine and don’t bother you.

  25. Amanda Marcotte
    Amanda Marcotte May 14, 2010 at 6:56 pm |

    Let me be clear to parents who wish to take absolutely no responsibility to make sure their kids don’t bother other people: You can demand that we act like kids Just Happen, but we’re not buying it. We all make choices and have to live with them. Your choice to have children incurs certain responsibilities.

    Like Jill said, if I have a fight with a friend or boyfriend in public, I take it home instead of screaming it out in a restaurant. According to the logic I’m seeing here, I’m entitled to scream it out in front of the world, because you don’t understand—fights are stressful, and I didn’t know that my friend/boyfriend would piss me off when I went out with them. Except that my fight is my responsibility, even if I am stressed and pissed, and like a responsible person, I take it outside.

  26. Emily WK
    Emily WK May 14, 2010 at 6:58 pm |

    Let me be clear to parents who wish to take absolutely no responsibility to make sure their kids don’t bother other people

    Who, precisely, are you addressing with this comment, Amanda? I don’t think anyone here said anything even remotely along those lines. What straw man are you fighting with this heavy handed declaration?

    Well, even if your feminism is just about women, it should probably still involve kids.

    I don’t disagree, Jill. For clarification, I was disagreeing with the idea that saying “respect for children is a feminist issue” is somehow tantamount to relegating all men to sperm donors as though feminism isn’t about helping oppressed groups that involve people other than women.

  27. Amanda Marcotte
    Amanda Marcotte May 14, 2010 at 7:00 pm |

    Most people who glare at the parent not controlling a child tend to be tolerant when a parent is showing genuine effort to control a child. My reaction to a parent letting a kid run around and knock shit over—or who is ignoring a tantrum—is way different than my reaction to a parent who grabs a misbehaving child and takes them outside to work it out. I don’t really care about the minute or so it takes to get the child out of the room. I do care if I have to leave a place that should be pleasant and fun because a parent doesn’t want to take the time to control their child.

  28. Amanda Marcotte
    Amanda Marcotte May 14, 2010 at 7:03 pm |

    Emily, anyone who immediately jumped all over a post that said:

    A) That kids should be in public
    B) That people should understand they misbehave
    C) But kids should be taught to behave and not allowed to throw 30 minute tantrums that ruin everyone’s night

    And disagreed? They’re demanding a standard where their kid runs around, throws fits, etc. and no one is allowed to do anything about it but smile as if it’s the cutest fucking thing they ever saw.

    Most parents don’t let their kids act like monsters. But the few who do ruin it for everyone.

  29. Emily WK
    Emily WK May 14, 2010 at 7:04 pm |

    Whew! Okay, good. Yay for adding, yay for clarifying. Also, I want to say that I do actually agree that there’s a middle somewhere.

    When someone cuts me off in traffic because they’re about to miss an exit and they swerve across a lane and it’s a little dangerous, I am angry. They endangered me, and that isn’t cool. But then I think that even though it’s most likely that they weren’t paying attention and are just being an asshole, it’s possible that they are on their way to something really important, or an emergency, or some other valid reason that they can’t just deal with missing the exit and move on.

    I think that parents need that break, too. Yes, some kids are horribly behaved. Some parents are not showing any indication that they even care that their children are awful. But those parents are probably not the ones reading and commenting on feminist blogs, let’s be honest. They probably will never read these words, or Sybil’s. What you DO have is situations like mine, where I’m among the first of my close friends group to have a kid (this coming September) and I’m terrified that that’s going to mean that I never see them because they’re going to want to go to bars where I wouldn’t take a baby, or on vacation where the baby isn’t invited, or whatever.

    I’m a considerate person. I’m going to apologize if my kid accidentally throws something in your hair at a restaurant, and tell the kid not to do it. I’m not going to stay at home for the years it will take until my kid is old enough to ensure that he won’t flip out in public against my wishes and without me having much in the way of recourse. Tantrums happen.

  30. Emily WK
    Emily WK May 14, 2010 at 7:06 pm |

    That isn’t exactly what it said, Amanda. There are specific rules here, about the price of restaurants above which children shouldn’t be present.

    And I think the jumping happened over people in the comments who are making blithe statements about how you should just go away from everyone else if your kid starts screaming.

    So, again, you are fighting against a straw man that you have constructed. I don’t disagree that bad parents ruin it for everyone. I disagree that any of those parents are reading these comments.

  31. Renee
    Renee May 14, 2010 at 7:12 pm |

    @Amanda Marcotte,
    Save it with your childless twisted logic. You cannot expect a child to behave like you because you my dear are an adult and they are a child. So stop holding them to the same standards.

    @Diz my child has never over run me so how dare you suggest it. Don’t make it personal with me. Waiting for a child to calm down to talk to them acknowledges that they are going through something. I most certainly correct inappropriate behaviour but I do so in a way that respects my child as an individual something many people in this thread cannot seem to grasp.

    Finally, if you don’t like the way a parent deals with it too damn bad. If the child is not in danger it is none of your damn business. I see nothing but selfishness repeatedly. Like having your precious meal interrupted is the worse thing the world…oh dear what ever shall you do. No I suppose it is better that we just lock the little dears in their rooms until they are 18.

    @ Jill

    It seems like you want it both ways — you want kids to have the right to interact in all public spaces just like adults, but you don’t actually think they should have to adhere to the same social norms as adults in those spaces.

    No, actually I want the right for my children to take up space in this world and interact because they are people. I think holding children to adult standards is ridiculous because well they are kids. It is a learning process they don’t come out of the womb “trained.” So if it means a few uncomfortable dinners or letting them have a fit every once and a while so be it. Children contribute to this world when we take the time to appreciate them. Tell me would, would you tell a disabled person to leave a restaurant because they were being to loud or making you uncomfortable? This is the same damn kind of bigotry and I for one am sick of it. People who operate at different levels have different standards of behaviour.

  32. LoveLettersinHell
    LoveLettersinHell May 14, 2010 at 7:16 pm |

    Renee,
    Why is your selfishness more laudable than Jill’s or Amanda’s? Yu want the same thing– to have it your way, even when it inconviences those around you.

  33. Amanda Marcotte
    Amanda Marcotte May 14, 2010 at 7:18 pm |

    I really don’t see the point of taking kids to fancy restaurants that couldn’t advertise any harder that children will be bored out of their skulls and act up just to relieve the tension. So yeah, I can’t help but wonder what parents are thinking taking kids to those places, and I wonder how it was that I—a childless person—am better able to predict than the parent what inevitably happens next, which is the kid starts to freak out because the human mind can not take boredom. It’s torture for them, seriously.

    Of course, the reason I can predict what will happen is I’m the oldest of a close knit family, and so I’ve been around a lot of kids. I think one of the ironies of a declining birth rate is that a lot of adults now face the choice of having children having had very little to no real experience around children. And a lot more parents than we’re willing to admit find out after they have kids that it’s really way more work and misery than they ever thought it would be. They thought they knew, but they had no idea. And honestly, I think that’s what’s behind a lot of those parents who take their kids into inappropriate spaces—they long for their pre-child lives and try to recreate some of those experiences with the kid in tow, and it doesn’t work out very well. Some of them, if they knew more of what they were getting into, might have stayed childless.

  34. Marilyn
    Marilyn May 14, 2010 at 7:19 pm |

    First: I don’t have kids. 9 brothers and sisters, so I’ve done the caretaker role (in sibling fashion, that is) but no, no kids.

    I liked this article. I don’t like the comments that seem to border on “kids these days…” You know what, 20, 30, 40 years ago kids still acted out in public, and other people got pissed off about it. Kids were not “better disciplined” back then, either. Unless “Kids should be seen and not heard” is a good motto to bring back?

    Any parent is entitled to bring their kid to a restaurant, a movie theater, the grocery store…wherever. Just as I am entitled to get pissed off if the kid starts wailing about something. For example, I saw a little girl crying in Target a few days ago. Her father (I presume) said, “Fine, stay here and cry,” and promptly walked away. She stood in the middle of the aisle and screamed. Now, I get what her dad was doing. Caving in to her (whatever she was doing) would only have rewarded her behavior and caused her to act even worse the next time they go to Target. So yeah, I get it. You don’t stop teaching your kid lessons as soon as you leave the house; it’s an ongoing process. But I am allowed to be annoyed by that. I’m allowed to wince and walk to the other end of the store. I’m allowed to complain to my friends about it. I’m allowed to be annoyed by a disturbance – it is my right as a human being. Just as that man has the right to raise his daughter, within his home or out in public.

    So I guess my point is that parents are allowed to take their kids anywhere they want, and the adults around them are allowed to be annoyed by it.

  35. syndella
    syndella May 14, 2010 at 7:20 pm |

    If you don’t want to listen to a screaming kid in a restaurant, you’re a bigot.

  36. Zes
    Zes May 14, 2010 at 7:22 pm |

    Amen Renee!

    I would further add that it is good for children to go where they are not the most important thing, to see that their parents’ lives need not stop completely to revolve 100% around them. They should be given a coloring book or a comic or something if they cannot or will not join the conversation, and sit quietly. They learn fast.

    Additionally, children ARE a community responsibility; the idea that they belong only to their parents is specious and damaging. There is no society at all if we don’t look out for one another. When I see someone on the subway playing their iPod really loud, I say something (actually the most effective way is to dance in an asinine manner in time to the music and embarrass them into turning it down!). Yesterday I got out of my seat for a woman with a cane. When I saw a pair of men leer at a 14-year-old in the street and nearly make her cry last week I got in their faces and yelled at them. If I see a kid that is about to run into the road, I grab that kid and stop them. And if I see a child being a nasty little brat I either say to the child, “Excuse me, you are being very loud / knocking down our sandcastle / whatever” or if this fails, something gentle but firm to the parent – starting with “is this your child?” which usually does the job.

    I don’t consider myself on a crusade. I’m not nosy and unless someone makes eye contact, I don’t bother them. But I grew up in a place where we did not lock our door, where we know all our neighbors, and where nobody would think anything of saying to a rowdy kid that they should pipe down; on the contrary they know it is their responsibility to that child and to its family to help it to make its way well in the world. The CBA attitude in this post, the idea that ignoring each other is OK, makes me really sad, because it shows the social contract breaking down here in New York. It’s actually precisely because I don’t want my future children to imbibe these rather sad values that we’re moving away to have kids, back to England where people aren’t so cold and mean.

  37. Amanda Marcotte
    Amanda Marcotte May 14, 2010 at 7:23 pm |

    You cannot expect a child to behave like you because you my dear are an adult and they are a child.

    I don’t. I expect their parents to take responsibility when a child starts to do what children do, which is misbehave. Part of parenthood is realizing that when you’re presented with the choice of your child ruining your good time or ruining everyone else’s, your responsibility is to choose the former. Which means, if the kid is ruining everyone’s meal with a tantrum, letting them do that so you can continue your meal instead of taking them outside? Is rude.

  38. Marilyn
    Marilyn May 14, 2010 at 7:24 pm |

    @Syndella,
    If you don’t want to listen to a screaming kid in a restaurant, it means you’re not deaf.

    If you don’t think kids should be allowed in restaurants, then yes, that makes you a bigot.

  39. Amanda Marcotte
    Amanda Marcotte May 14, 2010 at 7:29 pm |

    Additionally, children ARE a community responsibility; the idea that they belong only to their parents is specious and damaging.

    Except that the only “responsibility” bystanders are really expected to have is the responsibility to suffer children whose parents won’t control them. I think if you were allowed to actually take responsibility and scold a misbehaving child, people wouldn’t be so irate. Truth is, parents generally get really offended if other adults take responsibility to direct a child. If you really want it to be a community responsibility, that means returning to the days when any random adult could scold a misbehaving child. I doubt you want that.

  40. Zes
    Zes May 14, 2010 at 7:29 pm |

    Just to be clear I realize that coldness and meanness does exist in England, it’s just an example of a place that we could have good career choices that is gentler than New York. I have been to about 12 states and I know it would be very unfair to say Americans are cold and mean, they are mostly lovely and very warm, and so are many New Yorkers. It’s just the overriding culture of the one city, which is really amazing in many ways, but ultimately a bit heartless.

  41. Marilyn
    Marilyn May 14, 2010 at 7:31 pm |

    Tell me would, would you tell a disabled person to leave a restaurant because they were being to loud or making you uncomfortable?

    YES. If a disabled person was in a restaurant banging silverware on the table, or yelling at the top of their lungs, then YES it would not be bigoted or prejudiced or whatever of me to be both annoyed by it and to request that person leave the restaurant.

    There are certain restaurants, I think, where it’s more “family friendly” and this kind of behavior is tolerated (I’m thinking of places like Red Robin.) But a fancy, quiet restaurant? Not acceptable, whether it’s a disabled person or a child.

  42. Diz
    Diz May 14, 2010 at 7:31 pm |

    So basically, Renee, you think everyone else in the world should accommodate you letting your kid throw a fit….and everyone else who doesn’t want to be subjected to that are the selfish ones?

    Do you throw a fit in public when you don’t get your way? Then why do you let your kid do it?

  43. Amanda Marcotte
    Amanda Marcotte May 14, 2010 at 7:33 pm |

    There was a really great scene in “Mad Men” that showed exactly what it means to have kids be considered community responsibility for real. The Drapers are having a party, and one of their kids is running around being a brat, and one of their friends—out of their view—grabs him, scolds him, and spanks him. And it’s really clear the Drapers wouldn’t give a shit. That’s just what people did. But it causes audiences to gasp in horror, because nowadays the parent has the sole right to discipline a child, even if he/she demands that everyone share the responsibility of putting up with a random child’s misbehavior.

  44. Gayle Force
    Gayle Force May 14, 2010 at 7:33 pm |

    Ok, so, I am a former teacher, and I loved every damn day of teaching. I heart kids so hard. But you know what? I took an awful lot of kids out in public. All the time. Sometimes 25 at a time. And my first two years of teaching, I taught kids who had severe emotional problems. And I took them out in public. All the time.

    And every single one of them behaved better than some single children I have seen with two parents.

    I heart kids so hard, but I have to agree with Amanda here. Yes, they need understanding and patience, from everyone, and yes, they are oppressed, believe me, almost every single kid I taught in the beginning was a foster kid, holy shit their lives were terrible. But at the end of the day, when I was super burned out of dealing with the little people, and I saw parents let their kids act really inappropriately in an adult space at night, I was fucking so pissed you wouldn’t believe. Not at the kids. At the parents. At the time, my take was, look, if I can take 30 kids out in public with severe issues and they all act better than your kid, there is something wrong here.

    I have mellowed considerably on this (not teaching anymore has helped). And parenting is hard. Being a child is hard. No doubt. But there has to be a line where one can say, ok, maybe this is not a space and time I can expect everyone here accommodate my child screaming for 30 minutes. I expected patience and understanding from other adults when I was dealing with a lot of kids, but I wouldn’t just expect the patience to be endless if one of my charges was acting really inappropriately.

  45. roses
    roses May 14, 2010 at 7:33 pm |

    Well, even if your feminism is just about women, it should probably still involve kids. Why? Because women do disproportionate amounts of care-work for children; women birth children; etc etc.

    Also, ~50% of children are girls.

  46. Renee
    Renee May 14, 2010 at 7:35 pm |

    @Amanda Marcotte people gasp in horror because hitting kids for any reason is wrong. That is not discipline that is abuse. And since you don’t take the time to acknowledge that in your little example you’re damn right I don’t want you disciplining my child

  47. Marilyn
    Marilyn May 14, 2010 at 7:36 pm |

    @Amanda Marcotte
    But kids aren’t considered a community responsibility – not anymore. That whole “it takes a village…” is long past. Disciplining a child you know (that’s not yours) is iffy. Disciplining or reprimanding a stranger’s child is a good way to get yelled at. It’s just not how things work anymore.

  48. Emily WK
    Emily WK May 14, 2010 at 7:37 pm |

    But it causes audiences to gasp in horror, because nowadays the parent has the sole right to discipline a child, even if he/she demands that everyone share the responsibility of putting up with a random child’s misbehavior.

    Or maybe it causes audiences to gasp in horror because that’s a neighbor beating your child for having the unbelievable gall to ACT LIKE A CHILD. I would be appalled if someone I knew took my child and beat him for behaving in a manner they deemed inappropriate. Surely you understand that THAT might be the horror in question.

  49. Emily WK
    Emily WK May 14, 2010 at 7:39 pm |

    Marilyn:

    YES. If a disabled person was in a restaurant banging silverware on the table, or yelling at the top of their lungs, then YES it would not be bigoted or prejudiced or whatever of me to be both annoyed by it and to request that person leave the restaurant.

    Wow. You can’t say bigoted things and then say that they aren’t bigoted. Sometimes people can’t control themselves. Some disabled people are not able to control outbursts of sound, or their physical movements. And if that bothers you, you think you have the right to be annoyed AND to suggest that a grown person be asked to leave a restaurant?

    I cannot even express how disgusted I am by this. Here’s hoping you never ever actually encounter this situation because I would feel really bad for the person you acted so horribly toward.

  50. Diz
    Diz May 14, 2010 at 7:39 pm |

    “But there has to be a line where one can say, ok, maybe this is not a space and time I can expect everyone here accommodate my child screaming for 30 minutes. I expected patience and understanding from other adults when I was dealing with a lot of kids, but I wouldn’t just expect the patience to be endless if one of my charges was acting really inappropriately.”

    Thank you Gayle, for voicing it much nicer than I can. I just don’t understand what is so hard about picking the kid up and going some place quieter to deal with it. It’s just lazy and inconsiderate not too.

    Funny enough, it’s the same people who get in your face when you glare or comment on it, like how DARE you judge their parenting…yet seriously, how dare THEY enable their child to think it’s socially acceptable and put everyone else around them out.

  51. Amanda Marcotte
    Amanda Marcotte May 14, 2010 at 7:40 pm |

    Renee, it’s not the spanking—which I agree, is wrong—because the spanking of that era is expected. I promise, because I’ve heard people say this out loud, it’s because we are so amazed at the idea that a non-parent just up and disciplines a misbehaving kid. Nowadays, that’s considered the sole right of a parent, only bequeathed to caregivers (maybe) in certain circumstances. The idea that any random adult can scold a child is not accepted. Believe me—I’ve had to squelch the urge when someone is letting their kid run around and that kid is invading my space and I’m basically helpless to do anything about it.

  52. Amanda Marcotte
    Amanda Marcotte May 14, 2010 at 7:42 pm |

    You know, now that I think about it, he may not have hit the kid. I think he just grabs and scolds him. Either way, it’s definitely the non-parent disciplining a child that causes the shock.

  53. Amanda Marcotte
    Amanda Marcotte May 14, 2010 at 7:50 pm |

    I double-checked. He does hit the kid, but again, you expect that. What’s actually shocking on the show is when Don doesn’t spank his children, because 99% of parents beat their kids in 1961. It’s just the reminder of how rapidly it changed from a society where kids were literally treated as a community responsibility, and children were expected to obey the authority of all adults, and now where the parents only have the right to discipline, and they bequeath it to others.

    Even the way my family does it, where any random adult is allowed to control any random misbehaving kid within the family is seen as kind of conservative and classless by a lot of people. Things changed rapidly in this arena, and people without children changed their expectations accordingly.

  54. Marilyn
    Marilyn May 14, 2010 at 7:52 pm |

    @Emily WK

    It’s not bigoted to be annoyed by a disturbance. How the hell am I supposed to know someone is disabled, anyway? The fact is, not every social situation is accommodating of every type of person – be it able-bodied adult, disabled adult, able-bodied child, disabled child…whatever.

    Look, I’m not trying to say that everyone who isn’t able-bodied, polite and whatnot just stay locked in their homes. What I’m trying to articulate is that if someone is making a disturbance, the surrounding adults do have the right to be startled and annoyed by it. If I was in a restaurant and I saw an adult making loud noises but was informed by a server that that person was disabled, I would go back to my meal and just ignore the noise.

    This is what I said in my first post: parents have a right to take their child with them to places, and people have the right to be annoyed by it. Both parties deserve to have their feelings acknowledged and heard. But that doesn’t mean either party has the right to dictate the opinions or actions of the other.

  55. Diz
    Diz May 14, 2010 at 7:56 pm |

    I think absolutely everyone on this thread can agree that spanking or hitting is wrong. It’s the cruelest form of abuse to me and doesn’t send a proper message.

    As for strangers disciplining children or communal involvement, that really depends on the parent. I’m usually pretty open to comments or people telling me what I should and shouldn’t be doing because some of it is useful, and I will always give a quick “thanks for your concern”. Others parents will rip you apart if you so much as thoughtfully glance in their direction.

    As for the issue at hand, there should be some form of common ground, like everyone can deal with a small child being in their sphere because a child minding his or her own business doesn’t hurt anyone, and any one who is glaring at a quiet child seething with hatred as it colors on the table is just being a douche, but parents should be sure to actually parent their kid if there’s a meltdown/tantrum/hissy fit whatever. There’s not much effort involved in leaving the room with the child and it’s less stressful for EVERYONE that way.

  56. Nyxelestia
    Nyxelestia May 14, 2010 at 7:57 pm |

    This thread’s getting insane. I’m just another opinion at this point, but I’m chipping in my $0.02 in the hopes it’ll at least offer some middle ground to work with.

    Someone mentioned above that the best way to calm down a child is to simply let them have their tantrum – and they’re right. As the child of a city-renowned and well experienced child carer and as a baby-sitter, myself, the fastest way to calm down a kid is, in fact, to simply let them work it out of their system. Like adults who sometimes fight to let out steam, or engage in games or sports or hobbies to do the same, you cannot let pressure build up in a child.

    That said, people have specific arenas for their hobbies and games and sports, and people having fights don’t hold them inside restaurants any grocery stores. If they do, a staffer usually comes by and asks them to leave. Which most establishments have every right to do. As such, it is ridiculous to expect us to simply ignore the children who do the same.

    My parents took me out to eat in a high-end restaurant when I was just five days old. Days. The reason why? Because I hadn’t slept much the previous night, so they could be well assured that I would largely sleep through the meal. If I didn’t, my mother had a bottle ready in her bag for me, and if I had started crying, she would’ve have taken me outside. As it was, I woke up, and I was quiet throughout the meal.

    All my life, I have been able to go to restaurants. My parents instilled in me very early on proper manners. In the very rare cases I didn’t listen, one of them – often my father as my mother, or whoever else was with them and willing – would take me outside and only bring me back in once I calmed down. This applied everywhere, too. I grew up well mannered.

    The kids around me who didn’t learn these lessons young grew up to be the obnoxious teenagers that pretty much all adults seem to want banned from public spaces until they graduate college. They become the self-entitled kids who shout at Starbucks baristas when the cafe is out of their favorite coffee, and I’ve seen these kids throw things at waiters simply for not having their favorite dish on the menu. Luckily, this level of social atrocity is rare, but it exists.

    And these teenagers eventually grow up into those adults who get drunk and violent in restaurants, who talk too loudly on their phones, and who take forever to complete simple transactions and get offended when you ask them to hurry up.

    I don’t expect little children to be perfectly well behaved. If a kid starts whining at their parents about some food, then no, I don’t call them out on it. Because it’s a very minor annoyance that can be blocked out, and won’t result as much in the child growing up obnoxious as simply making their parents miserable. It’s when it delves into screaming that can’t be ignored that it becomes a problem.

    Not are children are brats, but some are. Not all people are assholes, but some are. But children are little people, and as such, when they start acting obnoxious, regardless of age, I’m going to call them out on it. If they don’t leave, I will. We all have our rights. Sometimes they leave, sometimes I do. One of us will have to go. But if the kid only leaves for their tantrum, then there’s an advantage that won’t happen with me leaving – once they’re done, they can come right back. And they learn a bit more about being a sociable person in the process.

  57. Emily WK
    Emily WK May 14, 2010 at 7:58 pm |

    Look, I’m not trying to say that everyone who isn’t able-bodied, polite and whatnot just stay locked in their homes.

    Nothing you’ve said seems to contradict this, except this statement. So that doesn’t really work.

    What I’m trying to articulate is that if someone is making a disturbance, the surrounding adults do have the right to be startled and annoyed by it. If I was in a restaurant and I saw an adult making loud noises but was informed by a server that that person was disabled, I would go back to my meal and just ignore the noise.

    Oh, so you need to be informed as to the particulars of the situation before you can have human compassion for someone else? What DOES one have to do or think to be a bigot in this world you live in?

    You can be compassionate after someone informs you as to why? Compassion is when you find it in your heart to assume the best in situations rather than the worst.

    And why, then, would an adult who is disabled get a pass but a child who is physically not capable of behaving the same as an adult does not?

    About half of what you say is totally reasonable. The other half is unbelievably bigoted and no amount of “But *I* am not a bigot!” is going to change that.

  58. Diz
    Diz May 14, 2010 at 7:58 pm |

    …and when I said “on the table”, I don’t mean directly ON the table itself. Fail!

  59. Sybil Vane
    Sybil Vane May 14, 2010 at 7:59 pm |

    @Jill I was trying to put forward a post that took the concerns of a variety of different people seriously, and tried to carve out some middle ground. Apparently that failed.

    I thought it was enormously successful. Great post, very thoughtful, even, and careful. The comment thread at our place has been giving me fits, and this post and it’s calm delineations made me feel better.

  60. Amanda Marcotte
    Amanda Marcotte May 14, 2010 at 8:02 pm |

    As for strangers disciplining children or communal involvement, that really depends on the parent.

    There’s zero way for a stranger to know if you’re a cool parent, so we all err on the side on non-confrontation. Sorry, but them’s the breaks.

    Again, I really think that one of the weirdest aspects of this situation is a lot of people go into having children kind of blind. If more people had even a modicum of experience having to handle other people’s children before they had kids, a lot more people would probably say no to it. God knows that’s true in my case. My family’s always thought it was funny that I got frustrated quickly with small children (I tend to try twice to get them to behave, and if that doesn’t work, I fetch a parent, usually under gales of teasing), but thank god I was exposed to small children and expected to at least try to deal with them. It made me realize that I’d rather bang my head against a wall than get into a power struggle with a toddler on a daily basis.

  61. Anna
    Anna May 14, 2010 at 8:03 pm |

    Oh, I really thinking bringing up other groups and saying “no one would do A if person was B!” is probably not the best argument, since I am very happy to assure you that A happens to B people all the time, but not necessarily where non-B people will have seen it.

  62. Diz
    Diz May 14, 2010 at 8:15 pm |

    “And why, then, would an adult who is disabled get a pass but a child who is physically not capable of behaving the same as an adult does not? ”

    Easy, because the disabled person is not mentally capable period, but the parent can teach their child and the child CAN learn.

    Why don’t you give kids enough credit?

  63. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable May 14, 2010 at 8:17 pm |

    @Emily, Marilyn also said this upthread: “@Syndella,
    If you don’t want to listen to a screaming kid in a restaurant, it means you’re not deaf.

    If you don’t think kids should be allowed in restaurants, then yes, that makes you a bigot.”

    She actually explicitly says that it would be bigoted to not allow these individuals into restaurants at all much earlier.

  64. Amanda Marcotte
    Amanda Marcotte May 14, 2010 at 8:17 pm |

    There’s categorical differences between disabled adults and non-disabled children, and conflating the two runs the chance of creating confusion and offense.

  65. Claudia
    Claudia May 14, 2010 at 8:25 pm |

    Well. I’ve cared for children and I’ve assisted disabled adults. The glares from onlookers when I’ve gone out in public with either of these folks is pretty much the same.

  66. Renee
    Renee May 14, 2010 at 8:26 pm |

    @Amanda Marcotte
    How about you don’t get a say and claim communal love when so little communal responsibility is shown towards children everyday. You don’t get to step in because you are annoyed when on a daily basis society does next to nothing to support children or their parents. Community when it is convenient does not work.

    @Jill
    Your kind of interception involves removal and sends the message to the child that they are not welcome even if you later address the behaviour. I am absolutely against making a child feel like they don’t belong no matter what the circumstances. I have been in restaurants where a child is throwing a fit and oddly enough when I look at the parent share a smile and say I’ve been there the look of relief is enough to break your heart. For the few minutes that it takes for the child to deal with what they are going through I think that we can be patient and allow bother parent and child to keep their dignity. And no children are not always capable of controlling their behaviour some get overwhelmed very easily.

  67. shannon
    shannon May 14, 2010 at 8:34 pm |

    Yes, the fact that the discipline of children falls solely on parents is a real difficulty, since if the parents are exhausted, they can’t rely on others for backup. The children then take that behavior into school, etc. Not everyone can home school, so teaching your children to observe and respect the rights of others is important! And yes, I’m biased against children in R rated movies- they are rated R for a reason- often they are too frightening or confusing for the children.

  68. catfood
    catfood May 14, 2010 at 8:36 pm |

    @Sam #4: Yes. Taking the kid out of the restaurant works great. I did that consistently when mine were little and it rapidly became no problem. Kid makes a scene bad, you take him or her out of the scene, period.

    I feel like sharing this little story, because I’m still so proud of my son for it: We walked into the swankest restaurant in Rhode Island (small state, but still) to exasperated stares. Some diners actually took their checks and left. Just because it was a mommy and daddy and three small children–the smallest maybe about two years old.

    That smallest child behaved perfectly. He was quiet, motion-free, and even interested in the food. When he got a little antsy, I walked him around the room a couple of times to look at the fish tanks. And that was all. (I mean the other two were fine, too. Just saying.)

    Kid seems to have a knack for figuring out how to act in public. He’s thirteen now.

  69. Yonmei
    Yonmei May 14, 2010 at 8:48 pm |

    The things that have been said that I agree with:

    1. Being a good parent is a tough and wearisome job: while parents should take active responsibility for their children, they also deserve to catch a break when they don’t do it right. Because no one’s going to do it right all the time.

    2. Parents have a right to take their children anywhere they legally can: other people have a right to get irritated if the children get annoying in a loud and distracting way.

    3. It’s so very much easier for a childminder or a teacher to get children to behave well than it is for a parent to do so.

    4. Everyone always remembers their own childhoods as being very well-behaved. This is because no adult really remembers the years during which they were as likely as any other small child to scream randomly, drop cutlery, throw crayons, or any other classically annoying behaviour. But the fact is: all small children are going to do things some of the time that are going to be annoying to surrounding adults.

    5. Supporting parents in parenting and children in being children is an ethical, social, and moral obligation on us all. That includes the tough stuff like learning how to talk over a toddler at the next table letting out a blurt of sound every five minutes as she finds a new colour crayon, and not complaining.

  70. syndella
    syndella May 14, 2010 at 8:49 pm |

    Who can the discipline fall on *but* the parents. I’m sure all the people calling everyone who would rather not listen to their screaming little darlings while eating dinner would be none to pleased if anyone dare asked their little angels to be quiet.

  71. Muse142
    Muse142 May 14, 2010 at 8:55 pm |

    Most of this conversation has been really informative, including the disagreements. Normally I would just lurk and read and learn, but I needed to say this regarding Diz @ 72: The disablism, it burns.

  72. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable May 14, 2010 at 8:57 pm |

    Um.

    No, I am not any kind of obligated to help raise the children of the world. Sorry, I reject this as utter bullshit. I would be morally etc. obligated to raise my own children if I had them willingly or others if I were in a contractual agreement to do it.

    I am, however, obligated to treat every individual with respect. This includes children and adults who choose to raise children.

  73. Tree
    Tree May 14, 2010 at 9:00 pm |

    Renee, what’s wrong with making children feel like they don’t belong in a specific place? I’ll agree that there is all sorts of sexism (and classism and racism and so on) in the way that social boundaries for children and parents are enforced, but you are implying that everyone has to put up with anything.

    I don’t think anyone would say that children need to be removed from a restaurant the first time they make a noise, but there are certain (attempting to define the exact boundaries is an impossible waste of time) limits.

  74. Meowser
    Meowser May 14, 2010 at 9:03 pm |

    Actually, I do have a disability (I’m autistic). And there are many, many times when I would like to scream and throw things when I get overstimulated. (And staying home is no guarantee that there won’t be overstimulation; I’m pretty sure the first 20 or 30 apartments I ever lived in, right up to age 45, were extremely noisy, enough so that even hunter’s earplugs could not block out the sound. That’s what happens when you don’t have money. When I lived in places like that, you have no idea how grateful I was to finally, finally find some sort of quiet environment somewhere to ease my jangled nerves for a few minutes.)

    But you know what would happen to me if I actually did scream and throw things? Especially if something I threw injured someone else, or I crawled under a server’s legs while xe was carrying a heavy tray full of hot food and made xyr drop it? I’d be arrested. They would not give one red, white, and blue shit about my disability, trust me. So please don’t assume adult PWD get a boundary-free pass to do whatever we like, wherever we like. We certainly don’t.

    My brother and SIL live in NYC and have two toddlers. And they actually go to the other extreme of what you describe, Jill — they go almost nowhere with the kids except for spaces that they’ve scouted out ahead of time and know will work for them, and in fact go almost nowhere without them except work, either. I don’t know how they do it — having ten-mile fuses probably helps, and SIL works with kids all day — but I gather that they have friends with young children who do likewise. FWIW, they are over 40 and live on the Upper East Side.

    (Oh, and Amanda, I’m pretty sure the kid who got slapped on Mad Men by a party-goer — and then told by his parents to apologize to the man who slapped him — was Francine and Carlton’s kid, not the Drapers’, though it took place in the Drapers’ house. And it was 1960, not ’61.)

  75. Emily WK
    Emily WK May 14, 2010 at 9:06 pm |

    Yonmei, I totally agree with those points. Well summarized.

    Syndella, I’m so glad you are able to tell what kind of a parent I am since my child isn’t even born yet. Here we have yet another amazing example of someone who can’t give someone else the benefit of the doubt even when we’re having a conversation where half of the people are asking for the benefit of the doubt. But please, if it makes you feel better about judging other people, don’t let me dissuade you from believing every parent who has a child who annoys you is a douchebag.

  76. ks
    ks May 14, 2010 at 9:12 pm |

    I have to say, I mostly agree with Jill and Amanda here.

    Different places have different standards of behavior and it isn’t at all unreasonable to expect that parents who take their children to those places will help the children to learn what those standards are. And to remove the kids from that situation, whether for a few minutes, the evening, or until a later date, if the kids can’t conform to a reasonable approximation of that standard. I mean, I wouldn’t expect absolute quiet, with no running and screaming at the local playground or ChuckECheese, but there are places where that expectation would not be unreasonable.

    I take my kids pretty much everywhere, and they are expected to behave. If they don’t, discipline usually starts with a look/talking to and escalates to removing them from the situation if it comes to it. But, as a result of taking them pretty much everywhere and expecting them to behave when we go, they now, at 8 and almost 5, know how to behave pretty much everywhere. It isn’t a matter of who is in what space, it is a matter of what behavior is appropriate in that space.

  77. Lasciel
    Lasciel May 14, 2010 at 9:15 pm |

    @Renee- uhhhh no. We have no reason to put up with your kids’ bad behavior. My mother would take us home if we were at an amusement park or restaurant and we acted up. It was very disappointing and so we tended not to do that sort of thing.

    If other people have an obligation to you, you have an obligation to them. Do you truly feel no guilt for ruining 30 people’s evening all because of one snotty child’s antics? YOU and YOUR child are affecting a lot of other people, not the other way around.

    Part of the “interacting with society” you think is so important includes getting told off, coldly glared about, and snidely whispered about when you behave like an idiot. Consider our contempt for your children just another useful learning experience for them.

    Also, as for people being able to get away with hitting their children, legally, I’m calling bullshit on this one. People escape justice and a couple whack cases maybe, but no. Call up your local friendly social workers and ask them if it’s ok to bust your kid in the head. Spanking is tolerated, as long as it’s not so severe the child is bleeding and such.

  78. Icewyche
    Icewyche May 14, 2010 at 9:16 pm |

    Renee, mindsets like yours are why some childfree people actively dislike parents. “MY kid is special!” “MY kid can do no wrong!” “How DARE everyone not love MY kid?” “You twisted childfree people don’t understand how HAAARD it is to have kids!” And frankly, a good many of you with kids don’t know how hard it is to be childfree – especially a childfree woman – in a society that worships parents and kids and sees “mother” as the default setting for women.

    I don’t like being around kids, the same way I don’t like being around loud, obnoxious people who monopolize conversations and can’t talk about anything except themselves, and I make no apology for that. If your child can behave like a reasonable human being in public, then good for you. But I get really, really tired of watching parents let their kids run amok while shrugging off the damage with “S/he’s only a chyyuuld.”

    You don’t get to step in because you are annoyed when on a daily basis society does next to nothing to support children or their parents. I’m sorry, but are you f**king KIDDING me? Society revolves around parents. I have NEVER received tax breaks for not having kids even though I certainly use fewer resources than the childed. I’ve never seen “Adults Eat/Stay Free” advertised anywhere. I’ve never seen people without kids get any kind of preference for social services like health care, food stamps, or housing; in fact, some agencies REFUSE to help you if you don’t have children. Based on the rest of your arguments thus far, I’m guessing what you mean by “Society doesn’t support parents” is “People actually expect ME to play by the same rules as everyone else! Can’t they see I’m special because I have a CHILD?!?”

  79. Rob
    Rob May 14, 2010 at 9:20 pm |

    It’s funny that the childless always have all the answers. I guess that I was the same, before I had children of my own. There’s two things I can say about this topic
    1. If you don’t have kids, then you have no idea. Full stop. Being an aunt, uncle, brother, sister, babysitter isn’t even a distant second.
    2. I probably share this opinion with most parents: If you believe I am concerned about your feelings when my kids are going apey in public, I promise that you are wrong.

  80. shannon
    shannon May 14, 2010 at 9:24 pm |

    Well, children do need extra support since they can’t do for themselves, and parents need extra support since children bring chaos and extra expenses into your life.

  81. syndella
    syndella May 14, 2010 at 9:25 pm |

    Oh, I left out a word in one of my comments. After dinner add “a bigot”

    And EmilyWK, I don’t recall judging your future parenting, or reading anything you wrote in this thread, but whatever.

  82. Claudia
    Claudia May 14, 2010 at 9:36 pm |

    I find it amazing that so many commenters here seem to long for permission to scold strange children. If you’re really bothered by a situation involving a child, there are better ways.

    Once I was in a department store with my two young daughters. They were fighting and crying, people were glaring, and I was about to lose my shit entirely. This older gentleman stopped and took out his wallet to show them pictures from a fishing trip he took when he was a boy. They calmed down immediately, and I almost burst into tears with relief. It was one of the greatest acts of kindness anyone has ever shown me.

    I’m just saying, de-escalation/redirection is always a better solution than attempting to control someone’s behavior through threat or shame. No, you don’t owe anyone that, but if you’re actually concerned with helping, then it’s something to consider.

  83. Emily WK
    Emily WK May 14, 2010 at 9:38 pm |

    That’s the trouble with blanket statements, syndella. You say “I’m sure all the people who are doing X would also be horrified at Y” and then inform people who are doing X that no, you didn’t mean them? Sure. Okay. Blanket statements cover, you know, lots of people.

  84. Rob
    Rob May 14, 2010 at 9:41 pm |

    A child is like a puppy: in need of training.

    That’s ridiculous. You clearly have no idea what you are talking about.

  85. syndella
    syndella May 14, 2010 at 9:42 pm |

    Whatev.

    I don’t *want* to scold anyone’s screaming brats. At all. But I’m not saying “omg, raising children is a community obligation”

  86. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable May 14, 2010 at 9:45 pm |

    Claudia, when I’ve tried entertaining kids in line at the grocery store who were crying because the aisle is narrow and lined with candy – pretty much a social death trap for children who have been trapped in a sitting position for probably close to an hour – I’ve gotten scolded twice for undermining individuals’ parenting styles. I definitely won’t do it again.

    It’s GREAT if it works for your kids, but it’s not a catch-all solution. I do like the idea of injecting positivity into the situation, but it’s not always a possibility. I am concerned with your use of “threat” and “shame” though. I don’t know that disciplining children has to require either.

  87. Claudia
    Claudia May 14, 2010 at 9:50 pm |

    I’m saying the village raises the child whether it acknowledges it or not. When a person glares at someone’s kids, they notice. It teaches them something. All of us can decide whether we want to teach the kids around us something positive or something negative. Maybe if we’re a little kinder to each other now, we won’t have so many assholes in the world in 20 years. I don’t think that’s such a terrible idea.

    And please don’t use the word “brats.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people scream that at children as they beat them. It really is a hateful term.

  88. Ruchama
    Ruchama May 14, 2010 at 9:51 pm |

    This older gentleman stopped and took out his wallet to show them pictures from a fishing trip he took when he was a boy. They calmed down immediately, and I almost burst into tears with relief. It was one of the greatest acts of kindness anyone has ever shown me.

    An older gentleman once tried something like that with me, when I was three or four. I followed the instructions I’d been given at nursery school for what to do if approached by a stranger — I kicked, screamed, and ran. My mother was mortified, and had to explain to this nice old gentleman that I really didn’t mean any harm, while at the same time trying to calm me down, because I was really freaking out with Stranger Danger.

  89. Claudia
    Claudia May 14, 2010 at 9:55 pm |

    Ah, PrettyAmiable, we posted at the same time.

    I thought I had read a comment with the word “scold,” which, to me, is not the same as “discipline” and implies threat or shame.

    Also, candy aisles are the devil.

  90. Claudia
    Claudia May 14, 2010 at 10:03 pm |

    And, one other thing, it seems that a lot of people don’t recognize a parent is disciplining a child unless they are threatening or physically handling that child. Active ignoral, is an extremely effective method of discipline, but many parents don’t want to do it in public because they’re seen as being lazy. I’ve been scolded myself for attempting to talk my daughter through an anxiety attack, because why would I want to encourage that behavior by reasoning with her? I should just tell her to stop being a baby. Seriously. People are jerks sometimes, and I just really wish they weren’t.

    (And, yeah, I’m sure this person who got on my case was a fellow parent. Jerkdom is pretty universal.)

  91. Hannah
    Hannah May 14, 2010 at 10:21 pm |

    Three Things:

    I agree so so SO wholeheartedly with Rob. Honestly. I don’t think that a conversation about how to parent/discipline children should be one that people without children take part in. ANd I don’t think that’s being exclusive, or anything else, I think it’s just realistic- accept the fact that you will not know or understand till you’ve been there. Sorry.

    “And please don’t use the word “brats.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people scream that at children as they beat them. It really is a hateful term.”
    Thank you Claudia. Describing your own or other peoples’ kids that way is not just hateful but really overwhelmingly condescending. I’m actually genuinely confused by people who say that they hate kids. I feel like they must have been miserable children to be around…

    Also, Lasciel, “as for people being able to get away with hitting their children, legally, I’m calling bullshit on this one. People escape justice and a couple whack cases maybe, but no.”
    …uh, right. How about you come hang out in inner city Baltimore, or perhaps any large, poor, urban area, and then reevaluate that little gem of a statement you just made?

  92. Ash
    Ash May 14, 2010 at 10:24 pm |

    I’ve chosen not to have children for a variety of reasons that I don’t feel obligated to explain. However, I do understand that children and parents will always exist and deserve to be tolerated like everyone else.

    Yet, I was recently in a restaurant, sitting in a booth, minding my own business. I was midway through my lunch and felt a small hand grab a chunk of my hair from behind and YANK. I looked back and said, “Excuse me??” to a sticky-faced kid approximately 5 or 6 years old smiling at me with that “Aren’t I just the cutest?” expression and his mother smiling at me from across the table. I shook it off, swallowed the annoyance and attempted to move on until it happened again five minutes later. And then again. I look back, see the mother still watching. Viewing my look of horror and disgust, she offered a, “Isn’t he cute? He thinks your hair’s a toy because it’s blue!” I stood up and told her that if she can’t control her child long enough to prevent it from yanking a stranger’s hair three times in 15 minutes, she has no business bringing her child into public situations.

    I don’t regret that. Simply put, I will tolerate some crying, some “cute” child behaviors that I realize are lost on me, and even some screams despite knowing they’re going to give me a lasting headache that can only be medicated by prescription narcotics. It happens. I WILL NOT tolerate some parent thinking it’s acceptable for their child to pull my hair just because my hair happens to be blue, and I shouldn’t have to. This goes way beyond normal child behavior that should be accomodated and into areas of behavior that should not be allowed simply because the person at fault is under 18.

  93. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers May 14, 2010 at 10:29 pm |

    Wow, I can’t believe how extremist and vitriolic this thread has gotten on *both* sides. That didn’t take long, did it?

    In general, my sympathies are with parents. This isn’t just because I am a parent; I became a parent because my sympathies are with kids. But some of the rhetoric here from parents is ludicrous. Yes, if your child is having a tantrum in public, and you can’t quiet them down in a couple of minutes, and you’re not in a situation like, say, a doctor’s appointment where you really can’t just leave… just leave. It sucks. It sucks hardcore to go to a movie you wanted to see, with your breastfeeding baby because the baby usually is quiet on the breast, only today the baby is fussy and won’t shut up and nurse, but it also sucks to go to a movie and not be able to hear it because of someone’s crying baby, and of the two kinds of suck, one is the kind you volunteered for. Now, if you really can get the baby quiet within a couple of minutes, great! But you are not entitled to allow your child to ruin everyone else’s day because dammit, you paid to see that movie. And I say this as someone who dammit, paid to see that movie, and didn’t get to see it because the baby wouldn’t nurse quietly and I had to take him out.

    However, the rhetoric coming from some (NOT all) of the childfree here… oh boy.

    Let’s start with “you can’t imagine what it’s like to be childfree in a world that caters to parents!” Yes, because each and every mother gave birth on her 18th birthday and has not had a single adult day when she was free of children. Sweet Jesus Christ, would you try to tell 20-somethings that they can’t imagine what it’s like to be a teenager? We’ve all been people without children and we’ve all been people with children, so we know both sides of it. You know only one side of it, therefore, by definition, WE KNOW MORE ABOUT IT THAN YOU. We have been you. We know what it’s like to be you. We paid those very high taxes for singles! We listened to mothers and older relatives harp on us about when were we gonna have kids! We found that we couldn’t get health insurance or welfare or food stamps! Other people’s kids screamed during movies we were trying to watch! Yes, we understand the experience of being a single person with no children. And if you think that society caters to us and our needs, and specifically to mothers and mothers’ needs, then you need to go back to feminism 101.

    There are almost no sympathetic mothers on television or in movies who also have agency and intelligence. Mothers in fiction are dead, evil, or kind of vacant and just sort of there. Boys and girls, men and women, desperately seek the attention of or the approval of their fathers! Follow in the footsteps of their fathers! Hate their fathers, love their fathers, but their lives are pretty much dominated by their fathers! Mothers, not so much. Because mothers, in fiction, are not people (mostly.) They’re plot devices, or they’re there because no one could figure out how to not have them there, or they’re *not* there because… what? They’re dead, they’re missing, they’re just never mentioned.

    Yeah, you noticed that Women Are Supposed To Have Children is a dominant cultural trope. Good for you! Bad for you that you stopped there, offended that you were being told to have children. If you had looked into it more closely, you would have noticed the second half of that sentence is And Then Die, Disappear Or Otherwise Cease To Be Relevant Humans. So here you are pissing on mothers because goddamnit, *you* don’t want to be one of those ciphers who dies, disappears and ceases to be a relevant human! Neither do we. We are people, and you fell for it. You went for the patriarchal bait and switch. Somehow you failed to notice the way society treats mothers as if they’re either nonexistent or worth shit? How about fighting the real enemy — the system that claims that women are only worthwhile for having children *and* that women who do have children are worthless? I mean, are you not noticing the “heads patriarchy wins, tails women lose” aspect to the whole thing?

    “Society caters to your needs.” How? “You get tax breaks for reproducing!” No, we get tax breaks for raising kids, which is really hard work. Trust me. I got Head of Household tax credits for supporting kids that weren’t biologically mine. Their bio mother can’t even write off the child support on her taxes. And the tax credit did not begin to cover the cost of raising the kids. “Kids eat free!” Kids eat very little and the burden of paying for three or four people *every* time you go somewhere adds up quick. “Single adults can’t get services!” Because the services are generally thought of as *for* kids and the people who are so dragged down by having to care for them that they can’t hold down a good job, and actually, if you look at the poverty statistics it’s overwhelmingly single mothers with children and elderly women who raised children and thus missed out on work that are really poor in this nation, thus implying that the services are in fact correctly aimed. Let me tell you, I lived alone on $22K a year, and I tried to raise kids on $60K a year, and the raising of kids put me deeper into debt and closer to poverty than the $22K alone did. That doesn’t mean that ignoring the needs of poor single childfree people (or married childfree people, for that matter) is a good thing, but it is generally speaking not mothers, as a class, or even parents, as a class, that made that call.

    As for the person who doesn’t think that hating kids is equal to anti-Semitism: maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s much more like hating the disabled. Fuck you, fuck you hard, fuck your ableism and your ageism and your fantastical magic fairy belief that YOU CAN HATE A CATEGORY OF HUMANS WITH A TRAIT THEY CANNOT CONTROL and that doesn’t make you a bigot. You don’t have to fawn over children to not hate them. You don’t have to interact with children at all to not hate them. You don’t have to like hearing kids cry to not hate them. You just have to, I don’t know, NOT HATE THEM. I mean, when men say that they hate women’s high pitched voices and we’re so shrill and we talk nonsense all the time, do you give them a free pass because hey, at least misogyny is not like hating Jewish people? If you can’t understand that hating a category of humans for a trait they have no control over is not cool, ever, then I don’t see what there is to discuss with you. Go take your hater self over to some blog that pretends to be progressive but instead caters to hate. Echidne of the Snakes got taken over recently by transphobic commenters, so maybe you and your child hate will fit right in.

  94. Renee
    Renee May 14, 2010 at 10:46 pm |

    Congratulations Jill for once again failing to understand mothers or their children. First it was that disgusting video on mothers day and now this thread. You know before people start talking about issues they really should get their 101 on and you enabled this complete and utter hate fest towards children with your post and you once again alienated mothers. Never have I been so disgusted to read a thread on this blog. Shit like this is exactly why I am not a feminist non of you can see past your egos and your own agendas long enough to give a damn about anyone. I won’t be back to this thread because it is not safe and I refuse to suffer anymore bigotry.

  95. Kate
    Kate May 14, 2010 at 10:46 pm |

    I hate kids. I’m not ashamed of it.

    People don’t tend to understand what I mean by that. They assume I’m some miserly Scrooge who chases kids off my lawn with a rake and rubs my hands together in glee when I hear of some kid dying in a horrid way. Sure, I hate kids, but that doesn’t mean I want them to get hurt or killed. That also doesn’t mean that I believe kids aren’t people, that nobody should ever have them, or that they shouldn’t be allowed to venture into the world.

    But, as a whole, I don’t like them. Especially small children. Not every individual child, obviously. Some kids are all right, but for the most part, I’m perfectly content having nothing to do with them. I don’t want them in my home or my personal space. Screaming and crying triggers my anxiety (which I have mostly under control, fortunately). I’m happy when there’s none to be seen on public transportation, sitting near me in a restaurant, or at a movie theater.

    I don’t like a lot of their parents either, but that’s a whole other kettle of fish. I know my opinions aren’t popular, but that’s okay. I don’t have to defend myself or prove that I’m a good person just because I don’t partake in our society’s mommy and baby worship.

  96. caprette
    caprette May 14, 2010 at 10:53 pm |

    I have to say, I’m pretty shocked by all the opposition to Jill’s post, which sounded perfectly reasonable to me.

    Kids are part of society, but they haven’t yet learned all the rules that keep everything running smoothly. So of course they should be out and about in public spaces, because otherwise they’d never learn. But part of the learning process is being taught that disruptive behavior is unacceptable. Of course, the rest of us should be patient to some degree, because parents are not expert teachers (many have never done this before) and children can’t be expected to behave perfectly all the time. But I do think it’s reasonable to get annoyed at parents of children who are being loud and/or disruptive without making any attempts to calm the kids down.

  97. April
    April May 14, 2010 at 10:56 pm |

    <blockquote text="I agree with Renee. Children ARE little people. A crying toddler is a PERSON who is for whatever reason upset about something, not just some brat."

    So, following that logic, I’m sure you’d agree that screaming at a server for not anticipating your desire for Mountain Dew is acceptable public behavior from a 32-year-old. And if they were a neurotypical, able-bodied adult, prolonged screaming/wailing/throwing of objects not only at the server who is responsible for the mistake, but also other restaurant patrons, it’d also be perfectly acceptable to an equal degree, right? And that the patrons of said bar would not only have no right to be annoyed, but also be subject to the “bigot” label should they not feel anything less than ambivalence toward the screaming, wailing, violent adult?

    I, for one, would not tolerate a grown adult behaving that way in a public place. Actually, not many people would. So if you’re really going to try to equate children with adults when deciding where and when they should be allowed in public, then you really ought to consider the social responsibility that that expectation creates. As an adult, I would NOT get away with things that children do in public for very long. So if you want your toddler to be considered the same as me, an adult, then your toddler should be responsible for behaving in an adult manner.

    Or were you trying to suggest that expecting “adult behavior” in certain places is oppressive to people who are not adults? Because then I don’t understand where, exactly, you draw the line between “oppression” and “protection.” Clearly, you would not allow your toddler to wander into the middle of the street. You also would not tend to think twice about an adult you see, whether a random adult or your adult offspring, crossing the street. You wouldn’t dare suggest that children don’t need our protection, right? Because that is obviously ridiculous. And to suggest that children are as capable as adults of rational decision-making would be transparently intellectually dishonest.

    I really and truly do not understand how anyone could have an actual, serious problem with this article.

    And to back away from the comment drama and talk about the actual post, thanks Jill, for writing about this. I ventured into a discussion about this a few months ago, and was disappointed to see how few articles were written about the topic. I’ve been yelled out of a few comment threads on other blogs for voicing similar sentiments, although in an admittedly less articulate fashion. Even though I am not yet a parent, I can clearly see that your arguments and viewpoints are thoroughly thought-out and respectful.

  98. DonnaDiva
    DonnaDiva May 14, 2010 at 11:02 pm |

    How about you don’t get a say and claim communal love when so little communal responsibility is shown towards children everyday. You don’t get to step in because you are annoyed when on a daily basis society does next to nothing to support children or their parents. Community when it is convenient does not work.

    Dependent tax deductions, tax credits, public schools, child-centric public accommodations, employer sponsored health insurance (thousands of dollars in added tax-exempt compensation your childfree counterpart doesn’t get) – these are all forms of support given to middle class American parents. Could we do more? Sure, and definitely for lower income parents (remember how Clinton cut millions of families off of AFDC while giving middle class parents the Child Tax Credit?). And I’m not one of those childfree folks who begrudges parents those things. I’m happy to subsidize the care and education of children. They’re important. But don’t turn around and tell me I’m not doing my part toward your kids. Imagine if you really had to pay the entire cost of raising your children. Just imagine. Then you want to tell me I’m not allowed to be annoyed if your kids are misbehaving and you’re doing nothing about it. Give me a break.

  99. leedevious
    leedevious May 14, 2010 at 11:09 pm |

    People People People.
    I have an adult sister who is disabled and prone to loud outburst. Guess what, we don’t go to nice restaurants.

  100. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable May 14, 2010 at 11:14 pm |

    I have a question – but it may be a derail, so please ignore if it is. I can’t decide myself.

    I think most people would agree that children qualify as an oppressed group. That is, they are exceedingly vulnerable and often are unfamiliar with their rights as humans and thus this does open them up excessively to things like domestic violence and sexual assault (all of which are compounded further if they belong to other marginalized classes).

    Are parents an oppressed group? My inclination is to say no – not because of welfare or healthcare or whatever benefits, but because I’ve heard a lot of horrible things said about a lot of women who choose not to have children (or who choose abortion or adoption). If parents aren’t an oppressed group, is there “parental privilege”? This leads back into what I think this thread is about – what can we ask of parents given x circumstance.

    And then, since parents are caretakers of individuals who belong to an oppressed group, how does that factor in?

  101. Miriam Heddy
    Miriam Heddy May 14, 2010 at 11:19 pm |

    1) Jill wrote, of privileged “Park Slope Mothers,” I think it’s great that they’re taking action to re-shape urban environments to be more child-friendly.

    I’m not entirely convinced that these Bugaboo mothers are reshaping the environment to be more child-friendly for all mothers so much as mothers just like them. What I’ve seen in gentrifying and gentrified neighborhoods is a proliferation of child-centered boutiques, indoor play centers, children’s dance schools and pottery-making shops, and posh daycares, but I haven’t seen much to suggest that those privileged moms have improved the lives of poor and working class parents who are often gentrified right out of those neighborhoods or are unable to afford the amenities in those neighborhoods. Sometimes, the presence of wealth means a playground gets renovated, but that does little to benefit the children whose parents (often renters) must move on to poorer areas of the City.

    2) I’d also note is that this odd notion that “it takes a village” isn’t currently in practice and workable and working belies the experience of many (again, seemingly invisible in this discussion) poor and working class parents (many of whom are PoC) who, by necessity, collectively watch over and care for the communities’ children to the best of their ability despite the government’s ineffectual so-called “safety net.”

    3) It strikes me as problematic that the idea of “intervention” in the case of a tantruming child seems wholly focused on the child. And so I ask those without children to consider the possibility that you might intervene not by taking on the role of parent (something you’ve chosen not to do) and talking to or scolding or distracting the child (whom you may not like or empathize with), but instead by taking on the role of sympathetic, caring adult speaking to another adult. One way to do this is to say to the adult, “Wow–parenting looks hard sometimes. I don’t have any kids, and I don’t know how I’d handle it. Is there anything I can do right now to make this moment easier on you?”

    Other parents have done this for me–by holding my place in line at the grocery store while I moved out of it, or by watching my full cart while I hauled off in hot pursuit of a wayward child, or sometimes, just by smiling at me on the subway and offering me a seat when my toddler started melting down.

    Sometimes, what stands between a child out of control and that child getting in control is a mom who needs some support to help her take a deep breath and soldier on, because kids are sensitive to adults freaking out and a mom-on-the-edge creates a feedback loop with a freaked out child, but a calm mom can and does have a chance to help a child regain control.

    4) Finally, the focus on the tantruming young child in an upscale restaurants is, I have come to suspect, a bit of a straw-child, often used by the “childfree” as the rhetorical focal point and gravity-well for all sorts of things (ineffectual parenting, entitled moms, the way that the entire world is child-centered, yadda yadda).

    Which leads me to… A Thought Experiment:
    Let’s just say, for the purposes of argument, that all parents here and everywhere could be brought into agreement that the best thing to do with a tantruming child is remove them from the restaurant, stat, and let’s go even further and imagine that somehow, we could effect a change wherein:
    any child in a restaurant (one not specifically advertised as “family” and with mealprices set above some standard we all somehow agreed upon) who has a tantrum
    would henceforth be summarily whisked outside (along with the parent) at the very first hint of a tantrum and before any actual noise or disturbance is made by the child (some sort of early warning system would have to be put in place–like those earthquake meters that sense it before one can even feel the tremors).

    Would all feminists with no children be satisfied to share all the rest of public space with parents and children? Or would the ire merely shift to Out of Control Child Exhibit B Demonstrating Unacceptable Behavior (the “runner,” the “loud-talker,” the “touches everything,” etc.) in front of the Ineffective/Overly Indulgent Parent Y who should know better than to bring their child to Venue Z (insert your venue of choice here)?

    Because I suspect we’d see the goalposts move, and move, and move.

    We already see that here when talk of shifts from tantrums in upscale restaurants to wild claims that society unfairly rewards mothers by not charging them extra for the privilege of sharing a double bed with said child.

    I just don’t think that there’s a middle ground or consensus or compromise possible when the ground is shifting under the argument at the speed that it has so far.

  102. Shinobi
    Shinobi May 14, 2010 at 11:25 pm |

    I think there needs to be a differentiation made in this conversation between dislike of children and dislike of children’s behavior. It is one think to dislike the behaviors that children commonly engage in, this is not the same thing as disliking the child.

    I dislike that the 7 year old I saw on the bus the other day was talking about me in a loud and very unflattering manner. I dislike that another kid on the train the other day was screaming. I also disliked the time I got smacked on the ass by someone’s unruly child (who was not reprimanded AT ALL). Oh and I really hate that my neighbor kids feel compelled to have every conversation at the top of their lungs and to constantly play ball outside my house.

    That doesn’t necessarily mean I don’t like these kids. But these child like behaviors are annoying. Me not liking them does not make me a bigot, just like it doesn’t make me a bigot when I don’t like my adult neighbors throwing empty vodka bottles on my lawn or sitting on their car in front of my driveway with the car doors open and the stereo turned up.

    We are all allowed to have preferences for the way other human beings behave.

    I dislike being around children because I don’t like the behaviors that are expected of me as an adult around children. I have no interest in this great responsibility that so many parents have taken on ( and apparently think that those of us without children could never possibly understand.) I don’t want to shape young minds, I don’t want to explain things, I don’t want to be in any way responsible for affecting the formative years of another human being.

  103. Dom
    Dom May 14, 2010 at 11:49 pm |

    re: “candy aisles are the devil”

    Absolutely agree. All candy everywhere should be placed only on shelves raised five feet above the floor and put behind smoky glass display windows. Or something to keep them away from kids’ attention.

  104. April
    April May 14, 2010 at 11:50 pm |

    We are all allowed to have preferences for the way other human beings behave.

    You certainly have a point, but think about this from the perspective of someone who believes that children are an oppressed class. Children cannot change their status as children; they cannot be expected to gain the life experience and knowledge that one would expect a “normal” adult person to go through in response to a public reprimand.

    If it is socially acceptable to declare a distaste for a whole class of 100% human beings based on their present, unchangeable state of being (in this case, the person being of a general, unchangeable age range), who’s to stop someone from trying to say that it’s okay that they “just don’t like women”? Being a “woman” is as unchangeable as being a “4-year-old” when the 4-year-old is 4.

    How do you reconcile feminist and anti-oppression ideals with the ones you hold against children as a class of people?

    If I were asked that question, I would note that every human alive right now has been a child, and therefore, the “oppression” that children face as children is not comparable to the oppression that most other groups face, like racism, sexism, ableism, etc., and therefore shouldn’t be discussed from the same platform.

  105. roses
    roses May 14, 2010 at 11:53 pm |

    I’m just wondering where everyone lives that children screaming and throwing tantrums all the time everywhere is such an issue. Because it’s really… not, here. I mean sure, sometimes a child screams or cries or throws a tantrum… but it’s not something I notice nearly as often as I notice other adults being assholes in numerous ways. Why all the vitriol toward children? I mean, as I mentioned before, ~50% of children are girls, and this seems like just another way that large segments of women/female people are excluded from feminism.

  106. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable May 15, 2010 at 12:02 am |

    April, in that vein, classism? Class can be fluid (coming from a daughter of migrant workers who is getting an MBA).

    (I acknowledge that age is BY DEFINITION fluid whereas class only is in individual cases, so this is an imperfect analogy).

    I suppose I still feel squicky about its dismissal because it doesn’t change that children are particularly vulnerable to abuse of all kinds. This isn’t to suggest that by asking them to be quiet in x circumstance that this is an example of oppression in itself, but it makes me wonder whether continuous silencing of kids in ordinary circumstances lends itself to their beliefs that they should be silent in extraordinary circumstances.

  107. April
    April May 15, 2010 at 12:03 am |

    Roses, it’s so abundantly clear in the comments that no one expresses actual hostility toward children, but rather their caregivers for not being considerate public citizens. And several people have noted that if children are to be treated as equal humans, then they should be held to the same standards as everyone else who’s not a child. But Jill was right above, People seem to want it both ways: children can do whatever, whenever they please, when adults are held accountable by law for similar behaviors, but be respected as adults nonetheless, and with fewer consequences than adults guilty of the same behavior.

  108. Danielle
    Danielle May 15, 2010 at 12:06 am |

    If someone identifies as childfree, do not refer to them as childless. Better yet, if you don’t know whether someone is childfree v. childless, write “without children.”

  109. DonnaDiva
    DonnaDiva May 15, 2010 at 12:08 am |

    ITA with Leah’s comment way above about how making kids a focus of feminism relegates fathers to sperm donor status and fosters division and resentment among mothers and CF women. OTOH, ITA with Emily WK, who pointed out that children are an oppressed class and so, yeah, definitely a huge feminist issue. Both of those things can and should be reconciled, but it requires the involvement of those illusive figures – men – who aren’t being discussed much here.

    When I click on the Women’s Issues section politician’s website and 9 of the 10 items I see have to do with mothers I tend to feel a tad, shall we say, excluded. But if I fall into dire poverty I will most likely not qualify for welfare, Medicaid, or food stamps because I don’t have a dependent child. So you’ll have to understand that the suggestion that woman = mother grates on my nerves a little. It’s as if the care of children is a collective female responsibility where men play a tangential role, at most. And if you aren’t a mother your needs aren’t even on the radar.

    Furthermore, there was a time when feminism was about exploring alternatives to patriarchal family structures. The constant conflation of women with mothers obscures our identities as individuals and perpetuates inequality in parental roles.

  110. evil_fizz
    evil_fizz May 15, 2010 at 12:08 am |

    I don’t want them in my home or my personal space.

    A preference to which you are entitled but which is wholly unrealistic if you expect to go out in public on a regular basis. Look, navigating public spaces is rarely anyone’s optimal situation. Why we have to go on jags about how kids are just SO ANNOYING when we all can acknowledge that they’re a regular feature of public spaces is beyond me.

  111. Ens
    Ens May 15, 2010 at 12:13 am |

    @Zes: I don’t think you’re really agreeing with Renee. Maybe I’m reading her wrong, but saying “something gentle but firm to the parent…” and community discipline seems to be exactly the sort of thing she’s speaking out against.

    I keep typing my opinion, but I’ve decided I don’t want that on my conscience. It seems like no matter what I could say at this point, it’s guaranteed to make somebody angry. Every “side” of this has been called bigoted and selfish several times now.

  112. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable May 15, 2010 at 12:32 am |

    @Ens, I’ve noticed that too – that there’s no real winning side. I also don’t know that there’s anything wrong with being “selfish” – and we’re throwing it around like it’s this massive boon.

    Well yeah, I am chiefly concerned with what works best for me. Of course I am. Most people are. And I think it’s a little ridiculous that we act as if that’s not standard for most thoughts and actions. An example: do you know anyone who advocates for x group’s rights even though oppression against x group sincerely doesn’t bother them? Of course not. That’s not to say that this caring can’t benefit x group, but it would be disingenuous to suggest that advocacy doesn’t have a component of self involved.

  113. Diego
    Diego May 15, 2010 at 12:39 am |

    I’m a 23 year old single dude and I haven’t really had any problems since I moved to park slope about a month ago. Children do occasionally cause hiccups in my flight path on the sidewalk and parents sometimes let their toddlers explore the supermarket, but I think that’s part of the charm of being here. It’s encouraging to be surrounded by all different kinds of people, and being around kids can from time to time be a nice reminder for adults that there is a time and a place to be rowdy or profane (i.e. your bar situation or in the comfort of your own home). As long as the parent is attentive, polite, and most of all discretionary (within a given situation more often than whether or not to partake in it), crossing paths with a child can be very pleasant.

    It’s important realize that by entering a social situation one puts his or her self at the mercy of others and puts others at that same mercy. Being in public is a sacrifice — and for parents I think that sacrifice is the work that goes into having a watchful eye, being patient, and getting over the embarrassment of yelling — something that will ultimately leave one far less red in the face than the actions of a child who is neither stimulated nor disciplined taught.

  114. DonnaDiva
    DonnaDiva May 15, 2010 at 1:10 am |

    Are parents an oppressed group? My inclination is to say no – not because of welfare or healthcare or whatever benefits, but because I’ve heard a lot of horrible things said about a lot of women who choose not to have children (or who choose abortion or adoption). If parents aren’t an oppressed group, is there “parental privilege”? This leads back into what I think this thread is about – what can we ask of parents given x circumstance.

    And then, since parents are caretakers of individuals who belong to an oppressed group, how does that factor in?

    PrettyAmiable, your thoughts mirror mine. I think that parents, as a class, are fairly privileged, at least from a social standpoint. I mean, no one subjects you to prying questions or insults because you had kids. Having children is the default, whereas deliberately opting out of having them is an aberration from the norm.

    That said, there is a bunch of hostility piled on the “wrong” women (poor and minority) having kids, while the “right” women have come to expect a certain amount of respect and deference. It annoys me when the latter group of parents appropriates the experience of the former group. Which is what they do when they say things like “no one supports children!!” Um, sorry middle class and affluent parents, but your children ARE supported. It’s the children of poor parents who aren’t.

    And since we are ALL caretakers of an oppressed group of people (children) we really ought to focus our energies and resources on the kids who need them the most.

  115. Zes
    Zes May 15, 2010 at 1:29 am |

    Amanda – “returning to the days when any random adult could scold a misbehaving child… I doubt you want that”

    Why do you doubt that? That is exactly what I want. That’s what I grew up with and I’m not even 30; it wasn’t some other era or some foreign place, it was a first world country and it was this generation. It was great. I knew that I could go to adults for help if I needed it. I knew that the vast majority of them were on my side, and learned about how to charm the curmudgeons and which rules you can stretch, which you can break and which to keep. A society where people care for children – which care includes discipline – is a society where people look out for one another.

    You didn’t choose for other people to have kids but you still have obligations. I didn’t choose for millions of people across the world to be poor or oppressed or living crappy lives but that doesn’t magically absolve me of responsibility for doing at least a little bit to change their lot. Are we not feminists? Don’t we believe that we can make the world a little bit better? Melissa over at Shakesville puts it beautifully; changing the world is like emptying the ocean with a teaspoon, so we need a hell of a lot of teaspoons. A teaspoon can be as small a thing as not being a total prat to a stressed out parent or being kindly but firm to a strange child. It’s not like you have to handle a screaming child daily; it’s once in a blue moon.

    A society where a man who talks to a strange child is a pervert and a woman is a meddling cow, and people don’t make eye contact on the train, where people think they don’t have responsibility for each other because they didn’t choose for those other people to exist, is one f*cked up society. I’m English – sterotypically the frostiest bunch of miserable bastards alive – and even I can see that.

  116. Zes
    Zes May 15, 2010 at 1:31 am |

    (BTW referring to a first world country the point is the culture is nearly identical to much of the US, not that first world society or people = better.)

  117. SandyH
    SandyH May 15, 2010 at 2:01 am |

    Interesting, this whole conversation. I’ve lived in the Netherlands for 10 years (I’m American) and have done a fair bit of travelling. Across Europe there are parents and children as well, I’ve learned. The cool thing about travelling and living abroad is that you get to see how different cultures view things. My favourite thing about travelling, really. Take children, for instance. The first time I was in Spain I was shocked when my husband and I were out to what (we thought) was a late dinner. Eleven PM and there were children out running on the plain in the center of town which was surrounded by cafes and terraces. On the terraces there were people, both adult and children, having dinner, socializing, just basically doing what people do on terraces. But what struck me was that the kids on the plain were having a grand ol’ time, making noise, acting like kids, and the kids on the terraces were sitting at their tables, having dinner, participating in their parents’ social lives. There was a very definite separation of acceptable behaviour. At the table, you behave, in appropriate spaces you are free to run wild.

    I’ve seen this in France as well, young children in a nice restaurant sitting at the table with their parents. Sure they make noise. Kids do that. But if they get out of line a parent dealt with it. But these are very social cultures where the children are part of the social life from birth, really. What I find particularly striking is that while children are adored, they aren’t coddled. The world isn’t adapted to accommodate the children. The children are taught to navigate the world.

    Here in the Netherlands a liberal parenting style has been popular for some time. No one wants to hurt a child’s feelings, reign in their childlike exuberance. But often, no difference is made between what is appropriate behaviour in a supermarket and what is fine for the playground. And yes, I get the difference between a kid melting down and 7 year olds having shopping cart races through the narrow aisles of the market. The problem, as I see it, is that there is no tight knit sense of community which then creates a sense of responsibility to ones fellow community members. In southern European countries where the temperature is warm most of the year people spend a lot more time outdoors, in common areas and have a greater respect for what kind of behaviours are tolerable for others and what are not. Here? Not so much. Much like NYC, the Netherlands is densely populated, a small space. When that is coupled with (some) parents not wanting to hurt their child’s feelings, you end up with some fairly obnoxious children. But you can’t just take a child into an environment that they aren’t accustomed to and expect them to know how to behave. You can’t teach them proper behaviour without them knowing what is improper and why. And the why is often because it’s annoying, and that’s ok. Being annoying sometimes is part of the human condition. Not acknowledging that and doing something to correct it is the problem.

  118. scrumby
    scrumby May 15, 2010 at 2:12 am |

    I liked this article Jill and I especially liked your follow up comment about how often this argument seems to deteriorate into either children should never leave the house or we should all rejoice as the little barbarians take over the world.

    I don’t like the idea that only nice restaurants deserve polite behavior. Common courtesy shouldn’t be a class distinction. That being said we did often go out of our way to make kids and parents feel welcome. I’ve everything from sneaking them toast so they’ll have something to eat to entertaining kids at a separate booth while they’re folks talked to taking the screaming kid outside myself so the parents could finish their meal. Well behaved kids made my job easier and I was very much willing to contribute but only when allowed. Some parents just didn’t care and when I asked if there was anything I could do to help they looked at me like I was some sort of monster for implying that there might be a problem.

    I also wanted to say to Diz, I do not agree that spanking is bad and am horrified that you and others would use it interchangeably with beating. A spanking is not a beating. Corporal punishment is not abuse. Have people abused children under that term? Yes. But an adult trying to cover their lack of control by conflating it with the precise and disciplined application of corporal punishment should not be allowed to dictate its definition.

  119. Alexandra Lynch
    Alexandra Lynch May 15, 2010 at 2:15 am |

    I knew, from the time I could remember, that there are certain things one Just Does Not Do In Public. Of course, if one was terribly sick, one got a certain waiver (for vomiting on the floor, say) but one also sought to remove oneself from public as quickly as possible, since clearly one wasn’t fit for the public space. My husband, when asked, said that he knew better than to do “some of the shit he sees these days” because “my mom and dad would have beat my ass.”

    Personally, I always have much more tolerance for people being uncivilized in public due to the handicap of being too young to know better if the parents are “trying”. It’s when their tactic is “if I pretend I don’t notice little Johnny will quit throwing his chicken nuggets” that I find my tolerance wearing thin.

    And when the person who got bonked in the head with a chicken nugget turns to the child and says, “Please don’t throw your food at me” in a kind but firm voice, the thing to do is say, “Oh, I’m sorry!” not “It’s my kid, bitch, and he’ll throw his food if he wants!” (Has happened to me.)

  120. prowlerzee
    prowlerzee May 15, 2010 at 3:02 am |

    “So if a toddler has a meltdown in a restaurant, he should be allowed to scream for 30 minutes while everyone else has to sit there and listen to him? The parent isn’t under some obligation to take him outside? I’m sorry, but I think that’s ridiculous.”

    Amen, Jill….and Renee, if being a parent is your criterion by which to judge this bit of common sense and decency, well, my baby is 21. Bet that trumps you.

  121. chava
    chava May 15, 2010 at 3:03 am |

    As regards some of the comments upthread about Mad Med and the group disciplining of children:
    I don’t know if people are longing for the permission to “scold” other people’s children as much as for the sense of community that comes when everyone takes the group’s children as each other’s responsibility. The nuclear family sucks for women, sucks for children, and sucks for childrearing.

    Also, I think lumping all spanking (based on one scene in Mad Men?) in with abuse and “beating” is extreme and a bit of a disservice to survivors of actual child abuse. My father got spanked. That wasn’t by the same people or at the same time that he was beaten. And he “spanked” my brother, who I assure you isn’t traumatized. So no, not “everyone on the thread” would agree with that….

    RE: Children and tantrums. For heaven’s sakes, why is this even a discussion. I did find the post a little parent discipline-y, but yes, if the child is screaming, take them outside. It doesn’t have to be about punishing the kid, it can be about what Renee was suggesting—providing a quiet place for them to cry it out until they are ready to deal with being spoken to about why their behavior wasn’t OK (or depending on age, just given juice/snack/nap).

    I think Renee may have been picking up on what some people will often try on children having tantrums–the “if you don’t stop crying I’ll give you something to cry about!” approach, which NEVER works and is HORRIBLE.

    All of that said, it would be lovely to live in a more child friendly society where “very nice restaurant” meant “Please, do breastfeed” and “your toddler is welcome to eat here whilst they are reasonably well-behaved.”

  122. chava
    chava May 15, 2010 at 3:06 am |

    Mad MeN, sorry, not Mad Med.

  123. prowlerzee
    prowlerzee May 15, 2010 at 3:11 am |

    #13 faith

    Are you nuts? if your child screams or cries for the duration of a ceremony, movie or arts event…then, yeah. You take them outside the *entire* time. That’s the deal. If you yourself and your offspring are well-mannered then by all means, take them everywhere. Just because someone can’t afford babysitting is no reason why an entire audience should lose their right to quiet enjoyment of the entertainment they paid for!

    In a grocery store, I will smile at the frazzled parent of an unruly child. At a place of leisure and entertainment, that parent will get glared at. Their juvenile need for “relief” does not supersede an entire audience!

  124. prowlerzee
    prowlerzee May 15, 2010 at 3:22 am |

    #19 faith….and maybe instead, in the world of reality, Jackie is rightm and the parents throw tantrums and have meltdowns when called on their FAILURE as parents.

    Your little idea that people hate kids when their whining, ignorant parents fail both their own kids and society, is dead wrong. I taught my child not to whine. He never whined. Period. When he was an infant and toddler, he did have a few outbursts, and guess what? I took him away from the wedding ceremony, or whatever the occasion was, so he wouldn’t disturb others.

    I also taught him many many basic social skills which I bet a million dollars your kids were never taught, such as not standing and dawdling in doorways. You know…MINIMAL consideration for others.

  125. prowlerzee
    prowlerzee May 15, 2010 at 3:27 am |

    “This post is about how to negotiate public space among competing interests. And I REALLY object to the idea that non-parents don’t have a dog on that fight.”

    Jill is dead on correct here. And here’s a social experiment. When you hear children whining, what else will you hear 100 per cent of the time? Their “adult” parents whining top-lung back at them. Guess who gets glared at when I’m around? Not the poor, deprived-of-parenting kid.

  126. Yonmei
    Yonmei May 15, 2010 at 3:27 am |

    Hannah: I don’t think that a conversation about how to parent/discipline children should be one that people without children take part in. ANd I don’t think that’s being exclusive, or anything else, I think it’s just realistic- accept the fact that you will not know or understand till you’ve been there.

    Well, gee, thanks, Hannah. In that case, you should completely ignore my comment at 8:48 pm yesterday, since obviously as I don’t have kids I have no knowledge or understanding of parenting and everything I said there must have been wrong.

    Duh.

    People keep comparing a toddler having a meltdown to an adult having a meltdown.

    If you saw an adult man sobbing uncontrollably in a restaurant and the person with him trying to get him to calm down, would your first reaction be “Get that man outside – his grief is spoiling my meal!”

    Really?

    There are a bunch of reasons why toddlers have meltdowns. Some of them are related to inappropriate food or drink – artificial sweeteners cause more meltdowns than anything else I know. (Seriously. You can literally see a little kid going into a chemically-induced meltdown when they’ve been given a large drink of something … and you know what was in the cup wasn’t water, fruit juice, or plain milk.) Those are mostly avoidable with care, but they are apt to happen no matter what care you take, because fakefood manufacturers DON’T care.

    But. The other reason a small child has a meltdown is the same reason an adult would: something intolerably awful has just happened to them and they feel overwhelming grief and anger and frustration. Granted that “intolerably awful” is probably not going to look the same from the adult end of the spectrum as it will from the child end. But it’s still something overwhelmingly awful.

    And I agree (not that Hannah will think it’s any of my business, because what do I know?) that the person who needs support from an adult stranger is the parent/childminder, not the child. Even if there’s nothing you can do, an adult stopping to say “Do you need help?” in a sympathetic tone of voice, reassures the parent/childminder that they’re not surrounded by enemies but by people who understand – sometimes children do this.

  127. prowlerzee
    prowlerzee May 15, 2010 at 3:31 am |

    Wow, wow, wow….so many comments! I’m going back upthread, but here’s another social experiment. Go to the grocery store on a weekend, when the *dads* have the kids. If it’s not 100 per cent, it will be 99 per cent oblivion. As if the kids can be expected to trail around after him with zero supervision. And I’ve worked on promotions in these stores for entire weekends, so I’ve seen huge samples of this.

  128. prowlerzee
    prowlerzee May 15, 2010 at 3:38 am |

    #24 Katrina

    I love kids and am a mom, and do feel for frazzled parents. I will help protect, distract and cheer up someone’s kid in a split second, in such a place as an airplane or grocery store. But this idea that everyone should tolerate an out of control kid with clueless “parents” in an adult place of dining or entertainment is beyond the pale.

  129. prowlerzee
    prowlerzee May 15, 2010 at 3:49 am |

    #54 Amanda, oh, brava!

    All of your posts were dead on, but especially this one.

  130. prowlerzee
    prowlerzee May 15, 2010 at 4:09 am |

    #72 Amanda…most toddlers throw tantrums because they’re frustrated at being unable to communicate. They know and understand more than they can impart! It’s fascinating, really…once you know, you can see it. It makes sense…no one just fully blooms into communication. As far as interfering…when I’m not trying to enjoy a dinner or a film or a performance, I will always intervene. Usually by distracting the child you can get a respite. It’s so laughable to see parents whine or try to “reason” with really young kids. Jolly or misdirect them instead, because it actually works! Yeah, they may go back to crying, but it’s so amusing to see them laugh briefly, or try to puzzle out what you’re doing, that it cheers everyone up.

  131. lauredhel
    lauredhel May 15, 2010 at 4:15 am |

    Can we at least not tolerate the fucking repeated ASSAULT apologism in this thread?

    Yes, “spanking” is assault and battery. It is hitting. It is striking. It is domestic violence. It is legalised (in most places), institutionally condoned, systematic violence against an oppressed, vulnerable group.

    I’m disgusted.

  132. prowlerzee
    prowlerzee May 15, 2010 at 4:20 am |

    #87 Emily….

    I know exactly what kind of parent you are! :) An expectant one.

    I remember how I used to think I would take my child *everywhere* too.

    You know why I didn’t, once he became too big for the basket?

    Not because it would bother other adults, but because kids like routine and their own schedule and shouldn’t be dragged out all over creation at every hour just because their *parents* don’t want to stay home. I haven’t seen that mentioned yet…

  133. prowlerzee
    prowlerzee May 15, 2010 at 4:27 am |

    91 Rob…if you aren’t concerned with the general public when your kid is having a meltdown and making a disturbance, then you are a FAILURE as a parent. And I bet you any amount of money that you are the adult I see WHINING at the kid to stop….which is merely teaching the kid to whine. I tell you this as a parent of an adult child who was never taught to whine….and who was never allowed to disrupt others. And my child, btw, brought his friends here to mom’s house for the weekend. Children taught not to be obnoxious grow up happy.

  134. prowlerzee
    prowlerzee May 15, 2010 at 4:33 am |

    #94 AMEN, Claudia!!! Distraction, redirection, even if temporary is a welcome and much needed relief. Absolutely the way to go…in stores and on modes of transportation. Just not to be confused with wedding or funeral ceremonies, movies, theaters, or subdued restaurants, where the redirection would be as much of an interruption as the wailing.

  135. prowlerzee
    prowlerzee May 15, 2010 at 4:38 am |

    #102 Claudia, “reason” with her through her “anxiety attack” all you like….but if it’s in a movie or arts theater or adult restaurant or wedding or funeral…do so outside. Very, very simple.

  136. Naamah
    Naamah May 15, 2010 at 4:45 am |

    I remember being a kid really, really well. I remember that I was obnoxious on a regular basis, and that my parents were pretty uneven about addressing that, and how they addressed it. They loved me, but I still have social issues stemming from not being taught proper behavior, ever.

    The other thing I remember about being a kid is how fucking hard it is. How powerless I was, how nobody seemed to understand — or want to — what I was thinking, what I wanted, what I needed. It was horrible. I will say it again: powerless. And yes, I was sentient enough to know that, and feel both hurt and terrified by it, even though for the life of me I could not articulate it. I was a person, a real person with very real feelings, with poorer self-control skills and a less useful vocabulary than most folks.

    I was with a friend once when her four year old melted down. I was intensely uncomfortable because loud noise really freaks me out, but man, it hurt to watch, because I have felt that way. Listening to what he was saying, understanding where it was coming from, not being able to cope with conflicting, difficult emotions and lots of stimulation because he has no practice doing it, at all . . . dude, I have been there. I have panic attacks. So I am really, really sympathetic to the “screaming brat in the restaurant” that everyone seems really keen on avoiding, and I am really sympathetic to their parents. And I don’t judge parents whose kids are crying or being difficult or whining or whatever, or think of them as bad or irresponsible, just because their kid is exhibiting irritating behavior (and no, I am not going to pretend the behavior isn’t irritating; it is). I don’t wanna be around it, but I don’t judge. I don’t wanna be around barking dogs, karaoke singers, people who whistle, terminally chirpy people, or anyone wearing lavender-based perfume, but I don’t judge folks for that, either. I can not like something and not blame another for it.

    If I am in a place like the movies or a restaurant or wherever it is I have gone that I am paying money to be there, I expect that if someone is being disruptive such that I cannot enjoy myself, they will take even token measures to fix the problem. This is harder when it comes to kids. There are times when it IS best to stick it out. There are other times that it’s best to go. I can’t judge that. I’m not only not a parent, I don’t know that child. It’s complicated. I don’t expect a parent will necessarily do what I would prefer, or what I think is right. I may dislike what is for real the best solution. I am no judge of what is best, there. I generally assume that parents ARE doing their best, and I often don’t say a damn thing even when I am in great discomfort, because it is almost always really obvious that the parents are trying to deal with the problem.

    Unless that parent appears to be really inattentive, which really bothers me, not just for selfish reasons, but for the child herself. To take an example from this weekend, in a movie meant for adults, one parent should not be sleeping and the other person ignoring their child to text on their cell phone while the kid crawls around, kicks things, drops things, throws things, talks loudly, makes fart noises, and in general acts like a bored kid does.

    What I do expect is that when I bring their attention to the problem, politely, I will not be cussed at or bawled out, which happens a lot. And not just a sharp “I’m doing the best I can!” which I completely understand when a kid is already taxing a frazzled parent’s patience, but actual outright hostility. “Don’t you fucking talk to me about my child.” Often comes with a side of “Bitch!” What the hell?

    This behavior is not limited to — or even most often found in — parents of misbehaving children. It’s common to cell-phone yowling assholes, fucksticks who play their stereos too fucking loud, jackasses hollering across the table to each other, people who let their dogs bark all night long . . . asking someone to stop being a jerk often results in jerkier behavior. Where the hell did these people learn that shit?

    It’s not that I don’t want to see kids or be around kids or even hear kids, it’s not that crying or even freaking out bothers me that much, it’s that there is often a component of outright rudeness to people’s behavior — parents, too — that I find completely baffling.

    For the record, I have a really hard time with loud noises and repetitive talking and behaviors. I don’t get on well with children, even though I think they are adorable and funny and so interesting to watch. Where I live, I very, VERY seldom have bad experiences with children. Maybe one time in ten that I go out. Most parents are damn good at “controlling” their kids (I hate that term), and I really appreciate the effort. When I do have problems with a kid’s behavior, it’s generally got to ne pretty freaking frightful before I will react, and sympathy for parent and child aside, it’s really unpleasant to deal with, especially when the parent is not just defensive, which I understand, but hostile and verbally abusive toward me.

    I don’t expect kids or parents to bear the blame here. I blame inconsiderate jerks. And there is a very large, observable difference between a tired parent with a tired or overstimulated kid or three, and inconsiderate jerks. Most reasonable folks are capable of observing and correctly identifying that difference, I think.

    Parents could use more sympathy from folks without kids. Kids could use a WHOLE lot more sympathy from everyone, oh my god. And people who are jerks should not be allowed to be jerks just because they have kids around. Kids deserve better examples than that.

  137. prowlerzee
    prowlerzee May 15, 2010 at 4:52 am |

    #106 Renee

    “Shit like this is exactly why I am not a feminist.”

    Ah. Now I get it. A troll.

  138. prowlerzee
    prowlerzee May 15, 2010 at 5:02 am |

    Namaah… “There are times when it IS best to stick it out….I can’t judge that. I’m not only not a parent, I don’t know that child. It’s complicated. I don’t expect a parent will necessarily do what I would prefer, or what I think is right. I may dislike what is for real the best solution.”

    Please. There is no debate. If a parent takes a kid out in the middle of the night to an adult movie or restaurant, it’s not up to the entire audience to let the parent do what is “right” for one kid being dragged out to where s/he flips out…in fact, the parent has already shown poor judgment. The “solution” (once the parent has made the initial mistake of expecting their kid to behave in a public place not suited to them) is to remove the child as soon as possible and there, out of earshot so the entire public is not infringed upon, to do whatever the already mistaken parent imagines is the “right” tactic.

  139. prowlerzee
    prowlerzee May 15, 2010 at 5:14 am |

    The #1 reason to placate clueless parents no matter if their kids are kicking the back of your seat or whatever…is to save the kids from backlash. And YES, you are CLUELESS if you don’t notice something like that….there is no possible universe in which I would not know my kid is kicking the back of someone’s seat…the end. NO debate.

    You know the bad parents (yes, BAD) are going to freak out, no matter in how friendly a manner you try to frame your intervention.

    But better they freak out and take it out on you….as all these “you childless banshees should just stfu!!!!” posts prove….than on their ALREADY deprived of parental guidance kids.

    GROW UP, “parents” who have a problem with raising their kids to be conscious of their social obligations.

  140. Chally
    Chally May 15, 2010 at 5:45 am |

    Can we not compare kids to animals, monsters, etc? Also, folks who expect kids to conform to adult standards of behaviour right now? They’re not adults.

    What roses said @56 and Emily WK @60.

    Also, everyone who is saying ‘I don’t like kids,’ stop. I’m not going to tolerate that crap any more than I’m going to tolerate ‘I don’t likes’ against any other vulnerable group. Okay? Okay.

    ‘the precise and disciplined application of corporal punishment’? Uh. Spanking is not okay and I’m really disappointed to see hitting=okay on a feminist blog’s comment thread. As lauredhel said, hitting people is assault. End of story.

    prowlerzee, please don’t make those sorts of speculations about Faith’s parenting, that is quite far from being okay. Same for what you said about Rob. And Renee isn’t trolling, she’s not obliged to be a feminist. Please watch yourself.

  141. Deborah
    Deborah May 15, 2010 at 5:55 am |

    Most parents are damn good at “controlling” their kids (I hate that term)

    Try, most parents are damn good at helping their children to manage in public spaces…

    And what Lauredhel said. “Spanking” is assault. In my home country, we had a long and agonizing debate about hitting children, and the apologism for assaulting children was sickening. It’s horrid seeing it here, on a feminist blog. Feminism is a broad church, but I didn’t think it included endorsing physical violence.

  142. geek anachronism
    geek anachronism May 15, 2010 at 6:04 am |

    I think that parents, as a class, are fairly privileged, at least from a social standpoint. I mean, no one subjects you to prying questions or insults because you had kids.

    Bullshit. Total fucking bullshit, just look at some of these comments for crying out loud! Because I don’t appreciate ignorant idiots not understanding developmental appropriateness (I’m thinking the amount of people who couldn’t accurately state a child’s age with a goddamn guide in front of them but hold themselves as the ultimate arbiter of what that kid should or shouldn’t do) I obviously beat my kids? Because I don’t discipline like you do, I’m neglecting my kids? And seriously, how the hell do you know that this is ‘normal’ for those kids – I still remember how excruciatingly embarrassing it was for my daughter to start crying at the very beginning of a comedy show. Until that night she had never had an issue with outings like that – it was the first time I wasn’t able to quieten her with breastfeeding either. But according to some stranger on the internet, I should have known that my daughter had passed whatever developmental milestone is associated with being distracted when feeding. Never mind that was the first time. Never mind that she’d sat through movies and dinner and any number of outings. I’m obviously stupid AND incompetent because I can’t see the future. So glares and whispered comments were so helpful!

    Instead of deciding there and then you know better and you know more, how about you decide to help. But here’s a tip – “you should stop your kid doing that” isn’t help. Neither is “have you tried hitting them in some socially approved fashion?” or “I have a terribly invasive question about your medical history and that of your child, please answer me”. Things like “hey, can I give you a hand?” or “would you like me to help you with something”. Because this might be the first time their kid has done anything like this. This might be the only time. This might be the tenth time. This might not be the situation you’ve made up in your head to fit your narrative preference.

    For the record, I did leave. Not quickly enough to escape snark from the comic and commentary on ‘if I’d dared raise my voice while out my parents would have blahblahblah’ – my child being an infant obviously didn’t register and the fact that navigating several flights of stairs in the dark with an infant in your arms isn’t an instantaneous event. We had also verified with the venue what our options were and that it was okay to bring an infant. Shit went wrong, I left because it wasn’t vital (grocery shopping on the other hand…) and we changed our routines and behaviour again.

  143. Chally
    Chally May 15, 2010 at 6:19 am |

    I’m also going to note that maybe some people should consider that there may well be children reading this thread and please to take that into account when commenting.

  144. Lasciel
    Lasciel May 15, 2010 at 6:48 am |

    OH HELL NO.

    We are not going to accept that because we aren’t parents we have no right to take part in a conversation on discipline.

    Some people, while they aren’t parents themselves, have raised kids for their deadbeat relatives (that would be moi) have been social workers or foster parents, are teachers of small children or work in daycares, so no, JUST BECAUSE WE HAVEN’T CARRIED A CHILD DON’T MEAN SHIT ABOUT CHILD-RAISING/DISCIPLINE EXPERIENCE.

    Of course, carrying a child confers all kinds of children-raising discipline knowledge, as proved by all the abusive, neglectful birth parents.

    @Chally-I would assume this post to be about mostly small children, probably under reading age.

  145. Chally
    Chally May 15, 2010 at 6:59 am |

    @Lasciel Likewise, but regardless.

  146. Rob
    Rob May 15, 2010 at 7:01 am |

    You get appreciation for parenting by raising a child, not carrying a child. I didn’t carry a child either.
    I like Chally’s comment. Remember kids are people too. You should all go back through your comments and read them to yourself, except where you wrote ‘child’ replace that with ‘Korean’ and see if you’d be comfortable sharing that with your friends.

  147. Sailorman
    Sailorman May 15, 2010 at 7:17 am |

    Unbehaved kids in adult spaces piss the shit out of me. And yes, I’m a parent. It’s just too damn self-centered.

    All of this “but what about the poooooor parents, who can’t afford a sitter” dreck is ridiculous. Do you want to get out of the house? Fine: get out of the house. Go for a walk (we do,) or go to the park (we do,) or the playground, or a family restaurant (they’re cheap!) , or something like it. See? Plenty of things to do, and none of them involve pissing other people off.

    But if you’re at a dinner where people are spending a lot of money, and you’re surrounded by other people who are spending a lot of money? It’s not all about you. Do you think that poor you, you’re the only one who never gets to go out? Are you the only couple in the whole damn restaurant who want some time to yourself? Do you think you’re the only one who wanted to go out to this “adult” place instead of IHOP, and did it occur to you that everyone else in therehas made the same choice? Other parents have saved up and spent money on THEIR sitter; other couples have blown the yearly budget on their one big night out; someone that night may well be having the first (or last) fancy dinner of their life.

    So enough of the whining. If you can afford to go somewhere fancy, you can sure as shit pay for a sitter, so keep your kids out of there unless they are extremely well behaved.

    And even if they’re generally well behaved but act up, just deal with them. We bring our kids to restaurants all the time, but we have a designated “departee.” Sometimes we sit down, a kid acts up, we get up, we all leave. Other times one of us grabs said misbehaving kid and leaves; the rest of the family stays and eats. How could we possibly justify ruining dinner for a roomful of people, just to keep a single 5 year old happy?

    It takes a frightening amount of unearned self-importance to act otherwise.

  148. Faith
    Faith May 15, 2010 at 8:06 am |

    This thread is repulsive and horrifying.

    “Are parents an oppressed group? My inclination is to say no – not because of welfare or healthcare or whatever benefits, but because I’ve heard a lot of horrible things said about a lot of women who choose not to have children (or who choose abortion or adoption). ”

    You’ve never heard anyone say any bad thing about a parent? Single mothers are some of the most despised people in society. We and our children are viewed as sluts, whores, and as being responsible for the downfall of society. Married mothers, on the otherhand, are held up as fulfilling their natural role, which is a form of oppressive belief in an of itself. Plus, married mothers are almost always shouldered with all the responsibility of the childcare, and as this thread has shown, are expected to just give up their lives when they have kids. So, yea, fathers typically aren’t an oppressed group of people. But mothers? Goddamn skippy we’re an oppressed group of people. Particularly when we don’t first acquire an almighty male owner before having children. I mean, sorry, a husband. You’ll have to forgive me as I always get those two confused.

  149. Angus Johnston
    Angus Johnston May 15, 2010 at 8:07 am |

    “And why, then, would an adult who is disabled get a pass but a child who is physically not capable of behaving the same as an adult does not? ”

    Easy, because the disabled person is not mentally capable period, but the parent can teach their child and the child CAN learn.

    Okay, I’m going to try not to snark this too viciously, because an excess of high-horse snark is the biggest problem with this thread, but come on.

    People with disabilities are “not mentally capable period,” in contrast to children who “CAN learn”? Seriously?

    I’m a parent. I’m also the sibling of an adult with a fairly serious cognitive disability. I’ve spent a lot of time around kids, and a lot around cognitively disabled adults. The idea that any adult with a cognitive disability “is not mentally capable period” is just ignorance and bigotry. Period. The idea that adults with cognitive disabilities are incapable of learning? The same. As a blanket statement it’s false, it’s ignorant, and it’s deeply hurtful.

    Other thoughts on the thread…

    As a parent, I stand 100% behind what Jill has said in this thread, and I call shenanigans on the folks who are saying she’s only taking the position she’s taking because she doesn’t have kids of her own. Her arguments have been thoughtful, informed, and nuanced, unlike the ones I quoted at the top of this comment.

    The reality is that we live in a society that’s made up of all kinds of people, and we all have to get along. That means you’re a jerk if you whine about how long it takes the wheelchair lift on the bus to deploy, or sigh loudly at the old guy in front of you on the supermarket line takes to count his change, or glare at the woman who’s desperately trying to wrangle an over-tired kid while she’s waiting for her prescription at the pharmacy.

    It also means, however, that you’re a jerk if you let your kid kick the back of someone’s airplane seat, or run around screaming in a restaurant.

    And as for the examples of people with disabilities having breakdowns in public, and the idea that we’ll all politely and understandingly cut them slack? They’re bullshit. Barring a grand mal seizure, that’s not how it goes down. People with serious disabilities and people who love them know that the world generally has very little patience for that kind of stuff.

    The vast majority of parents, like the vast majority of people with disabilities and their friends and families, do accommodate the needs and wishes of the people they interact with, just as the vast majority of the rest of society does cut people who are struggling some slack. The jerks are in a minority, on both sides, and the decent, flexible, community-minded middle ground that Jill and others have staked out is generally pretty well-populated and well-defended.

  150. Lasciel
    Lasciel May 15, 2010 at 8:11 am |

    @Rob & Chally-Oh I agree 100%.
    I don’t hate kids. Anytime you think something or someone is worth hating, it’s definitely a wise idea to examine that very, very closely. I think a lot of people that are saying they hate kids and other things might just be reacting adversely to people telling them they should or shouldn’t feel a certain emotion.

    However, most people here aren’t saying kids are awful, not people, or that their parents are monsters because they misbehave. Almost everyone thinks the polite thing to do is remove your kids from the situation if they’re seriously freaking out. And you might even consider one thing: if your child isn’t old enough to control themselves, that doesn’t mean they won’t feel embarrassed when they get tired of crying and everyone is staring at them, whether angrily or otherwise.

    Can we really not agree that it’s reasonable to expect one parent to take the kid out to the car and wait for them to cry it out outside? When you’re in a public space you do have to take other people into mind, in the hopes they’ll be considerate of you.

    If you will quiet your children, I won’t fart in crowded lines ok?

  151. Angus Johnston
    Angus Johnston May 15, 2010 at 8:12 am |

    Sorry, left out a final thought from my last comment (which is in moderation for the moment):

    Most people do cut each other slack. But when you go in public with (or as) someone who might without warning start behaving in a socially unacceptable way, you’re always on edge about the small minority of people who will take your distress as an opportunity to act like an asshole. So the vast majority of us in that situation are constantly on guard, and on edge. We’re working on it. We’re trying to deal. And we appreciate a little kindness and patience more than you can ever know.

  152. southpaw
    southpaw May 15, 2010 at 8:26 am |

    As a child, I was taught to be considerate of the people around me. I don’t expect all children in public to have learned that lesson, but I hope their parents are in the process of teaching it to them.

    Speaking without any credentials to enter the discussion, I think this policy of just letting your kids just do what-the-fuck-ever because they’re PEOPLE is unwise. I’m most likely going to be amused by the little rascal’s evening antics subverting the routines of the high-toned (and, btw, waiters, stop giving that kid more forks!), but you have to deal with that rapscallion for the rest of your days. Do you really want to be raising a little brood of Gary Buseys?

  153. La Lubu
    La Lubu May 15, 2010 at 8:28 am |

    This thread……seems to me to be all about social class, not about “liking” or “not liking” kids. Every time I’ve seen a thread like this, here, or any other part of the feminist blogosphere, it rapidly degenerates into repeated mention of “screaming kids”.

    Here’s the thing. I don’t lead a sheltered life, and this is something I rarely see. I’m out in public all the time, and I very rarely see “screaming kids”. When I do, it’s usually a tired infant, or a child that just fell down and sustained a bad scrape.

    Jill mentioned the lack of physical space in New York City. I think that plays into it. In places like New York, you come into contact with wealthy parents, who are the only type of parents that can get away with that type of behavior. I think that’s why I’m not seeing this behavior. I have no contact with the class of people that doesn’t get the police called on them for the examples of behavior cited in this thread. Here, the posh parents have private clubs and gated communities to isolate themselves.

    With that said, I have to say this about relative privacy: yes, we have more physical space out here, but not more mental space. Strangers here feel entitled to get all up in your business….and if you don’t provide them with enough personal information for their entertainment, they’ll just make shit up and talk about you anyway. So…..trust that there are other ways of violating boundaries than mere physical intrusion. (I think a good portion of the midwestern population could use a round of Boundaries 101).

    SandyH @#129: Word. Children who are properly socialized throughout their life grow into adults who are respectful of others. Isolating children is counter to that goal. I have a problem with the concept of “children’s restaurants” (like Chuck E. Cheese) not just because of the breathtakingly shitty food, but the artificial environment and the mixed message that young children can get on proper public behavior (meaning: I don’t blame young children for not understanding the difference between a restaurant with an indoor playground and one without. To a child, both places serve food. To a child, every place has the potential to become a playground.)

  154. La Lubu
    La Lubu May 15, 2010 at 8:31 am |

    Single mothers are some of the most despised people in society. We and our children are viewed as sluts, whores, and as being responsible for the downfall of society…..Goddamn skippy we’re an oppressed group of people. Particularly when we don’t first acquire an almighty male owner before having children. I mean, sorry, a husband.

    THIS. If there’s one area that far too many conservatives and liberals can shake hands and agree on, it’s that single mothers are pieces of shit.

  155. Scarlett
    Scarlett May 15, 2010 at 8:39 am |

    Seriously, what. The. Fuck.

  156. Scarlett
    Scarlett May 15, 2010 at 8:41 am |

    Sorry, blockquote fail. My WTF was to this:

    Rob 5.15.2010 at 7:01 am:

    ‘You should all go back through your comments and read them to yourself, except where you wrote ‘child’ replace that with ‘Korean’ and see if you’d be comfortable sharing that with your friends.’

  157. southpaw
    southpaw May 15, 2010 at 8:50 am |

    As a child, I was taught to be considerate of the people around me. I don’t expect all children in public to have learned that lesson, but I hope their parents are in the process of teaching it to them.

    Speaking without any credentials to enter the discussion, I think this policy of just letting your kids just do what-the-f*-ever because they’re PEOPLE is unwise. I’m most likely going to be amused by the little rascal’s evening antics subverting the routines of the high-toned (and, btw, waiters, stop giving that kid more forks!), but you have to deal with that rapscallion for the rest of your days. Do you really want to be raising a little brood of Gary Buseys?

  158. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers May 15, 2010 at 9:10 am |

    What I do expect is that when I bring their attention to the problem, politely, I will not be cussed at or bawled out, which happens a lot. And not just a sharp “I’m doing the best I can!” which I completely understand when a kid is already taxing a frazzled parent’s patience, but actual outright hostility. “Don’t you fucking talk to me about my child.” Often comes with a side of “Bitch!” What the hell?

    Yeah, this appalls me.

    Recently there was an incident where my husband and I had a dumpster on the street, where we had thrown lots and lots of moldy, rotten wood from our garage, and a bunch of local boys, approximately 8-11 or so, one of whom we know and the rest of whom we don’t, kept trying to get into the dumpster.

    If they had been hurt on the moldy wood or the rusty iron things in there or just fallen and hurt themselves climbing into the dumpster, I would have been horrified, but these construction-grade dumpsters don’t come with lids. So I went out there *five times* to tell the boys not to go in my dumpster. And they kept going back in. And they wouldn’t tell us their names or where they lived (in the case of the kids we didn’t know.)

    So my husband called the cops. Now, there are probably areas of the city where that would be an appallingly bad thing to do, but in our neighborhood, the cops actually treat kids being disobedient little pranksters differently than, say, the guy who stole your X-Box. (Sadly, this is probably because we’re a majority white neighborhood, and these were white kids. I would not have called the cops on black kids trying to play in my dumpster because of the fear that the cops would overreact and treat them like heinous adult criminals instead of kids who wouldn’t listen.) They basically just come by and tell the kids to knock it off, and since it’s coming from people who *do* have the authority to administer discipline who aren’t their parents, they listen, whereas they didn’t listen to me or my husband.

    So their dad finally comes over and chews my husband out. “If you have a problem with my kids, you come to me!” That’s great, dude, I’ll do that as soon as you tattoo your address and contact information on their foreheads. You do know your little angels are quite capable of lying about where they live because they don’t want to get in trouble, right?

    Now, I’m a parent. I have four kids. And if my oldest son is trying to get into someone else’s unsafe dumpster full of moldy rotten wood so he can take that moldy rotten wood and play with it, and he’s so ill-behaved that he won’t listen when told to stop — and I know my boy is not a perfect angel, I know this is actually something he might do despite my and my husband’s best efforts to teach him not to — and he lies to the family who has the dumpster about where he lives so they can’t contact us, I am *fine* with the parents calling the cops. Because you’re not actually allowed to *do* anything to the kids to stop them, and there’s nothing aside from yelling at them that’s morally acceptable to do anyway, and they’re kids. They haven’t thought this through. They could get hurt. If an adult wanted my moldy wood, I’d tell him it’s moldy and then if he still wanted it I’d let him take it, but an adult is capable of making that decision. A kid isn’t. And realistically, I could get *sued* by the parents if the kid hurts himself in the dumpster I rented. So what can you do but call the cops? I have no illusions — my children aren’t perfect, and I would much rather someone call the cops to scare them off than that they get hurt spelunking for moldy wood in a dumpster. How is it that other parents are incapable of comprehending this?

    I have a problem with the concept of “children’s restaurants” (like Chuck E. Cheese) not just because of the breathtakingly shitty food, but the artificial environment and the mixed message that young children can get on proper public behavior (meaning: I don’t blame young children for not understanding the difference between a restaurant with an indoor playground and one without. To a child, both places serve food. To a child, every place has the potential to become a playground.)

    I have exactly the opposite attitude about this.

    The reason this is a problem at *all* is that the only places that let your kids get their ya-yas out before and after they eat are places with incredibly shitty food. Children eat less food than adults. They need their food brought out faster because they have less patience, and they finish their food faster, and they need to get out of the chairs and run around after because they don’t enjoy the adult pleasures of conversation and relaxation yet, and they’re full of energy after eating. So either the adults have to cut their enjoyment short, or the kids have to be bored out of their skulls.

    It’s totally inappropriate to let your kids run around a restaurant because even family-friendly restaurants are designed around the principle of quiet, relaxing sitting around a table having conversation, but if you have dinner with your small children at home that’s not what happens — you release the kids to go play and you sit and relax with the adults or older children as you finish your food. McDonald’s has play areas where when the kids are done they can go play, but McDonald’s is not a relaxing place to sit down and have a decent meal. I just took my kids to Friendly’s last night, which is totally kid-friendly, and yet there was still an issue with them climbing on their seats or wanting to get out and run around because that’s what children are *like*. Even ice cream holds them only so long.

    So I would like to see a restaurant like Friendly’s, or IHOP, something that’s family-friendly and offers not high-quality food but diner level, better than McDonald’s or Chuck E Cheese, where there’s a ball crawl or a play area that the kids can go to to run their energy off after dinner without interfering with the enjoyment of the adults who brought them. Because the problem is not that kids can’t tell the difference between a restaurant and a playground due to having been to too many restaurants which mix the concepts — my little son and daughter have *never* been to Chuck E Cheese and only rarely to McDonald’s with play areas, and yet they want to treat the restaurant like a playground because after eating, they have energy. That’s why there’s recess in elementary school after lunch. The problem is we offer no way for adults to enjoy even minimally decent food in an environment where kids can take “recess” after dinner and run their energy off. Crayons and coloring menus only go so far, with little ones.

  159. Samantha B.
    Samantha B. May 15, 2010 at 9:10 am |

    I find it pretty remarkable that there are complaints in this thread from childless adults who pay for child-related public services via taxes. This is Conservatism 101-type stuff: if it doesn’t benefit me in the most immediate and overt possible fashion, screw you, I don’t care. As of 2006, there were 12.9 million children living under the poverty line in the US, and poverty numbers were on a significantly greater upswing for children than adults. No, there’s no “parental privilege” for those families; there’s class privilege
    for those of us in this thread that are examining a very specific subset of parenting and extrapolating outwards to absurdly silly degrees.
    Also, I find it pretty spectacular that, at a feminist blog!, the idea that parents just *might* be overtaxed because we have no reasonable structures or laws on behalf of society-wide childcare in the US, that doesn’t arise somewhere in 165 comments! Are we really that selfish that we want to say, you took on parenting so you’re on your own? With no acknowledgment that these children constitute the future of society which we all have a stake in? My jaw is agape as to how much classically conservative logic has risen in this thread; there are things you do because you want a to live in a decent society even when they don’t shower gifts upon you in the next 10 minutes- that’s what it is do be a progressive, as I understand it.

  160. Angus Johnston
    Angus Johnston May 15, 2010 at 9:22 am |

    I’ve posted some more detailed and coherent thoughts about the relationship between childhood and disability here.

    Key quote: “The duty to minimize disruption isn’t a duty that the young and the old and those with disabilities have to the robust adults among us, it’s a reciprocal duty that each of us, whatever our condition, has to each of our neighbors, whatever their condition.”

  161. EKSwitaj
    EKSwitaj May 15, 2010 at 9:24 am |

    I wonder if it would help to make conversations like this less nasty and more productive if we recognized that first and foremost these are issues of conflicting needs. Kids and parents *need* to be out in public, and kids *need* to be kids, which means they’re not going to act like mini-adults 100% of the time. On the other hand, adults (parents or not), may *need* some degree of peace and quiet in order to access public places. (Actually, some kids need this too: when I was a small child hearing other kids screaming upset me.)

    If we started by seeing legitimate needs from people on both sides of the conversation, maybe we could actually start coming up with solutions that don’t deny anyone’s humanity.

  162. Mary
    Mary May 15, 2010 at 9:26 am |

    No, sorry. Long-winded rants about people inconveniencing you at your $100 restaurant because their children are acting rude is not a feminist issue. You are not being oppressed. If anything, you’re acting like the man of yesteryear, forcing parents and parenting into isolation. That’s not my feminism; I don’t want to be what a man once was.

    I’m 24 and childless too. But I want a world that helps parents participate actively in society, that doesn’t force parents (particularly one parent) to stay home and get isolated, or separates parents from their kids if they want to go out and be active in the world. Yeah, I get it, it sure is annoying to have disrespectful, rude people busting in on your classy lunch. But that’s not a parents issue, and singling out parents and kids for rudeness unfairly blankets all of them.

    Not having kids was earned through hard feminist work for birth control access, financial independence, and cultural shift. But the minute a woman embracing those battles starts turning on parents is the minute we go from “expanding feminist choices” to “imposing a single definition of feminist lifestyle.”

    Get over yourself, get kids in your life, learn to engage children and parents so they become more integrated into your lifestyle so they are not segregated out of it. A society that doesn’t have space for children is a sexist one!

  163. Shelby
    Shelby May 15, 2010 at 9:27 am |

    I do not have children. This post makes me vomit. I honestly thought it was (shitty) satire for a minute. Like, “I think it’s bad people shame parents and kids for being in public, but I’m going to shame parents and kids for being in public!” o_O

    WHAT THE FUCK, Jill. WHAT THE FUCK, commenters.

    What I hear from this conversation is: “I am a FULL person and I paid money for these spaces and therefore I am entitled to exist in them and have everyone behave to my liking. Also, please control those not-really-people small things because they annoy me.”

    Seriously, ya’ll don’t see this policing of space and bodies as just a TAD BIT problematic?! Like.. Women should speak their mind and not be pressured to be quiet and meek like society tells them but DAMMIT WILL YOU SHUT THAT KID UP AND MAKE THEM SIT STILL?!
    Why do the social rules of these (expensive! can’t forget the money!) restaurants and spaces have to center on ADULT CAPITALIST CONSUMPTION? Why can’t they center the needs of children and parents? Why is this post made entirely of bullshit? Why am I even bothering to comment? WTF?

  164. DonnaDiva
    DonnaDiva May 15, 2010 at 9:32 am |

    @geek anachronism – WTF? I have no idea what you’re banging on about. I said that parents are socially privileged because deliberately not being a parent is a deviation from the norm. I’ve been called selfish and told that I’ll never know real love. I’ve been told that you aren’t a real woman until you’ve had a baby. I could go on. It is perfectly okay to insult childfree people in public to their faces.

  165. Faith
    Faith May 15, 2010 at 9:35 am |

    “Are you nuts? if your child screams or cries for the duration of a ceremony, movie or arts event…then, yeah. ”

    Can I just say that the ableism as well as the hatred of children on this thread is astounding? Actually, I am probably nuts although I’ve never been diagnosed as such. But, you know, my nuttiness isn’t something you get to insult me or anyone else for.

    As for my statements, they actually weren’t regarding my own children so much as other people’s. I rarely ever go anywhere with my kids because, hey, I’m a pretty damn poor single mother who can’t afford to go places. And, yes, that’s why I made the comment about not being able to afford a babysitter. Because poor parents with kids shouldn’t be expected to not ever go anywhere unless they can find a babysitter. And while I can certainly appreciate that it’s annoying for a child to cry during a movie, when it happens when I actually can afford to go to the theater, I just ignore it. Because, you know what? I understand how much it sucks to not be able to go places because you have kids, so, unlike many of the people on this thread, I actually engage in this little thing called compassion when I encounter other people in similar situations.

  166. jen
    jen May 15, 2010 at 9:40 am |

    And you know, I may be a curmudgeon, but if I’m paying more than $100 to eat at Cafe Boloud (or any restaurant, really — not everyone can afford $100 meals, and we still deserve to eat out in relative peace) and the people at the table next to me have a toddler who makes a game of repeatedly dropping her silverware on the floor and making the waiter pick it up, I’m going to be really annoyed.

    Never thought I’d read such classist bullshit here… I’m sure people have commented on this already, but with 170 comments, I did skip many. So: I do not have kids, and I understand that rude behaviour is annoying, and I do believe parents should step in if a kid keeps kicking me under the table or something :). but: fine wine-and-dine-places should be just as open to kids and parents as every place else. i don’t care if you pay 100 bucks for brunch or 10 (like i do…). kids make noise, particularly when they’re frustrated and can’t express themselves differently (yet), and kids have their own personality. and being a parent is a learning-process and a challenge. disciplining (little) people is not the answer to any problem one might have with someone – i can’t believe i’m even reading that on a feminist blog.

  167. Faith
    Faith May 15, 2010 at 9:41 am |

    “And while I can certainly appreciate that it’s annoying for a child to cry during a movie, when it happens when I actually can afford to go to the theater, I just ignore it.”

    Just in case that wasn’t clear: I meant I ignore other people’s kids when they scream during a movie.

  168. Mary
    Mary May 15, 2010 at 9:42 am |

    I just want to add. Can we define childfree lifestyles as a privilege? It used to be men and very rich women who could manage to create childfree spaces for themselves. That privilege has expanded, but it is still a privilege. Like rich white women hiring working class WOC to do their housekeeping so they could work professionally. Childfree spaces don’t disrupt gender norms. They simply allow some women to access privileges that were hitherto reserved for men and the exceptionally weathy.

    Most of us grow up with family and friends having babies, and the need to take care of those babies gets shared around the family and neighborhood by default, more so if you want to be able to include your parent friends and family in, you know, life.

  169. shannon
    shannon May 15, 2010 at 9:51 am |

    I think when people say ‘childfree’ they mean that they choose not to have their own children. I’m childfree, and often participate in child care, with relatives or in paid or volunteer work. This is of course a major reason that I’m childfree.

  170. Samantha B.
    Samantha B. May 15, 2010 at 9:55 am |

    @Donna Diva, you’re making the optimistic assumption that because women (and let’s be honest, it is women we’re talking about here) are attacked for x, they aren’t attacked for y. There’s very little reason for you to assume that women aren’t getting slammed on both sides of the issue, if you have even a vague familiarity with a bazillion other feminist issues. Also, rude and invasive comments aren’t the same as being systematically marginalized, economically and societally, a la the American single mother. You’re talking about people of your class you meet at parties or what have you, and ignoring the realities of the underclass family in American society.

  171. DonnaDiva
    DonnaDiva May 15, 2010 at 9:57 am |

    @Alara Rogers – Yeah, you noticed that Women Are Supposed To Have Children is a dominant cultural trope. Good for you! Bad for you that you stopped there, offended that you were being told to have children. If you had looked into it more closely, you would have noticed the second half of that sentence is And Then Die, Disappear Or Otherwise Cease To Be Relevant Humans. So here you are pissing on mothers because goddamnit, *you* don’t want to be one of those ciphers who dies, disappears and ceases to be a relevant human! Neither do we. We are people, and you fell for it. You went for the patriarchal bait and switch. Somehow you failed to notice the way society treats mothers as if they’re either nonexistent or worth shit? How about fighting the real enemy — the system that claims that women are only worthwhile for having children *and* that women who do have children are worthless? I mean, are you not noticing the “heads patriarchy wins, tails women lose” aspect to the whole thing?

    As a childless woman I get the “die, disappear” edict the minute I no longer produce income that can be taxed to subsidize other peoples’ kids. When I was unemployed for over a year and bringing home $870 a month in unemployment benefits, I was told it was too much to qualify for Medicaid. I couldn’t afford any type of insurance and still feed myself so I went without. If I had a child I could be bringing home 2.5 times as much income and both my child and I would have health care. This is where you might come in and accuse me of being “selfish” and remind me how hard it is to raise a child. Because I don’t have any kids so I can just go ahead and die right now if I’m poor and sick.

  172. chava
    chava May 15, 2010 at 9:58 am |

    @prowlerzee:
    Dude, Renee isn’t a troll. Try reading her blog. I’d also like to second her comment that I’m a little confused as to why there was the mother’s day video followed by this post (also in a fairly direct way about mothers) with no comment on the first video)?

    As for the spanking thing. I didn’t realize we’d decided that if you spanked your children you weren’t a feminist anymore (which is what people seem to be saying upthread). Anyway, I’m not personally pro it myself and understand why people have strong feelings–I just find the mommy policing of the comments regarding not just if, but HOW to discipline ironic on this thread. (wait out a tantrum, don’t wait out a tantrum, spank, don’t spank).

  173. Shelby
    Shelby May 15, 2010 at 10:01 am |

    @Jill: “Jen, I mentioned a $100 meal because that’s what the linked article was specifically about — very fancy and pricey restaurants (a meal at Cafe Boloud runs easily $100). I added in that everyone, whether they can afford $100 meals or not, has some right to eat without screaming kids or things being thrown. How is that classist, exactly?”

    Just because you added a disclaimer doesn’t erase the tone and context of the statement. A statement that is just deeply, deeply wrong as well as classist. Think: “I’m not saying women don’t deserve to enjoy sex, BUT [insert sexist slut-shaming comment here].”

    Sorry, I know that comment wasn’t directed specifically to me, but the overt classism really bothered me too.

  174. DonnaDiva
    DonnaDiva May 15, 2010 at 10:02 am |

    You’re talking about people of your class you meet at parties or what have you, and ignoring the realities of the underclass family in American society.

    I thought I was addressing that in my post when I said that the “wrong” kind of women (poor, minority) are bashed for having kids. And middle class and affluent parents are just as guilty of lack of class consciousness when they act as though the amenities they demand for their kids will benefit “the children”. Um, no. They will benefit YOUR children.

  175. jen
    jen May 15, 2010 at 10:12 am |

    Jill, I noted that you added that families should not be restricted to McDonald’s, etc. But I do find it classist that practically all of your examples about annoying behaviour of children feature $100, or “tiny, trendy restaurants”, that, IMO, at least point to a lifestyle with a considerable amount of disposable income, e.g.

    I’m annoyed at the family who shows up to a tiny trendy restaurant where the wait is already two hours long and asks for a table for 8, because they have half of the local soccer team with them.

    This gave me the impression that it is alright for people who can afford to wait to hours to eat at such places to demand a disturbance-/child-/non-yuppie-free environment because they’re able to pay for it, to pay for getting away from the noisy, unbehaved, low-status “masses” (who dare to set foot into these places, demanding their football-team-table and non-gourmet-dishes like spaghetti). I also emphatically second what Mary wrote about child-free places as a white-privilege-issue.

  176. chava
    chava May 15, 2010 at 10:13 am |

    I think very few people have clicked over and read the original post, which was actually quite good—

    Example of why the “you made a choice” meme has some issues:

    Reposted from Bitch PhD’s post Jill links to:
    “Why do we take the institutional status quo as authoritative, as normative even, and NOT take basic facts of human biology as authoritative and normative? Yes, individuals can choose not to have children. More power to them. But collectively, on both the social and species level, we cannot make that choice. Being living creatures and all. Moreover, the economic disadvantages of having kids pretty much accrue because we’ve all agreed to alienate our labor. Ok, fine, but let’s don’t pretend that it is the children, rather than the social structure, that is the “choice.” ”

    And this:

    “And note this: I am not saying you have to deal with children because someday they will deal with you; or that other people have to deal with you because you have dealt, or will at some point deal with them. I am saying we have to deal with each other because refusing to do so is wrong, anti-social, anti-human. Everything else comes after that.”

  177. LoveLettersinHell
    LoveLettersinHell May 15, 2010 at 10:14 am |

    The entitlement of some of the parents here is pretty shocking to me. When you have kids– you have to change your lifestyle. Because there is this little thing you have to deal with. And that means giving up, or drastically reducing, a lot of the “fun” things you did before. Whatever happened to civility and respecting people’s space? You and your child do not outweigh the interests of 30 or 50 or 100 other people. And no, nothing your kid does is cute to me. I am willing to tolerate a screaming child on public transit or at a park, but if I’m going out for some special highclass dinner to celebrate my anniversary or something, I am going to pick a place based largely on what the expectations for behavior are. And having a child does not give you a pass on that. You take it outside when it is bad. I don’t care if it “undermines” your parenting style, it’s a known risk. Even if your child hasn’t done it before, it’s a known risk.

    This isn’t targeted just at moms, either. Dads have an equal responsibility to minimize their child’s bad behavior. And yes, it sucks that some people can’t afford a babysitter. It really, really does. But it also sucks that some people without kids can’t afford that restaurant even without the price of a babysitter to worry about.

  178. Nancy
    Nancy May 15, 2010 at 10:16 am |

    Keeping kids under control in public spaces was traditionally a collective task undertaken by all adults. They did it probably without even being aware that they were. If kids were unruly, any adult would tell them to be quiet and only if they refused would they bring the parent in on it.

    Today adults are both apprehensive about interacting with other people’s kids generally and especially when it comes to telling them to cut it out. This makes things much harder for everyone – kids included.

    Parents are in the most horrible position of all because they are left to manage kids with no adult solidarity what-so-ever. Why is this a problem? Because kids know that they can get away with more when they are in public.

    If mom is doing something like paying for groceries, they know that if they decide to race down the aisle of the supermarket, there’s not a lot she can do until she finishes paying. No one else will say anything to them. So mom finishes paying then runs up the aisle to grab her kids. She’s getting disapproval both because her kids ran around in the first place and because she is now angry with them and having to drag them out of the supermarket. Meanwhile her cart has been moved so that it’s blocking the way of an angry 20-something vegan who is muttering about simultaniously entitled and probably abusive mothers and their odious “croch-spawn” under her tofu-scented breath. The vegan snears at the humilated mother, who glares back, thus confirming every prejudice anyone ever had about local moms. The vegan then goes home and blogs about it or posts on a local message board so that they can indulge in an orgy of spleen-venting with other “child-free” types.

    The kids are probably generally nice kids but without a controlled environment without clearly and collectively enforced standards of behavior they can and do take the opportunity to “try it on”. The mom is no more or less skilled a parent than anyone else. She’s just demoralized because she’s in a no-win situation.

  179. DonnaDiva
    DonnaDiva May 15, 2010 at 10:20 am |

    Furthermore, getting rude and invasive comments is more than just annoying. How would you like it if people asked you prying questions about why you had children or why you had the particular number that you did? How would you like being called selfish and immature because you chose to have kids? The insults lobbed at childless women are an overt form of social coercion and it’s funny how some people on this thread regard being glared at because their kid is throwing a tantrum as a major affront but can’t see why I’d be offended when people are rude to me. I’m supposed to be understanding about your challenges as a parent but when you say some thoughtless demeaning thing to me about being childfree I’m supposed to ignore it.

  180. Wednesday
    Wednesday May 15, 2010 at 10:23 am |

    Mary – Childfreedom is a privilege? Seriously? On a feminist blog, you actually claim that choosing to not reproduce is a privilege, not a right? The fuck?

    It’s true that economic privilege makes it easier to be childfree, because it makes access to birth control and abortion easier. But to say that opting to not reproduce should be a privilege strikes at the very heart of the whole notion of reproductive rights.

  181. Icewyche
    Icewyche May 15, 2010 at 10:25 am |

    Chally @ #156

    I’m also going to note that maybe some people should consider that there may well be children reading this thread and please to take that into account when commenting.

    I’m sorry, but that’s a bit ridiculous. Feministe regularly discusses things like sex work, rape culture, and Lady Gaga’s infamously NSFW “Telephone” video and gets pretty down-and-dirty about it, but for this thread there could be innocent widdle children reading so we all need to watch our language?

  182. jessi
    jessi May 15, 2010 at 10:31 am |

    Wednesday – That’s not what Mary said at all. She didn’t say that it’s a privilege not to reproduce, but that it’s a privilege and not a right to have childfree spaces. As in restaurants, movie theaters, etc.

  183. shannon
    shannon May 15, 2010 at 10:32 am |

    Maybe she meant that children might read it and be hurt by comments of people not fond of children. Of course, I would think the youngest ‘child’ to read this would be at least 12 or so…

  184. Triflosa
    Triflosa May 15, 2010 at 10:32 am |

    I had a big problem with the original Bitch Ph.D article, in which she said that ‘you are not allowed to not like kids’, and that people who expressed a dislike of children, or actively avoided them, were ‘bigots’. I also got pretty pissed off when Bitch Ph.D admitted that she can’t really engage with other people’s children, does not find them endearing, and avoids having other people’s children in her house! The difference between her avoidance of children and a child-free person’s is, of course, the fact that she can’t be a bigot because she already has children.

    I don’t have a problem with the whole ‘children’ debate. I don’t have a problem with children in public, or parents. What I do have a problem with is polemics. Her article was, to my mind, deliberately written to be divisive and so of course people got upset and annoyed.

    The issue about women who are childfree by choice or unable to have children is actually something which has not been discussed in great detail in feminism. I have noticed that a lot of the time, excuses for childfree women are made: ‘oh, but she loves children really!’ , or ‘she’s going to be a cool aunty!’ This just ignores the reality that there are women out there who don’t love children, and don’t want anything to do with children. We still can’t resist the urge to label them monsters. There’s a real fear about such women in our society: having children is still very much the norm.

    As for people ‘hating’ children, I don’t actually think there are many out there who actually hate children: so it’s a rather unfortunate phrase. It actually probably comes down more to the hysteric-amplifying effects of the internet. Most people who ‘hate’ children are probably just bored of them, or can’t see the appeal in the whole mother and child lifestyle.

  185. La Lubu
    La Lubu May 15, 2010 at 10:32 am |

    If we started by seeing legitimate needs from people on both sides of the conversation, maybe we could actually start coming up with solutions that don’t deny anyone’s humanity.

    You know, when I became a mother, one of the first things I noticed was how incredibly easy it was to viewed as violating cultural norms….just by being out in public. Being out in public, period. Not having a screaming child or anything that would/could reasonably be viewed as transgressing on others’ space or rights.

    I mean, just calmly breastfeeding my baby in a coffee shop was viewed as transgressive and rude. Obnoxious, even. It was seen as invading the personal space of others, even though I was at my own table, there was less noise coming from my table than the other surrounding tables—just the fact that I was breastfeeding within eyesight of others was infringing on their space.

    Those transgressive moments haven’t decreased since then. Until my daughter grows breasts (and therefore reaches another stage in her journey, the stage where it isn’t her childhood that is offensive, but her womanhood), it’s going to be this way.

    That’s what I react to in these threads. I mean, we (feminists) tend to be well aware of the fact that as women, we are supposed to take up as little space as possible. As little physical space, as little visible space, as little mental space—however you want to break it down—as possible. We, women, are infringing on others by being in public. By taking up space in college classrooms. By taking up space on the job.

    And when you become a parent, you can’t avoid taking up space with your child. The mainstream culture I live in the midst of doesn’t hold the same norms that I do for negotiating that public space with a child. It is stricter, designed for married women with a higher income than I have. With a different cultural background than I have. Folks like me—or unlike me but who also can’t help but transgress based on who they are—we’ve had to find our own norms in response to having to live our lives, and try to manuever around our relative lack of privilege from the folks who have the power to set the norms.

    And it kills me that it isn’t recognized, even on a feminist blog, the degree to which I try my damnedest to be invisible, to adhere to those social norms that I don’t like. Why? Because I am god.damn.vulnerable. I don’t have the privilege of those Park Slope mommies. It kills me that other feminists are more concerned that mothers (yes, mothers. no one is giving the hairy eyeball, and especially not verbally challenging, fathers) keep on trying to metaphoricaly juggle a plethora of heavy objects in the air while balancing a spinning plate on a stick on the end of our noses while on pointe…..rather than challenging the norms that give us this extra burden.

    Talk of the statistically small number of screaming children in Chez Fancee restaurants obscures the fact that—that isn’t where the pressures are for most of us. I can easily avoid taking my daughter to a fancy restaurant (though she is better behaved than most adults, and has been for quite some time). What I can’t avoid, is the fact that funding is down for public schools, because children are seen as a burden to society. That started with the ultraconservative backlash against desegregation in the schools (shorter version: “if schools have to be for children of color too—-screw it! we don’t need public schools!”).

    What I can’t avoid, is that yes, I’ll have to be absent from work sometimes to care for my sick child. In a workplace (everyone’s workplace, not just mine) that is still (at best) oriented to men who have wives to handle that sort of thing, or is still openly hostile toward women, period.

    Why are feminists, of all people, not questioning the fact that the norms themselves are what is faulty? That the norms themselves are a catch-22 that falls primarily on women? That the norms themselves are inherently classist?

  186. Miranda
    Miranda May 15, 2010 at 10:38 am |

    I really appreciate this post.

  187. Angus Johnston
    Angus Johnston May 15, 2010 at 10:40 am |

    @DonnaDiva, any mother will tell you that “prying questions about why you had children or why you had the particular number that you did” go with the territory. As several people have noted, motherhood is a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation. That’s a big part of what makes it a feminist issue, and a reason why the whole “who has it worse” debate is counterproductive. Anti-childfree and anti-mother abuse are both real, and both often come from the same misogynist place.

    @Wednesday, Mary was trying to say that childfree spaces, rather than the decision not to reproduce, is a reflection of privilege — that money gives you a lot more freedom to decide when to take your kids with you, and when to stash them somewhere else. Also, money gives you a lot more power to go to places where you’re unlikely to encounter other people’s children, and to insist that children be barred from the places you don’t want them to be.

  188. La Lubu
    La Lubu May 15, 2010 at 10:44 am |

    If I had a child I could be bringing home 2.5 times as much income and both my child and I would have health care.

    I don’t want to derail, but that depends on what state you live in. I live in Illinois, and that wasn’t true for me. This was five years ago, but at $870 a month and one child, I was overqualified for Medicare. At the same time, I fell between the cracks for Illinois’ KidCare program, because my COBRA health insurance did not have line-item payment per family member. It was an “all or nothing” plan—twenty family members? $700 per month. No family, just one person? $700 a month.

    Just thought that needed to be said, because some folks without children aren’t aware of just exactly how poor a person with children has to be to qualify for any help. My daughter and I went without health insurance because there wasn’t any alternative. Luckily, nothing happened.

  189. Ledasmom
    Ledasmom May 15, 2010 at 10:51 am |

    It would be rather nice if there were more restaurants that backed onto nice, large lawns, wouldn’t it? Not playgrounds, necessarily; just a nice restaurant with nice outdoor seating and a huge lawn for energetic children to run around on, with a good fence around it. I’d go there.
    It would also be rather nice if supermarkets and department stores and such were set up in such a way that a child couldn’t head straight out the front door into the parking lot from the registers. There could be a quiet area in between, not specifically for kids, with a couple of tables, a few magazines and such, something to slow them down. I tend to think highly of supermarkets that offer kid-friendly food samples, stickers and such (though it took quite some time for our children to embrace the notion that one does not need to get a balloon Every Time at Trader Joe’s). It’s entirely possible for a store to make shopping less stressful for children without becoming the Chuck E. Cheese of produce, and I think that should be encouraged.
    Noise is stressful, generally. Perhaps not all noise, perhaps not for everybody; it is, however, a little odd to see screaming referred to as if one were being awfully picky for objecting to it. Children running around screaming at four o’clock in the afternoon, fine and wonderful; children doing the same at midnight, not so much. Same thing at restaurants. There is a time and a place for every sort of non-harmful behavior. That is part of living in a society.

  190. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable May 15, 2010 at 11:09 am |

    @Faith @161, regarding single mothers – I actually considered that, but then thought about how much comparative more shit I’ve seen women when I was in high school get when they were pregnant and decided on abortion or adoption. Unfortunately, choosing to have and keep your fetus/baby at that point really was the option that was met with infinitely more acceptance.

    That said, this was only my experience, and at that it was outside looking in.

    That’s not to say that single mothers don’t get shit on more than any other kind of parenting situation – because they (you) do. And it’s absolutely ridiculous. I’m sorry if you felt my comment was targeted at you and suggesting somehow that you have it easy.

  191. Wednesday
    Wednesday May 15, 2010 at 11:13 am |

    Jessi, La Lubel – Thanks for the clarification. Since Mary said “Can we define childfree lifestyles as a privilege?”, and I’m used to “childfree lifestyle” meaning “a life lived with the conscious choice to not have children”, I kind of saw red. Especially given that I feel the Bitch PhD article was in part motivated by the “women who don’t want kids aren’t real women” undercurrent in our society.

    Mary, my apologies.

  192. Anon
    Anon May 15, 2010 at 11:38 am |

    I was spanked as a child…as were my brother and sister (we are all adopted). I can’t seem to get in in my head that my parents are child abusers. I also can’t think of it having been assault. That is very harsh… My religious upringing was what fucked me up later on…not being spanked. My parents aren’t child abusers. There has to be some line between spanking and abuse…I wouldn’t spank any children I may have, but I don’t think my parents were assaulting me because they did.

  193. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers May 15, 2010 at 11:39 am |

    DonnaDiva: If I had a child I could be bringing home 2.5 times as much income and both my child and I would have health care.

    I’d like to point out that day care could easily consume the vast majority of that 2.5 times as much income, and the need for a larger place to live (an apartment with two bedrooms and its own kitchen and bathroom, for instance, instead of being able to live in a roommate situation in a single bedroom in a house with a communal kitchen and bathroom), clothes, diapers, the extra laundry burden if you’re using laundromats, and the specialized equipment small children need like strollers, would take up the rest of it.

    Also, that buying health insurance costs approximately a third if you are insuring a single person versus insuring a family.

    Both men and women who do not have children are expected to work, because there are no children holding them back, interfering with their ability to get a job. Women who have children and work are usually in the position of having to pay for day care, which ranges from expensive to obscenely expensive, so their take-home profit from their paycheck is significantly less. If they are partnered and the partner works, they may be able to earn as much for basic living necessities as they did when single and without children, but then, the partner’s salary will be counted if they need services such as health care, so the 2.5 times you mention is applied to both partners, and if the two partners together bring home 3.0 times what the qualifying single rate is… and they still have to pay for day care… then they probably can’t afford health insurance. The partnered mother who stays home with her kids while her partner works, saving the cost of day care, might be able to get health insurance that way, but it’s a really crappy feminist statement to call women who can’t work because they can’t earn enough to pay for the day care and the health insurance if they do “privileged” over singles who can work but can’t get health insurance.

    Now, the whole fact that America doesn’t just do single payer and give us all health insurance is appalling to me, but given the extremely limited resources we as a country have been willing to devote to helping people get health insurance, the fact that the cutoff for singles vs. the bechilded is so much smaller is that CHILDREN ARE SO GODDAMN EXPENSIVE. Let me give you a breakdown of some of the differences, specific to my personal experience of course:

    Without children: Health care for yourself costs $400 a month.
    You can live in a big non-New York Eastern city in a roommate situation with two other people sharing a townhome, where you have your own bedroom and the kitchen and bathroom are shared, for $350.
    Clothes are whatever you spend on clothes. I personally spend about $50 a month, average, on clothes for myself, often less.

    With children: Health care costs $1100/month. No roommates want to live with kids, so you need to rent the townhome yourself. You can get one in the same neighborhood where you were able to rent one bedroom for $350, for $900.
    Clothes: Babies need new clothes every 2-3 months for the first year. You can buy thrift but you’re still spending probably $50/month (babies need a *lot* of clothes due to the constant spit-up, unless you have a washing machine in your house, and if you’re poor you probably don’t). As the frequency of clothes buying goes down, the cost goes up. Eventually it settles down to twice a year, for seasons, plus the shoes they are constantly wearing out and outgrowing, and that probably works out to an average of $40/month if you aggressively shop thrift, more like $75/month if you go to Walmart or Target instead.

    So the total cost per month for the single person to wear clothes, buy health insurance, and rent a home is $800. The total cost for the single person with one baby to buy clothes (remember your own need for clothes didn’t go away, and in fact kids are likely to ruin your clothes), buy health insurance and rent a home is $2200. But wait! The single person with a child can’t work without day care! Substandard day care is still $50/week. So add another $200 onto that for crappy day care and you’re at $2400. Which is 300% of the $800 the single person without kids needed to do the same thing. Didn’t you say the health insurance subsidy for the family with kids stops at 250% of what the single person without kids makes? And I have not added in food, or toys, or books, or luxuries like children’s DVDs, or the cost of baby equipment like cribs, playpens and strollers, or the cost of maternity clothes because the single person with a child is probably a mother who had to go through pregnancy, or diapers, or the vastly greater load of laundromat clothes you need to run, or the opportunity cost because having day care at set hours means no shift work bonus and no overtime so there are jobs that pay better that you just can’t take.

    Children are much, much more expensive than you imagine. *Cheap* estimates of how much a baby costs per month run about $700, and I think they don’t factor the day care or the higher rent because they’re aiming their sloganeering at teens who live with parents and can take advantage of some free day care and rent. So actually, unless the single mom is really good at economizing and has lots of friends she can turn to for things like babysitting when she absolutely has to be somewhere without her child (not like dinner plans, more like traffic court), the fact that she is subsidized to 250% of what the single childree woman can make and still get health insurance seems to me like the single mom actually has it *worse*. Because her costs are more like 300% of what the single childfree woman’s costs are, or more.

    And you don’t realize how expensive children are because you don’t have any, and that’s quite reasonable and natural — no one knows how much stuff costs if they’ve never had to pay for it. But complaining that you’re expected to fuck off and die because your health insurance is subsidized at 40% of the salary cutoff of a single mom, without an understanding that you can probably live on 33% of what the single mom can because she has non-optional expenses that you don’t, seems very entitled to me. The single mom who makes 300% of the single childfree woman’s salary cutoff is bringing home the same amount of spending power, and can’t possibly afford the insurance, so she *and* her child are expected to fuck off and die. But since children require more medical care than healthy adults, what’s actually going to happen is she’s going to do without clothes for herself, or food, or electricity, or end up homeless, because she’s going to skimp on the necessities of life to pay for her child’s illnesses. That is so very privileged. It’s great that women are given the choice of starving themselves or paying for their kid’s infected tooth that might kill them. Especially since they are *also* faced with the same issue of paying for their *own* infected tooth that the single childfree woman faces.

  194. joytulip
    joytulip May 15, 2010 at 11:51 am |

    I’ve read through this entire post and commentary and am disappointed at the accusations in both directions, which underscore the fact that this is a very personal, touchy issue.

    I have a two-year-old. I take him places. He’s well behaved 99% of the time. When he’s not, I deal with it. Between 6-7pm, we went to a recent community art event. There was live music, free wine and food, etc, all around town. I took him, not him because I wanted to get out of the house and didn’t have a sitter, but because I want him to be exposed to art and music from a young age and not sitting home watching Sesame Street DVDs every night. He sat quietly on my hip, bobbing his head to the music as we navigated through one relatively crowded gallery. I lost count of the nasty looks I got for daring to bring a small, quiet child to a public place at 7pm. It’s not cool. Equal access is still a joke in the U.S., in all manner of ways, for oppressed classes of all kinds. To pretend otherwise is ludicrous. To pretend that it’s is ok is kinda evil.

  195. Rob
    Rob May 15, 2010 at 12:07 pm |

    I know what happened here. There’s been a misunderstanding which has lead to a lot of dagger throwing in both directions.

    Maybe I can clear it up.

    The OP didn’t mean to say ‘public space’ she meant to say ‘space that she owns, but temporarily lets the public use’.
    See, then the story about the $100/plate restaurant becomes not just any restaurant, but one where she gets to determine the socially acceptable behavior.
    In that case, I agree. I won’t bring my kids into your restaurant. Make sure it’s clearly labeled though. Maybe a big pacifier with a red circle around and diagonal line across.
    There are probably lots of businesses out there that are actually more interested in money that I and my family might spend than whether I’ll annoy other patrons. I’ll try to find one of those.

    @shelby – I too wondered about the hypocrisy of this post on a feminist blog. Your comment made me laugh out loud.

  196. akeeyu
    akeeyu May 15, 2010 at 12:15 pm |

    “But I do think that parents have a responsibility, when out in public, to make sure their kids behave. If the kid freaks out, then take him outside of the restaurant.”

    I agree with you in theory, and indeed, this is what I do when my husband and I are out together with the children, but what about single mothers with multiple children? Do you drag them all outside, leave some unsupervised, never leave the house, get told to hire a babysitter (that you might not be able to afford), or what?

    Seriously, what is your suggestion, here?

    “I just can’t agree that kids are a feminist issue. There’s so much wrong with this idea. It embraces the relegation of fathers to sperm donors, forcing mothers to be the sole fulcrum of responsibility for raising children–which, in an insidious way, reinforces anti-woman attitudes.”

    Oh, Leah, I don’t know where to start.

    Kids ARE a feminist issue. Like it or not, women are usually the primary caregivers (and are likely to continue to be until we get equal pay), and women are also the ones crucified when kids act up in public.

    Women are typically the ones forgoing promotions and higher education to take care of kids.

    Kids ARE a feminist issue.

    When the kids melt down in public, I get glared at. My husband, when he has the children, gets indulgent looks when they melt down. “Poor dear, he tries so hard! It’s so nice to see a man spending time with his children.”

    Women have a greater responsibility for children in this country (and most countries), both perceived and in practice, so most anti-kid shit is either directly or indirectly anti-woman.

    This is a great comment by Zuzu about children, family friendly policies and feminism:
    http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2009/05/06/supreme-court-and-the-single-girl/#comment-240850

  197. Claudia
    Claudia May 15, 2010 at 12:21 pm |

    #102 Claudia, “reason” with her through her “anxiety attack” all you like….but if it’s in a movie or arts theater or adult restaurant or wedding or funeral…do so outside. Very, very simple.

    We’d had three beloved family members and a pet die in quick succession. My daughter became obsessed with death, and every time she felt the slightest tickle in her throat, she thought she was about to die. So, it wasn’t an “anxiety attack.” It was an anxiety attack.

    And please speak to me not about funeral etiquette. I’ve been to enough lately, I know how it works. In fact, when my grandfather died recently, my grandmother had a panic attack at the calling. And guess what? There was no one there grumbling and tut tutting about how she was causing a scene and why won’t anyone take her outside, don’t they see how very, very simple it is?

    You can judge away at parents who allow their children to whine or run or yell or whatever your particular pet peeve is, but you never have the whole story.

  198. Faith
    Faith May 15, 2010 at 12:24 pm |

    “but then thought about how much comparative more shit I’ve seen women when I was in high school get when they were pregnant and decided on abortion or adoption.”

    Yes, women who have abortions or give their kids up for adoptions are shit on too. But the thing is, once we actually have those kids, we’re not at all supported. I can’t even begin to mention all the horrible things that I’ve heard people say about single mothers, or even remember all the oppressive crap I’ve had to endure because I’m a mother. I just think a lot of people really, really don’t understand just how difficult being a mother truly is unless you are a certain kind of mother (read: middle-class, white, educated, and married) because so much of what we endure is just considered the normal course of things. This thread is a pretty good example of just how much people feel fully entitled to treat mothers who don’t conform to certain expectations like sub-humans.

    “I’m sorry if you felt my comment was targeted at you and suggesting somehow that you have it easy.”

    No problem. I didn’t interpret it that way.

  199. eandh
    eandh May 15, 2010 at 12:31 pm |

    Wow. As the mother of two daughters, I am stunned by the number of parents in these comments taking the position that they have the right to take their children ANYWHERE, no matter what their age or their behaviour or the setting itself. That having children means you can disregard everyone else in the restaurant or theatre, use the waitstaff to entertain your children and so on. Umm, no, having children is not a license for rudeness, and modelling rudeness and disrepect for others is poor parenting behaviour. Where I live it is illegal for me to take any children under 19 into a bar, so that’s not even a question. I would never think that my inability to find or afford a babysitter would entitle me to take a small child to an R rated movie – that’s certainly not something the child would want to do, to say nothing of the other patrons. When we go out in public – and we’ve been going out to restaurants and public events since the children were tiny, we have expectations about behaviour, and consequences for not meeting those expectations, and strategies for making those situations easier. We would phone ahead and order to cut down on that difficult waiting-to-eat time, we’d choose restaurants that were comfortable with us as a family because that made the dining experience nicer FOR US, we practiced how to eat at a formal restaurant before we took them to one. I don’t see why those are such unreasonable standards for me to hold as a parent, or to expect from other parents.

  200. Jamie
    Jamie May 15, 2010 at 12:39 pm |

    I’m a server in a sushi bar right now, but I’ve worked in a lot of different restaurant settings over the *gulp* years. Whether or not it’s OK to bring a kid, like you said, is very much a matter of weighing the situation. The problem isn’t so much the presence of the kid, but understanding acceptable accomodations. We finally had to break down and put fries on the menu for junior – frustrating, but not the end of the world. But, for the record, I would not have picked up the fork for baby. Not even once.

    Basically, when there’s a kid at the table, I try not to pay attention to it. I”ll bring crayons, then you take over: keeping it quiet, ordering something on the menu you think is kid-friendly. If you can fool me into thinking that the kid is a droolier extension of yourself, your kid is welcome.

    As a general rule that I wish more people knew, though, it goes like this: presence or lack of high-chairs is restauarant code for whether or not your kid is welcome. We’re not legally allowed to ban kids, but if we don’t have a high-chair, we’re trying real hard to send you a message.

  201. jen
    jen May 15, 2010 at 12:44 pm |

    I know what happened here. There’s been a misunderstanding which has lead to a lot of dagger throwing in both directions.

    Maybe I can clear it up.

    Oh, hell no! Here come the mansplainers… Every freaking time.

  202. April
    April May 15, 2010 at 1:08 pm |

    jen, that was so not “mansplaining.” It was an attack at Jill coming from what he seems to think is a superfeminist position. I hate when useful and witty terms get overused and misapplied. It quickly turns them into cliches and they’re ignored or used against us.

    Anyway, wow. I can’t believe some people’s behavior in this thread. You really think you and your children’s needs and desires are that much more important than everyone else’s? You really think that you have the right to be more accommodated than anyone else? And you call other people selfish?!

  203. joytulip
    joytulip May 15, 2010 at 1:10 pm |

    Can we go ahead and use gender-neutral personal pronouns or pluralize instead of referring to a child as “it,” please? Calling a child “it” is an overt objectification and a clear demonstration of the author’s refusal to recognize the child’s humanity.

  204. Partial Human
    Partial Human May 15, 2010 at 1:17 pm |

    Dear entitled parents – stop with the doublespeak, please. Out of one side of your mouths it’s “Raising a child takes a community, so my precious child must be accommodated absolutely everywhere so he can learn to fit into that community”, but the other side of your collective mouth says “Do not ever even DARE comment on my parenting, either by looking, or speaking, or doing anything that does not signal approval of my parenting”. You cannot have it both ways.

    Also, stop telling us how oppressed parents and children are, they’re not. The poor are oppressed, POC are oppressed, PWD are oppressed, children are merely disadvantaged as opposed to adults, and parents are living out their own personal choice to have children.

    When you choose to have children you have to give up certain things like the right to a full night’s sleep, or the ability to take 3 hour baths, or to lie-in on a ‘school day’. You can’t go to bars every night anymore, or spend all of your money on whatever takes your fancy. You have responsibilities that go along with your choices. When you say “Oh, so you hate that my kid screams for two hours during a movie eh? Then you HATE disabled people too don’t you?” that’s when you really start to piss me off. I’m disabled, I’m not a child. I also didn’t choose to become disabled, just as POC don’t choose their skin colour, and the poor don’t choose their economic status. Stop derailing, stop comparing your child to actual victims of oppression.

    When you chose (there’s that word again) to have that child, you chose the responsibility of caring for him, and acting on his behalf, until he reaches an age where he can do it on his own. You chose to accept that whatever your child does will ultimately reflect on how you raised him, you chose to forfeit the absolute right to go anywhere and do anything you feel like doing, and you chose a lifestyle where you have to model appropriate behaviour and language, to influence your little future adult.

    Life as a parent can be difficult, and stressful and conflicting – again, I do not doubt that for a second, but it’s what you chose to do with your life. Please don’t wail and whine about how haaaaard it is to be a mommy, and how many sacrifices you’ve made, and how little financial freedom you have. You knew what you were getting into, and if you didn’t, you should’ve done your research a little better. Stating that kid’s meals should absolutely be free, because you don’t want to pay for 4 people to eat the food that they’ve eaten, is bloody hilarious. Nobody made you have a 4 person family, nobody made you eat out. Do you demand that grocery stores give you a 50% discount because half of your provisions feed your kids?

    When I chose to move to the countryside I didn’t rend my clothes and weep over the lack of ready-made entertainment and public transport, I didn’t sob and demand that all of the trees and greenery be destroyed because I have allergies. It was my choice to live here.

    Please don’t rant about mothers being more financially discriminated against that anyone else, have you seen the statistics on the financial hardships facing PWD or say… trans women? As a disabled person I’m forced to live on a quarter of what my govt. states is poverty-level. Let me spell it out for you. A single adult is defined as being below the poverty line when their net income after rent/mortgage, council tax, and water charges is less than £400 a month. My *gross* income is £420pcm, entirely comprised of govt. benefits awarded to me because I’m too disabled to work. Average rent in this part of the country is £500pcm. So minus £80 has to pay for my council tax, power and water, food, travel, medication, expenses, entertainment etc. I’m about 300% under the poverty ine, but that’s ok because I’m not over 65 and I don’t have a child, being left to die is fine and dandy. If I was too disabled to work and had one child, my rent would be waived, as would my water charges and council tax. I would be given child benefit, family tax credit, free prescriptions, food vouchers and extra money on top of my disability benefits (so my income would double, in addition to not paying any costs). There’s no way I can have a child, and no way I could condone bringing a child into this kind of life, and yet many people have to, just to make ends meet. Benefit advisors tell me frequently “Just have a child, it means so much more money and life would me much more comfortable”, even though it would be 20 kinds of wrong to do so. If I was over 65 I’d have a £10,000 a year ‘minimum income guarantee’, reduced rent, no council tax, reduced utilities, free meds and transport. If I can live another 30-odd years in abject poverty, then I might just be ok.

    I didn’t choose disability, it chose me. I didn’t choose my sexuality or gender expression either. So next time you’re wringing your hands about your choices, your decision to follow society’s expectations and cultural norms, your decision to be thoroughly mainstream, and how ‘terrible’ that life is, think of how bad it must be for those who didn’t choose their lifestyle, who are outside of your mainstream mommy-box, who are not in the vast majority, because compared to any minority group you can think of – you have it easy.

  205. jen
    jen May 15, 2010 at 1:29 pm |

    @april: thank you for “explaining” to me why i got his “explanation” wrong and falsely applied a term that is apparently reserved for people who are witty enough to use it correctly. it’s not the antifeminist sentiment of some posts, nor the attack on people for taking offense in trolling but allegedly mislabelling it with a copy-righted-term, it’s the chance of having this term used against “us” in future debates, because it has been said before, that is the problem here… really? jeeez. [/derail]

  206. Ledasmom
    Ledasmom May 15, 2010 at 1:35 pm |

    It was fairly standard usage at one time – I remember the first time I read “Dracula”, being surprised by the references to a young child as “it” – a specific young child, not a generic reference to a young child. I wonder at what point general usage switched to requiring a gendered pronoun.

  207. Niall
    Niall May 15, 2010 at 1:36 pm |

    @Rob:

    1. If you don’t have kids, then you have no idea. Full stop. Being an aunt, uncle, brother, sister, babysitter isn’t even a distant second.

    How predictable. Yet another one who trots out the old “you’re not-a-pah-runnt-so-you-couldn’t-possibly-understand.” defense.

    How about the fact that all of us – including us mean-spirited folks without kids – were once kids ourselves? Or that some of us have been step-parents? Do those things not count for anything in your worldview? Look I’ll admit in a sense there is *some* truth to what you’re saying. I can fully appreciate the fact that there are some things one has to experience first hand to truly understand what it’s like, and parenting certainly would be one of them.

    Having said that, I’m also a bit suspicious of it and am inclined to wonder if lot of the time people just fall back on the old “you can’t understand because you’re not a _____” defense because it’s an easy way of shutting down discussion and not having to deal with facts and arguments that are inconvenient for you. It’s so frustrating.

  208. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable May 15, 2010 at 1:45 pm |

    I’d like to third, fourth, whateverth the ableism on this thread. Claudia, I suffered from anxiety attacks when I was a kid and COULDN’T talk to my parents about them. I’m happy your child has you, and I’m sorry that someone would refer to anxiety attacks in scare quotes just because they belong to a child. Which, by the way, contributes to the idea that children are an oppressed class – this notion that a kid’s mental pain is somehow lesser than an adult’s.

  209. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable May 15, 2010 at 1:48 pm |

    @Niall, the corollary to that is the commenter upstream that says, “but most parents have been single adults so we know both sides of the issue” – paraphrased.

    Sure, but all adults have also been children and adolescents, and to suggest that somehow all adults must thus be free of ageism against people under 18 is ridiculous. In this same vein, people who are parents can be biased against people who are not parents.

  210. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable May 15, 2010 at 1:50 pm |

    *** Can be, I’m not suggesting all parents are. I’m not trying to pick on the parents on this thread, just the idea that all parents can obviously relate perfectly to being without children because they’ve been there.

  211. Rob
    Rob May 15, 2010 at 1:51 pm |

    @ Niall – all I can tell you is that becoming a father changed me in ways I never even considered possible. I don’t know your circumstances, but being a kid is not similar to parenting one. Not at all

  212. Naamah
    Naamah May 15, 2010 at 2:00 pm |

    I’m childfree, allright? And I hate it when people get all up in my shit about it, and make sweeping statements like “WHEN you have kids you will understand!” (Which I am seeing plenty of on this thread, ahem.) I hate it when people question why I don’t want kids, or give me shit about my decision in any way, or assume that I am less emotionally developed or whatever because I have elected not to do this and have chosen for myself a different, equally valid and valuable set of experiences.

    But for pity’s sake, folks, parents — for real, and I promise you this is true — get questions and remarks that are just as horrible and offensive and invasive, if not moreso, especially if you are a mother. And I am seeing people in the comments here behaving as though this is an unthinkable thing that does not ever happen, which is painfully untrue.

    Disabled people, the mentally ill, GLBT parents, POC, poor people, fat people, older parents, I am sure I am forgetting some but there is a laundry list of people who, if you are one, you are vulnerable to the particularly ugly string of logic that goes “Why would you want to have a kid?!” or “You are not fit to have children!” or “Who would want to have sex with you?” or “How do you even, you know, do it?!”

    To pull an example from my own experience, I am bipolar, and so was my mom, and I have been told by many people that I should not have kids and would be a terrible mother. Now, for other reasons, I know that both of these things are true, but A) it’s got nothing to do with being bipolar, and B) these things were said in anger, said deliberately to be hurtful, diminishing, and dehumanizing. Insulting me, basically, for being mentally ill, by saying that I am not fit to do something that healthy, “normal” people do.

    No, I don’t want kids, but that shit? That shit fucking hurts. I cannot even imagine how hurt and angry I would be if I wanted kids, or if I already had them.

    There’s tremendous pressure to have kids placed on women, yes, absolutely, and it’s demeaning and patronizing and awful and people hate you and think of you as some sort of monster for not wanting to do it, and all that should STOP, period. But I wish people would remember that that pressure lasts right up until you deviate too much from “normal,” whereupon it becomes NOT to reproduce, and you are a monster because you WANT kids and would “inflict” whatever it is you are upon them.

    Nobody needs to justify their decision to not have or have kids, to ANYONE. That’s such bullshit.

  213. lt
    lt May 15, 2010 at 2:09 pm |

    Count me among the non-parents who are horrified by the “but the kids are loud!!!!” IF you read the original post by Sybil, it was about the challenging of maintaining friendships when kids were in the picture. But here we are, talking about kids making too much noise in restaurants. It’s a complete “but what about the men” derail.

    And you know, I’m typing this from Park Slope right now, and a lot of my friends are parents, so I guess supposedly I’m around all these super-indulged kids all the time. And you know what? I don’t see it. The ‘overindulgent Park Slope mother’ is just as much of a sexist stereotype as the ‘slutty hook up college girl’ or whatever other women people feel like taking a dump on these days. And, yes, I know, many of you have encountered women like this, but ever heard of confirmation bias? Would you accept comments in a thread about body image that said ‘but I know fat people who eat too much!” Seriously.

  214. dellery
    dellery May 15, 2010 at 2:55 pm |

    re # 139
    “If you saw an adult man sobbing uncontrollably in a restaurant and the person with him trying to get him to calm down, would your first reaction be “Get that man outside – his grief is spoiling my meal!”

    Really?”

    My first reaction? No. Or even if it was, I’d have enough sympathy to keep it to myself. If the sobbing went on for five or ten or twenty minutes? That’s another case all together. I keep seeing parents in these threads act like the child-noise-complainers expect them to be psychic and never allow a peep out of their kids. We don’t, not most of us anyway. Kids act up, kids make noise, kids get antsy, sure. I get that, even if I don’t get it on the bone-deep level that parents do.

    But it’s not the first peep (or two) that rankles the vast majority of us. It’s when the disruptive behavior is allowed to continue, and particularly when it impinges on the personal space of others. I’ve been a server at an Olive Garden where at least once a week, some parents felt fine letting their kids run around the restaurant, climb into other people’s booths and – most frightening to me – trip up servers carrying heavy food trays. A fully loaded tray can weigh upwards of 30 pounds, and I could do serious damage to your kid if I dropped it on him or her.

    Twice during my tenure, I had a kid knock me so off balance I dropped my entire tray – both times, I managed to steer the tray to fall away from the kid, but once I ended up dropping the food on a table, burning an (adult) patron.

    Neither time, did I get so much as an apology from the parent.

    Are these extremes? Sure. But it’s the extremes that we notice, and it’s the extremes we’re asking to be controlled. No one expects quiet ambience at the Olive Garden, kids are loud talkers, fine. But if your way of dealing with your kid is allowing them to sing some Barney song at the top of her lungs for ten minutes straight *in a public place like a restaurant* you’re an asshole. Your kid’s not an asshole, she’s a kid. But you? Asshole.

    And to bring it back to the crying man (or woman), I have sympathy – to a point. And that point comes after about 3-5 minutes, after which point I expect either the person with the man, or the restaurant management to gently but firmly usher the noisemaker outside. But with kids? The person doing the ushering should be the parent. Your kid can make noise. Fine. It happens. It’s when you allow the noise (or the dangerous behavior) to continue at length with zero concern for how you’re ruining everyone else’s evening that you cross the line from sympathy-earning parent to asshole.

  215. Sailorman
    Sailorman May 15, 2010 at 3:16 pm |

    Faith 5.15.2010 at 9:35 am
    I rarely ever go anywhere with my kids because, hey, I’m a pretty damn poor single mother who can’t afford to go places. And, yes, that’s why I made the comment about not being able to afford a babysitter. Because poor parents with kids shouldn’t be expected to not ever go anywhere unless they can find a babysitter.

    Nice straw man, but let’s put him to bed. Poor parents and rich parents alike get to take their kids anywhere they want… they just shouldn’t piss people off. There are spaces which are more kid friendly and some which are less kid friendly. Don’t go to the latter with your kids.

    But the reason that money enters the equation is simple and universal: Generally speaking, when you spend more money (and/or time and effort) on something, you have less tolerance for it being screwed up.

    And that’s not class determined, actually. It doesn’t really matter if someone is spending $50 on lunch only because she couldn’t get a $300 seat at Masa, or is spending $50 on lunch because she’s out with her 16 year old daughter and is trying to give her one of her very first fancy meals at a “special” place, and had to save up for six weeks to do it, and pretend she just wants salad so the daughter can order dessert. In either case people will be a hell of a lot less forgiving of having a screaming kid behind them than if they were buying a hamburger at Friendly’s.

    And I don’t get why all of this class discussion seems to assume that the poor parent is the only poor person in the room. But in fact that’s not true. There are other people too, and we don’t know a thing about them–you’re there, aren’t you? Having been both poor and not poor, I think it is a lot more upsetting and a lot less tolerable to have a “once a year” splurge be screwed up by someone else’s kid than it is when you can laugh it off and repeat it the next week.

    akeeyu 5.15.2010 at 12:15 pm
    …but what about single mothers with multiple children? Do you drag them all outside, leave some unsupervised, never leave the house, get told to hire a babysitter (that you might not be able to afford), or what?

    Hey, that’s a familiar straw man.

    But to answer the question: What you should do is to act just like a non-single mother (or father!) with an absent spouse. Yes, even married people take care of their kids alone. You don’t go anywhere that you can’t control your kids, and you leave if you need to, so that you don’t piss off everyone else.

    It’s a very simple rule: One parent’s desire to have a pleasant evening does not win over multiple people’s desire to have an evening free of screaming kids. There’s no “single parent exception,” nor should there be.

    And regarding the concept that everywhere should be kid friendly:

    It’s ridiculous to suggest that everywhere has to be open to kids (or designed to accommodate them) any more than it is to suggest that that everywhere has to be open (or designed to accommodate) any other class of people with distinct preferences or needs. And of course not everyone who serves the public likes all the members of the public. It’s pretty obvious that there’s a split regarding kids. If you want to have a restaurant and cater to adult foodies who like odd cuisine, you may well hope that a child never walks in.

  216. Claudia
    Claudia May 15, 2010 at 3:24 pm |

    Alara @171, There is a brewpub in my city that places a big tub of toys on the stage when there’s no band scheduled. It works out perfectly. The younger kids play. The adults and older kids sit and chat. Adults and teens who don’t care to be around playing kids sit in a different section. It’s a really small gesture, but it’s very effective at keeping everyone happy.

    Anyway, wow. I can’t believe some people’s behavior in this thread. You really think you and your children’s needs and desires are that much more important than everyone else’s? You really think that you have the right to be more accommodated than anyone else? And you call other people selfish?!

    I’m not sure to whom this is referring. I’m guessing maybe Rob’s comment that he’s not really concerned with the adults around him when his child is having a tantrum. I understand what he’s saying, I think.

    When I’m out with my daughter at a restaurant and she gets convinced that her food is poisoned and starts gagging and choking and screaming that she’s dying, my focus is solely on getting her calmed down. I might talk to her or request ice water or take her to the bathroom to wash her face or whatever, but my primary concern at that moment is my daughter’s distress. I trust the other adults in the room can take care of their own discomfort and just let me do my job.

    The same is true for when I assisted adults with developmental disabilities. If a client became triggered, it was my job to de-escalate the situation. It was not my job to give a shit about whether or not someone was offended by my client’s behavior. And, believe me, there were plenty of people who acted offended that I even “let these people out it public,” to quote one rather nasty book store patron.

    I know that the disability/kid connection is bothersome for a lot of people, but for me they are intricately entwined. I have a disability. My daughter appears to possibly have a disability. I work with people with disabilities. I’ve seen how bigotry against children and bigotry against PWD is strikingly similar.

    When I was hospitalized a few years ago for my mental illness, I was infuriated at how the staff treated me like a child. And then it hit me that this isn’t because I’m so much better than children, but because the way we generally treat children really fucking sucks.

  217. Faith
    Faith May 15, 2010 at 3:28 pm |

    “I agree with you in theory, and indeed, this is what I do when my husband and I are out together with the children, but what about single mothers with multiple children? Do you drag them all outside, leave some unsupervised, never leave the house, get told to hire a babysitter (that you might not be able to afford), or what?”

    I’d like to know the answer to that as well.

  218. Lasciel
    Lasciel May 15, 2010 at 3:45 pm |

    @Faith- what my single mother did was take everyone home. Really sucked, and that’s why we didn’t act up much.

    If you can’t afford a babysitter, why can you afford to drag your kids to restaurants anyway?

  219. preying mantis
    preying mantis May 15, 2010 at 4:33 pm |

    “If you can’t afford a babysitter, why can you afford to drag your kids to restaurants anyway?”

    Unless you’ve got a tit-for-tat arrangement with a friend/family member/neighbor, a kids’-menu basket of chicken fingers or a child’s movie ticket is probably quite a bit less than the money you’d have to scrounge up for a sitter for a few hours. Sitters usually charge more for multiple and/or younger kids, too.

  220. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable May 15, 2010 at 4:37 pm |

    >>If you can’t afford a babysitter, why can you afford to drag your kids to restaurants anyway?

    Seriously? What a classist, asshole thing to say.

  221. Faith
    Faith May 15, 2010 at 4:45 pm |

    “Don’t go to the latter with your kids.”

    Sailorman,

    I have two words for you: Screw you. Seriously, don’t tell me where I can take my kids and I won’t tell you were you can take yours. Children are people who have just as much right to go to movie theaters and restaurants as anyone else. You don’t like that? Tough fucking shit. Your comments have been so rude and so dripping with privilege that I have no desire to even attempt a polite response.

  222. Maria
    Maria May 15, 2010 at 4:46 pm |

    I have a toddler and I fully agree that it is a duty of parents to teach their children appropriate standards of public behaviour, though I wouldn’t get terribly angry at the scene described in this post because I know that some parents really just don’t realize that their child doesn’t seem quite so absolutely brilliant to everyone else as she does to you.

  223. Faith
    Faith May 15, 2010 at 4:50 pm |

    “And of course not everyone who serves the public likes all the members of the public.”

    I guess that means no one should ever complain when a white person doesn’t want POC in their establishment. I guess we should also not worry about people accommodating disabled/handicapped individuals. Or obviously we shouldn’t complain if someone kicks a breastfeeding mother out of their restaurant.

    Clearly, if it’s ok to discriminate against kids, it’s perfectly a-ok to discriminate against anyone else the owner’s and the business’s clients might not like.

  224. April
    April May 15, 2010 at 5:19 pm |

    Sailorman,

    I have two words for you: Screw you. Seriously, don’t tell me where I can take my kids and I won’t tell you were you can take yours. Children are people who have just as much right to go to movie theaters and restaurants as anyone else. You don’t like that? Tough fucking shit. Your comments have been so rude and so dripping with privilege that I have no desire to even attempt a polite response.

    As many others have pointed out already, you don’t get to call someone “privileged” on the basis that they didn’t make the same choice that you made in having children. There is not privilege involved with not being a parent. Parenting is a choice. Obviously children are people, and should be treated as such and allowed to go to public spaces. It’s when a child becomes disruptive for a long period of time to other people in public, and the parent does nothing to stop it, that people get pissed off.

  225. Mary
    Mary May 15, 2010 at 5:23 pm |

    Another classism note: Almost none of the children in my life were carefully planned choices. They were accidents and surprises, wherein the parents, because of religion, cultural pressure, painful (like, physically) experiences of past abortions, or because they were like, let’s pull together and do it this time, decided to have the kid. I am all for abortions and birth control, but sometimes you don’t have the $500 handy, or your side of the choice is to have the child.

    As feminists we should be brutally aware of how difficult abortion access is in this country (USA)– even where it is legal, and there are clinics, there is soo much cultural shit on having abortions (or lack of education about how soon you need to get to the clinic) that it can be really hard to get one. So back off with the “parenting is a choice so now you’re responsible for all the shit that comes with it.” Sometimes it really isn’t a choice, or its a choice between a rock and a hard place (alternatively, a wonder and a freedom).

    We should be fighting for access to birth control, sex ed, abortion access, AND supporting parents as they attempt to remain active participants in a society that really does not want them around, and certainly does not want them around being anything but parents.

    The root of this problem isn’t that loud children are annoying. Like, duh. These are opinion arguments; opinions about childrearing and noise levels and blahblahblah. Who cares? Can we argue instead about the root of the issue, the oppression of women’s reproductive freedom, the forced motherhood imposed on childfree women and the marginalization of parents from public space? I already posted this, but let’s repeat: childfree spaces are privileged spaces! Feminists fighting so hard for reproductive justice should know this!

  226. Lynnsey
    Lynnsey May 15, 2010 at 5:24 pm |

    One of the big problems with this whole argument seems to be the lack of differentiation between misbehavior and the normal level of intellectual/social/emotional/physical development that a given child has. Throwing things/pulling hair/tripping waiters is misbehavior that should be addressed by the parent(s) regardless of whether it’s a McDonald’s or a high-end whatever…although, honestly, if this behavior was stopped at other times, it probably wouldn’t be happening at this point. Fussing/crying because the child is hungry/cold/tired/frustrated is normal. Yes, there is a point where this should also be taken care of in order to respect others, meaning that you either take a walk or get your food to go.

  227. Chally
    Chally May 15, 2010 at 5:35 pm |

    Nancy @193 ‘tofu-scented breath’? Let’s not do that.

    Icewyche @196 No, that’s not what I’m saying. Maybe you can try read Rob’s follow-up to my comment.

    Jamie @215 Seconding joytulip. We’re clearly dealing with a touchy topic here, could you not refer to a kid as ‘it’?

  228. anodyne lite
    anodyne lite May 15, 2010 at 5:42 pm |

    “There is not privilege involved with not being a parent.”

    You better believe there is. All kinds of privileges, social and legal and otherwise, come with having children. Not the least of which is the notion that, women who are mothers are more “complete” beings than women who aren’t.

    Also, at this particular point in time, there are still many states denying the privilege of having children on the basis of sexual orientation.

    So yeah, I’d say there’s definitely privilege that comes with being a parent.

  229. Spilt Milk
    Spilt Milk May 15, 2010 at 5:43 pm |

    I haven’t waded through this whole thread – why would I do that to myself? – but I just want to say that Naamah’s comment (149) is fantastic. This should not be framed as a discussion about parents or children but about jerks. Because those people who yell at you for asking politely if their kid could not kick your chair/throw food at you/pull your hair? Probably jerks. The majority of parents would never do that – hell, the majority of children wouldn’t behave like that in most circumstances. And even though I spend a lot of my home around children and their parents, such a thing has never happened to me. You know what has happened to me rather a lot? I’ve been glared at or approached by for unwanted advice by many women, generally elderly women. I’ve been in a supermarket during the day –not a cinema! — and been basically scolded because my very young baby was crying (which was distressing enough to me). And this was demoralizing and offensive and unwelcome every time. But you won’t see me calling for elderly women to have the consideration to stay away from places frequented by mothers and babies because some of them have ways of behaving socially that impact unpleasantly on ME because, well, because I know that’s completely, offensively unreasonable and also a terrible generalisation. Only the tiniest minority of other people have been rude about my child crying and I know that those ones were the jerks.

    I rally think arguing that parents are preventing those without children to participate in the ‘it takes a village’ community child-raising is disingenuous. It is about wider societal forces. It’s also a fallacy – you are all socializing my child each time she goes into the public realm. She’s watching and learning. So don’t be a jerk. That’s all I ask as a parent who does consider others, and also my child and also, selfish I know, myself!

  230. Mary
    Mary May 15, 2010 at 5:45 pm |

    Also, stop telling us how oppressed parents and children are, they’re not. The poor are oppressed, POC are oppressed, PWD are oppressed, children are merely disadvantaged as opposed to adults, and parents are living out their own personal choice to have children.
    (Partial Human)

    To clarify, very specifically: Parents do not exist outside of their other myriad identities, including class, race, ability, gender, etc. The arguments above are mostly single-issue rants (on both sides) that seem to assume a very specific kind of motherhood and childhood that only applies to a tiny, tiny, subset of the general population. Isn’t this an intersectional blog?

  231. smmo
    smmo May 15, 2010 at 5:45 pm |

    La Lubu said:

    And it kills me that it isn’t recognized, even on a feminist blog, the degree to which I try my damnedest to be invisible, to adhere to those social norms that I don’t like. Why? Because I am god.damn.vulnerable. I don’t have the privilege of those Park Slope mommies. It kills me that other feminists are more concerned that mothers (yes, mothers. no one is giving the hairy eyeball, and especially not verbally challenging, fathers) keep on trying to metaphoricaly juggle a plethora of heavy objects in the air while balancing a spinning plate on a stick on the end of our noses while on pointe…..rather than challenging the norms that give us this extra burden.

    This is beautifully said, your whole comment really, thank you. And this thread is depressing.

    A lot of it has to do with personalities and I have a conflict/attention averse one. So I’m sure my kid doesn’t disturb all of you precious childless adults much while you’re sipping your Belgian ales or whatever. You can thank the patriarchy for that, never questioning your feminism I’m sure.

    And way late for this, but Amanda? You really are kind of a jerk.

  232. Spilt Milk
    Spilt Milk May 15, 2010 at 5:46 pm |

    Eep – I mean time around parents and children not home. And really, not rally. Typos all over.

  233. Helen
    Helen May 15, 2010 at 5:49 pm |

    My jaw is agape as to how much classically conservative logic has risen in this thread.

    Me too, Samantha B. And some toe-curlingly bad logic as well (“Southpaw”, I’m looking at you.)

  234. Helen
    Helen May 15, 2010 at 5:55 pm |

    I’ve been in a supermarket during the day –not a cinema! — and been basically scolded because my very young baby was crying (which was distressing enough to me). And this was demoralizing and offensive and unwelcome every time.

    THIS is why kids in public is/are a feminist issue. B/c this has the effect (and how well I remember it) of keeping mothers of young children indoors and out of sight. And I don’t want the crucially important and necessary trend of young fathers increasingly sharing this job, twisted (as it was by another commenter upthread) to make it out that if you assume that the carers will all be mothers then you’re not with the programme of increased fatherly commitment, neh neh bad feminist… I’m proceeding on the assumption that at the moment there are still more women doing this work, moreover, the public reaction to fathers with babies is often different to that to women with babies – who’d have thought?!

  235. jennygadget
    jennygadget May 15, 2010 at 6:13 pm |

    “One of the big problems with this whole argument seems to be the lack of differentiation between misbehavior and the normal level of intellectual/social/emotional/physical development that a given child has.”

    Yeah, I have to agree with this. And it’s part of why, as the original post says, the “I hate kids” line is pretty ridiculous. If what you really hate are the kids/parents who are acting in ways that are not acceptable even for their developmental level, then it’s more than a little insulting to my often remarkably well behaved niece and nephew (and their parents) to say that you “hate kids” as if “kids” were this monolithic group.

    I have to admit that I take it a little personally, too. I’m a children’s librarian and I have, on more than one occassion, been put in the position where I find myself having to defend – to adult patrons – children’s and teen’s right to use library services for purposes that are not directly related to homework. The seemingly obvious fact that another patron’s right to use their computer time however they wish to use it does not change simply because that other patron is a child quite simply confounds these people.

    I know that no one here thinks that way. (I hope to god no one here thinks that way.) But the fact that even people that know better often conflate misbehaving kids to mean all kids does not really make my job any easier. Which, really, whatever, it’s not your job to make my life easier. But do keep in mind that the pervasiveness of this attitude means that I sometimes have to fight *that* battle instead of all other ways I can be focusing on providing excellent library services to all patrons.

    “Wow. As the mother of two daughters, I am stunned by the number of parents in these comments taking the position that they have the right to take their children ANYWHERE, no matter what their age or their behaviour or the setting itself.”

    Well, I have to wonder if some of the anger isn’t so much “OMG! what do you mean I can’t take my kid to a Metallica Concert!?!?” but rather a combination of “yeah, I know what my kid can handle better than a stranger on the internet does” combined with experiences like the ones I’ve had to deal with where some people (few, but very vocal) seem to think that children don’t belong in a public library unless they can be as silent as adults can be. (who, btw, often AREN’T all that quiet in practice)

  236. EKSwitaj
    EKSwitaj May 15, 2010 at 6:16 pm |

    Claudia, there’s a problem with saying “I trust the other adults in the room can take care of their own discomfort and just let me do my job.” I mean, I get where it comes from, and probably in most cases adults and can and should taker care of their own discomfort, but for some of us with certain disabilities, noise level and type of noise can become an access issue. We have to leave and might in fact be overwhelmed/off for several hours thereafter.

    For myself, this was much worse when I was younger than I am now.

    This is why I wish that people would start treating this as an issue of conflicting access needs. Really, it isn’t even about children vs. adults or parents vs. the childfree. It’s about the simple fact that some people are going to make a lot of noise sometimes for a variety of reasons and some people need quiet: How do we resolve this when it comes to public space without demanding that anyone isolate themselves?

    I honestly do not have the answer, but I know that demonizing children or parents or the childfree isn’t it. Nor is the conversation going to be helped by arguing about whether having children or not having children is more privileged (doing either by choice is a privilege; and women get shat upon by the kyriarchy either way, so let’s not set up a hierarchy of oppression).

  237. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable May 15, 2010 at 7:04 pm |

    As a note, this article is currently on CNN.com: http://www.cnn.com/2010/LIVING/wayoflife/05/13/kids.at.restaurants/index.html?hpt=C1

    Where it discusses how several fine dining establishments have added children’s menus because of the chefs’ own children.

  238. Jackie
    Jackie May 15, 2010 at 7:19 pm |

    “It strikes me as problematic that the idea of “intervention” in the case of a tantruming child seems wholly focused on the child. And so I ask those without children to consider the possibility that you might intervene not by taking on the role of parent (something you’ve chosen not to do) and talking to or scolding or distracting the child (whom you may not like or empathize with), but instead by taking on the role of sympathetic, caring adult speaking to another adult. One way to do this is to say to the adult, “Wow–parenting looks hard sometimes. I don’t have any kids, and I don’t know how I’d handle it. Is there anything I can do right now to make this moment easier on you?” – Miriam Heddy

    Those of us who are childfree, are fully aware that it seems the only way to talk to a parent, is as if they are a fragile child who will burst into tears under any form of criticism. It’s hard not to say that to an adult, without using the type of sing-song voice you would with a child, because that adult is expecting to be treated as if they are a child.

    Most adults are not hand held everywhere they go, yet parents are expecting that behavior from everyone. I should be able to go into public, without expecting that everytime I see a family or a mother, I should babysit them. I don’t think playing into the notion that they’re a helpless babe in the woods, helps them be a better parent. Do you think they’ll realize they need to be more responsible, when wherever they go people are going “Wow, that looks hard. Do you need a helpy-welpy?”

    These are people who in most cases chose to have a child, that comes with responsibility. That also should come with the notion from society, that making a choice as an adult means responsibility. Many childfree people are annoyed at the notion, that once someone has a child, they should be treated as if they are like a child themselves. I don’t know why parents, think because they have let’s say a 2 year old, they get to behave like a 2 year old, including tanrums at non-parents advice, and looking as if they’re about to cry if anyone doesn’t immediately come over and fawn over them.

    What we’re ending up with are parents, who are like emotionally manipulative badly behaving children. Then we wonder why their children behave out of control? Their mother has taught them, if someone tells you something you don’t want to hear, throw a fit. If someone says you should do something you don’t want to, make big eyes and look as if you’re going to burst into tears. Parents, who don’t resort to such manipulative behavior from society, tend to raise better behaving children.

    I agree with you that the idea of “intervention” shouldn’t be solely focused on the child. The parents need to realize, that having a baby doesn’t mean you get to behave like a baby. The more of this coddling, they get everywhere they go, is like spoiling a small child. They will expect it, and when they don’t get the immediate attention they think the deserve, they will either let their children act out, or act out themselves. It’s very difficult to be a part of a society, where you’re essentially dealing with mothers with the mindset of a child, raising their child.

    *I mention mothers more, because it’s more acceptable for women to be emotional in society, and they sometimes will rely on their ability not to be called on that in an attempt to manipulate others. If this also was an available tactic to fathers, I don’t doubt they’d behave in the same manner, maybe some of them do.

  239. Jackie
    Jackie May 15, 2010 at 7:20 pm |

    Pretty Amiable, that’s fine, as long as the chefs also are willing to build a ball pit, and a tunnel maze. Since they’re essentially turning their restaurant, into a Chuck E Cheese. They probably think they can have it both ways, the joke will be on them when all that money from childfree customers goes away.

  240. Rae
    Rae May 15, 2010 at 7:42 pm |

    On parental privilege:

    I’m 18, still at school. I have 4 younger siblings between 16 and 8 weeks old, and I’ve been partially caring for 3 of them since I was 11. Last year my mum moved house, and we had to move in with my dad and stepmum, both of whom worked full time. And, because of that, I did most of the childcare (and yes, there still is childcare). Which meant that I couldn’t stay after school, because there are always things to do. Except that when I tried to explain this to one of my teachers, as a reason I couldn’t do an after school lesson, she flat-out refused to believe me, told me to ‘sort it out’, and then said that it was a ‘parenting issue’.

    I think my point here is that people don’t see looking after kids as actual work, especially when they’re older, when it really, really is. And it’s easy to say ‘oh, parents get a free ride from society’, but there are quite often things you don’t see.

    On another note – I’m not a parent. I can’t discipline my siblings, beyond telling them that they’re being incredibly annoying. And yet, when we’re out in public together, I’m still the one getting the glares when my youngest brother is in tears and my sister has no concept of societal norms. You don’t need to be a parent to understand. (I also think it’s interesting that it’s me getting these looks, and not my 16yo brother who looks much older than I do…)

    And, PartialHuman – I didn’t fucking choose this.

  241. Rae
    Rae May 15, 2010 at 7:49 pm |

    Jackie – or maybe the parent would burst into tears because they’ve barely slept for the last week? Or because, I don’t know, having a young child is actually quite difficult, and you don’t really notice it until you have one full-time?

    It isn’t about treating parents as children, it’s about recognising that they’re actual human beings under actual pressures, and who have actual problems to deal with that you don’t have a clue about (not regarding looking after children, more like you don’t know if their mum just died, or they’ve just been fired, or anything). You don’t actually have to patronise people to support them.

  242. Lasciel
    Lasciel May 15, 2010 at 8:00 pm |

    @PreyingMantis- thank you for your answer. It was civil and made sense. I was thinking more of the pricier restaurants because most of the less-expensive ones are more family-friendly, so the only reason to not take a child to them is the food :D

    @PrettyAmiable- considering the post is about $100 dollar a meal restaurants, it’s a pretty reasonable question. Uhhh and maybe you should check your little assumptions about other’s financial state and class. You know what they say about assuming.

  243. Jackie
    Jackie May 15, 2010 at 8:06 pm |

    Rae, you don’t know if ANYONE has had their mum just pass away, or if they’ve been fired, or whatever might be bothering them. Having problems isn’t exclusive to being a parent.

    It also would be easier to support parents, if their first reaction to me most of the time, wasn’t some paranoid hollering about how I’m not a parent and know nothing. There has to be a middle ground, and it would be nice if parents weren’t always coming to the defense instead of listening first.

  244. smmo
    smmo May 15, 2010 at 8:24 pm |

    @Jackie:

    Almost everything you wrote was unbelievably stupid, but this deserves to be singled out:

    *I mention mothers more, because it’s more acceptable for women to be emotional in society, and they sometimes will rely on their ability not to be called on that in an attempt to manipulate others. If this also was an available tactic to fathers, I don’t doubt they’d behave in the same manner, maybe some of them do.

    Where to start? It may be more expected for women to be emotional but it is not in the least acceptable. In fact our emotions are often used against us, whether or not they’ve been expressed. Men have no need of such a “tactic” as they have male privilege so readily available. Men out alone with their children are wreathed in smiles and indulgence.

  245. Antonia
    Antonia May 15, 2010 at 8:32 pm |

    Pertinent to this discussion is Roy’s post from several years ago: http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2007/06/11/why-i-hate-i-hate-children/

  246. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable May 15, 2010 at 8:41 pm |

    Haha, yeah Jackie. I’m sure Daniel Boulud is totally going to be stripped of his Michelin stars because he’s got a kid’s menu. And I’m totally sure that all childfree patrons hate the mere presence of children so much that it would result in the large scale capital flight you’re talking about.

    @Lasciel, You can be poor and say classist things. Saying you can’t is like saying well, clearly Ann Coulter doesn’t say sexist things. She’s a woman!

    Your question was RIDICULOUS. Children, you may be unaware (I wouldn’t want to assume), also have to eat. Parents have many options for feeding them! They can feed them at home or elsewhere. Oftentimes there is little price differential between going out for some kind of meal and staying at home. Or maybe the parents literally didn’t have time to cook for their kids at home and their kids are hungry NOW.

    And this post? Not about places that charge $100 a meal, which Jill has already clarified. It’s about whether there are spaces that are adult-only. If you MEANT how can you not afford a babysitter but CAN afford $100 meal a head (which NO ONE on this thread claimed), then maybe you should clarify, because otherwise your statement is incredibly classist.

  247. Marie
    Marie May 15, 2010 at 8:45 pm |

    You parents who let your kids misbehave in public–SHAME ON YOU. If I could behave as a child in public, and if my sister could, and my parents (as children) could, and way back, then SOMETHING IS WRONG WITH HOW YOU ARE RAISING YOUR KIDS. Everytime I am someplace where a child is running wild or screaming, I make it known that they are a disruption. And parents–STOP BEING MARTYRS. “Oh are we supposed to never go out?” YOU decided to have kids, YOU deal with the problems that come with it!

  248. lt
    lt May 15, 2010 at 8:47 pm |

    @229 – I’m late in responding, but about the Park Slope thing, that wasn’t aimed at the post so much as the thread where the cliche of the overindulgent and over-involved parent keeps getting restated, despite your having identified it as a cliche. But I do think this is foreseeable when you frame the post as the stereotype is unfair *but, hey, no one likes screaming children! Hence lots of comments about screaming children.

    Which was my issue with the post: I should have said that you framed it as different from Sybil’s post. But really, I didn’t see any one in those two long threads at Bitch PhD saying ‘children should be in bars all night and the louder the better!’ So I really don’t get why that needs to be restated, or why it’s a ‘middle ground.’ I get wanting to diffuse and finding middle ground but the fact is Sybil posted a very thoughtful post about being a mother and its impact on friendships and people on a feminist blog were just horrible to her. It’s a different blog and that’s a different post, but to read through all those comments and then have the response of, hey, let me think more about what the limits of children in public spaces should be, just strikes me as odd, and as somewhat predictably leading the really problematic things going on the comments. But you’re right I should have acknowledged this was a different post, and I apologize.

  249. Jackie
    Jackie May 15, 2010 at 8:52 pm |

    Really now? If a father’s kid was acting up, I’d glare at him just the same as I’d glare at a mother who’s kid was acting up. The reality is, there would be less of a chance of the father making a scene about it, or blogging about the big bad people who glare at them on their daddy blog.

    I think mothers feel an expectation to be admired and wowed over, for having a baby, where it may or may not be the same thing when it comes to fathers.

    I also may be receiving more of this because I am female, and heaven forbid someone be female and not want to fawn over babies 24/7. Some of the looks I get, when mothers realize I’m not going to join them in their mothering. How could a woman not understand her and immediately rush over to come to her aid. Perhaps it’s because not all girls are raised under the notion they need to behave like a stereotypical female, which is a great thing. That also means, women may grow up and choose not to be completely and utterly fascinated by babies. It seems this isn’t acceptable, because a woman is SUPPOSED to be nuturing to babies, something is WRONG if they don’t drop everything, and rush to the aid of the mother.

    Perhaps it’s male privelage that men aren’t expected to drop everything when a proud mother and child walk into the room, unless they happen to be her husband. Maybe we should be discussing how the idea that all women should be on call as an emergency babysitter, everytime they go out into public is not exactly feminist.

    Oh and by the way, could we please discuss the topic, and leave the personal attacks for somewhere else?

  250. exholt
    exholt May 15, 2010 at 8:52 pm |

    I agree with commenters who stated that the child who screams for 30 minutes in a fancypants restaurant is an exceedingly rare occurrence which has been projected as commonplace by those who harbor intolerance and unexamined prejudice towards parents and children in many public…or any public spaces for that matter.

    I also find this anti-child prejudices of those who say things like “I hate kids” because they stereotype all kids as disruptive and noisy quite amusing considering in my life as a single 30something native-born New Yorker that most of the worst behavior I’ve seen in public spaces in NYC tend to be overwhelmingly committed by adults whether it is overentitled university students frequently throwing temper tantrums toddlers would be hardpressed to match when confronted by campus security or library staff about chatting loudly on their cellphones in quiet areas of university libraries or middle-aged and older adults screaming obscenities and even throwing things at waitstaff and other patrons because the steak was burnt and/or they were so drunk they were refused further drinks. :roll:

    Personally, I’d rather reserve righteous ire for the “adults” who should damned well know better how to behave and conduct themselves in public spaces, especially they seem to be a more common public menace IME. :roll:

  251. Melissa
    Melissa May 15, 2010 at 9:06 pm |

    When I was very young, if I threw a tantrum in public, my mother took me out of the store, restaurant, movie theater, or wherever we happened to be at the time. I suppose “modern parents” aren’t as sensible as my mother was in the 1980s.

    Parenting is a choice. If you don’t want to do it, then don’t. But if you choose to, then actually make an effort to do it. The rest of us don’t want to do it for you.

  252. geek anachronism
    geek anachronism May 15, 2010 at 9:08 pm |

    Maybe we should be discussing how the idea that all women should be on call as an emergency babysitter, everytime they go out into public is not exactly feminist.

    I absolutely don’t know why you think this. I personally don’t give a flying fuck if you want kids or not. Not my business, don’t much care. I do care if you try and make it my business – particularly if by doing that you reveal your own ignorance (telling me to change a child’s dirty nappy when it is in fact clean, what you smell is the guy behind me who hasn’t bathed in days, or telling me my child is crying because I’ve contained them in a pram and they should walk when in fact they can’t walk and they’re crying because they’re tired). What I, and others, have tried to point out is that if you feel you must intervene you should probably try for helpful not ignorant douche.

    I have never once expected aid from anyone out in public – for all the calls for community parenting it’s another damned if you do, damned if you don’t. I’m somehow expected to be grateful for the insight that my child’s crying is disrupting you and that you’re going to impose your own (possibly unconsidered, unresearched and unsafe) discipline ideas upon my child, but never ever ask for help? Either there are community standards and help or there aren’t. You don’t get to choose that it’s okay to communally discipline but not communally help.

    For all that, this is another ridiculous attempt to prove I’M NOT LIKE THOSE OTHER BAD WOMEN, PROMISE!!!!! Fuck that noise. Seriously. Find another pedestal to topple, this one is in pieces already. I’m not going to waste any more time trying to prove that not all parents (mothers) are awful.

  253. Chally
    Chally May 15, 2010 at 9:19 pm |

    Folks who are asserting that parenting is a choice, there are a fair few comments up thread you’d do well to have a read of. And can we not have the ‘back in my day…’ comments or any more of the ‘you are a bad parent’ comments, please?

  254. Jackie
    Jackie May 15, 2010 at 9:47 pm |

    Why I think this lets see, well there was the woman who invited me into an elevator with her crying baby. Now some people think she was being polite, and holding the door for me, probably no longer aware of how her child’s cries may affect others. I don’t think she was being rude, but just take time to think, who would want to be inside a small room with a child’s crying echoing off the walls?

    The mother who didn’t let me sit at the front table at Whole Foods, without first giving me an exasperated “Oh..but I wanted to sit there” helpless look, and then sit her loud children and herself right next to me, in an attempt to make it clear that was her territory.

    Yeah with that kind of behavior, it’s a wonder why I would think parents see me, and think that because I’m female I’m obliged to care, or at the least not be annoyed by their children. If I am, it’s such a shock to their fragile worldview that all women should be nurturing caretakers of children, instead of using words and language to convey what they want, they instead resort to passive agressive behavior.

    I don’t have time for the drama, if that means I’m insensitive, or should be more understanding so be it. Not everyone is going to be thinking about how a parent has been suffering endlessly through their day, most people believe it or not, actually have the right to be out and about without the needs and desires of parents on their mind!

    Finally if it makes a parent feel better to state they’re not like the parents who create a scene, or expect others to read their body language and signals for some sort of clue as to how they’re feeling, why does it bother you so much? I don’t see anything wrong in having pride in being a parent who understands that the world doesn’t revolve around them.

  255. Ugh
    Ugh May 15, 2010 at 9:55 pm |

    WTF @ spanking parents. We are truly living in a bizarro world if it’s not okay for people to get annoyed at your kids when they’re throwing fits in public, but it’s okay for you to hit them. Your kids aren’t your property, and you don’t get to violate their rights just ’cause you’re raising them. And it’s really messed up if kids are given heretofore unheard-of rights without getting the basic human ones. (AFAIK, adults don’t have the right to be obnoxious without anyone complaining about it, nor the right to make a scene in a privately-owned public space without being asked to leave.) Spanking might be nonharmful to kids in *some* percentage of circumstances, but it wasn’t in mine. My dad spanked out of anger and drunkenness and to take out his job-related stress on me, and he combined that spanking with neglect and emotional abuse. This behavior has left me with lifelong anxiety, depression and low self esteem. But it was, and apparently still is, socially acceptable because he hit my rear instead of my front. Because spanking isn’t “really” physical abuse and emotional abuse isn’t “really” abuse. Thanks for contributing to the societal beliefs that enabled my abuse and the abuse of who knows how may other kids. You are truly “amazing”, as both parents and progressives.

    Tl;dr: the problem with saying, “spanking is okay xx% of the time” is that everyone thinks they’re in the xx%, and that includes abusers. Also, if xx=100, fuck you. Seriously.

  256. Deborah
    Deborah May 15, 2010 at 10:18 pm |

    I think mothers feel an expectation to be admired and wowed over, for having a baby,

    Perhaps it’s male privelage that men aren’t expected to drop everything when a proud mother and child walk into the room, unless they happen to be her husband.

    So remind me again about that conversation that feminists regularly have, about valuing women’s work? You know, the one where we try to make it clear that child bearing and child rearing is actually a worthwhile thing to do, and that it is real work, and that it should be valued and counted in GDP, even though it doesn’t attract a wage.

  257. Lasciel
    Lasciel May 15, 2010 at 10:19 pm |

    @PrettyAmiable- Excuse me, but even a meal at Denny’s will run $30 for 4 or 5 people. If you can afford that but not $2 an hour for a babysitter, why is it “ridiculous” to ask such a question? Unless you take about 8 hours to eat your meal.

    You’re the one that’s behaving ridiculously-calling people “asshole” “classist” and “ridiculous”. No wonder you’re in support of unruly children terrorizing the rooms of people-I doubt you can behave much better :]

  258. Jackie
    Jackie May 15, 2010 at 10:23 pm |

    So being a feminist means you must be in service to other women 24/7 Deborah?

  259. Deborah
    Deborah May 15, 2010 at 10:24 pm |

    Why I think this lets see, well there was the woman who invited me into an elevator with her crying baby. Now some people think she was being polite, and holding the door for me, probably no longer aware of how her child’s cries may affect others. I don’t think she was being rude, but just take time to think, who would want to be inside a small room with a child’s crying echoing off the walls?

    To which the polite response is, “Thank you. I’ll wait for the next one” accompanied by a friendly smile.

    The mother who didn’t let me sit at the front table at Whole Foods, without first giving me an exasperated “Oh..but I wanted to sit there” helpless look, and then sit her loud children and herself right next to me, in an attempt to make it clear that was her territory.

    Possibly the only table there big enough for her group? Possibly an excellent place for her to sit, so she could send the kids outside for a break, and still keep an eye on them?

    It would be lovely to see people starting with an assumption that children will be well-behaved, and that parents are doing their best, instead of assuming that their intention is to upset you.

  260. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable May 15, 2010 at 10:32 pm |

    … You don’t have kids, right? I can’t imagine where you live that a babysitter costs $2. In fact, google (it’s your friend) suggests the bare minimum for one kid when your babysitter is 13-14 is $3-4. Additional cash per child, additional cash the older your babysitter is, and additional cash for every qualification your sitter has – that is, the ability to drive in case of an emergency, CPR training, and so on. (http://childcare.about.com/od/occasionalcare/qt/babysitterrates.htm). This site (http://www.sitters.com/howmuchtopay.aspx) quotes $5-$15.

    And it’s not just childcare, but also the food the cost of food that they would be eating at home in addition to the cost of childcare. Which, incidentally, will easily run over the $7.50 per kid that they would rack up at Denny’s.

    I’m going to ignore your attempt at insulting me for not falling all over you for a poor argument. But yeah, your statement was, and is, classist. I make absolutely no apology for that.

  261. smmo
    smmo May 15, 2010 at 10:35 pm |

    Jackie that’s a nice strawmom you’ve set up for yourself, along with a massive chip on your shoulder, but let me inject a little thing we like to call reality into your life.

    there was the woman who invited me into an elevator with her crying baby. Now some people think she was being polite, and holding the door for me, probably no longer aware of how her child’s cries may affect others. I don’t think she was being rude, but just take time to think, who would want to be inside a small room with a child’s crying echoing off the walls?

    No doubt if she’d let the elevator doors slam in your face you would be regaling us with the boring, irrelevant tale of that woman who wouldn’t let you on the elevator.

    The mother who didn’t let me sit at the front table at Whole Foods, without first giving me an exasperated “Oh..but I wanted to sit there” helpless look, and then sit her loud children and herself right next to me, in an attempt to make it clear that was her territory.

    Astute interpretation of looks and behavior here. Do you also know her birth date and social security number?

    Maybe we should be discussing how the idea that all women should be on call as an emergency babysitter, everytime they go out into public is not exactly feminist.

    Does this happen to anyone on a regular basis? Among family and friends, yes, and that is a problem. Somehow I doubt this happens to Jackie.

    There is an enormous difference between the serious, considered “childfree” person and a 20 something asshole who hasn’t had children yet and is probably the most an obnoxious helicopter parent just waiting to happen.

  262. Really?
    Really? May 15, 2010 at 10:35 pm |

    And parents–STOP BEING MARTYRS. “Oh are we supposed to never go out?” YOU decided to have kids, YOU deal with the problems that come with it!

    REALLY? What IS this attitude? You might not want to personally raise children, but they are, in fact, essential to YOUR future. Those kids that you’re demanding you have absolutely no responsibility toward are going to be your doctors, presidents, congresspeople, and (hopefully) social security payers.

    Treating people who have children as selfish jerks who just HAD to have a kid and ruin things for everyone else is so … short sighted and idiotic and selfish, I really just can’t comprehend it.

    And I say this as a person who is childless.

  263. Miriam Heddy
    Miriam Heddy May 15, 2010 at 10:57 pm |

    Re: the whole, “You chose to have a child, accept the consequences….” argument, let me offer some variations on that.
    —-
    “You chose to be a cop. Now you’re complaining about a ‘hostile work environment’ because of a couple of titty calendars and a dick drawn on your locker? What, you can’t take a joke? You didn’t have to work here. It was your choice“.

    “You chose to work in the coal mines. Now you’re complaining that you’re trapped underground with no air and arguing the mine owners should’ve done inspections? The job pays well because there are risks. What a pussy.”

    “You chose to work as a prostitute. Now you’re complaining when your pimp beats you up and Johns rape you and get away with it? You chose that line of work. Shut up, slut.”

    “You chose to get a job in WhiteMale Incorporated even though you know we’ve never had a female on the board. Now you’re complaining about a glass ceiling and pay discrimination? It was your choice to work here. Man, those feminists want everything!”

    —-

    Seriously, when did the existence of a “choice” become a reason to dismiss the idea that feminism should be about changing the material conditions under which we make our choices and changing the oppressive conditions of our lives once we make those choices?

    While I do recognize that women who choose not to have children face social disapproval, the idea that having a child means an unconditional lovefest is ridiculous.

    Mothers get social approval conditionally. Want to know if you, as a mother, will be approved? Please answer the following:

    Is your child unobtrusive? (Take five points off if it’s loud.)
    Is your child well dressed for the weather? (Forget about what you think. What matters is every woman who passes you who thinks it’s a bit brisk out for such a light jacket on the little one.)
    Is your child clean? (Dirty children mean you’re not doing your job.)
    Is your child’s gender clearly marked so as to cause no confusion?
    Did you lose that baby weight yet? (Having a baby is no excuse for not fulfilling your duties as object of our gaze.)
    Is your child fat? (if so, take off twenty points and risk losing custody.)
    Is your child in daycare? (Studies show that leads to bad children.)
    Is your child at home with you? (You aren’t working because daycare’s too expensive? Shame on you, living off the welfare state!)
    How many children do you have? (More is fine if you’re wealthy, but surely you realize it’s hurting the planet, adding to my tax burden, etc., and those poor women with broods need to be sterilized.)
    Do you have any mental illnesses or other disability that would disqualify you in our eyes?
    Does your child have any disability? (If so, why didn’t you abort?)
    What’s your race? Income?
    Is the father present?
    How old are you, anyway? (Too young? Minus ten points. Too old? Minus fifteen, unless you are monied. But minus five points if waiting until you established your career meant you required fertility treatment or were old enough to have a child with a disability.)
    Etc.
    —-

    Rock and hard place, yeah? We’re not supposed to win. We’re not supposed to notice that we’re not winning. And instead of fighting for a bigger pie, we end up fighting for a bigger share of the small bit allotted to women.

    And as long as this word “choice” is bandied about by feminists against other feminists, we all lose, and y’know what?

    If we don’t change our focus, half of those children (y’know, the screaming, tantruming ones) are going to grow up having exactly these sucktastic “choices”–and we will have failed.

  264. Jackie
    Jackie May 15, 2010 at 11:06 pm |

    I would love to see parents starting with an assumption, that everyone who is without child, isn’t out to get them or upset their child and cause a bad time. They’re trying to do their best to function.

    I guess I should be understanding that sometimes parenting is so overwhelming, that occasionally one might forget how to use speech.

  265. Jackie
    Jackie May 15, 2010 at 11:21 pm |

    “REALLY? What IS this attitude? You might not want to personally raise children, but they are, in fact, essential to YOUR future. Those kids that you’re demanding you have absolutely no responsibility toward are going to be your doctors, presidents, congresspeople, and (hopefully) social security payers.”

    Bingo! Guess what, there are many more children who don’t become those things. Nice try at trying to tell those of us who are child free why we should hold reverence over children though.

  266. Ariane
    Ariane May 15, 2010 at 11:32 pm |

    I’m really not fond of very small kids. Before they can talk I find them pretty hard to cope with. As a result, my parenting style is pretty simple – I do what makes my kids the easiest for me to live with in the easiest possible way. But that first bit is the kicker. I attempt to raise my kids to be easy for me to live with. I can’t stand squealing, so I practice zero tolerance parenting on squealing, but I’m really not that fussed by kids who interrupt adults without being terribly polite. I completely understand that other people might find the latter much more intolerable than the former.

    Because I do a pretty good job of raising kids that I can live with, I tend to think my parenting it pretty good. Other people who have different tolerances think otherwise. Also, because I think my parenting is pretty good, I tend to indulge in drive-by parenting judgement. So when I see a messy situation I think “Oh, they would make their life so much easier if they’d just do X.” But what I do is completely different. I smile encouragingly, sometimes I even get the guts to offer assistance, because always in my mind is another voice saying “But there may be really excellent reasons why X is wrong for this parent and child in this place.”

    I thought this post was really well thought out and balanced, but if I was to pick a flaw, the problem with it is that it’s told from the point of view of one-time interactions. I’m not suggesting that Jill is actually judging people on the basis of single incidents, but the stories she tells make it sound a bit like that. My job as a parent is absolutely to teach my kids what’s acceptable and what the rules for engagement are in varying settings, but it’s impossible to tell from one particular incident whether I’m doing that or not.

    On the other hand, when I see parents that I interact with often enough to see a pattern of behaviour who really aren’t teaching their kids these social skills, I think it’s valid to say that this is a problem. One day those kids need to know, and it’s unreasonable to expect them to learn it overnight when they hit 18.

    So yeah, I agree that when I take my kids out in public, be it McDonalds or a fancy restaurant, I should be expecting appropriate behaviour from them, and I should be mindful of the other people around us, but if you see me failing to do this on some occasion, remember there may be a zillion reasons why. By all means draw your general conclusions about how parents should behave, but please don’t make those conclusions clear to anyone in any particular situation. That doesn’t mean you can’t ask a child not to pull your hair, just try not to conclude why they were pulling it in the first place, at least not publicly.

  267. akeeyu
    akeeyu May 15, 2010 at 11:40 pm |

    Sailorman,

    “But to answer the question: What you should do is to act just like a non-single mother (or father!) with an absent spouse. Yes, even married people take care of their kids alone. You don’t go anywhere that you can’t control your kids, and you leave if you need to, so that you don’t piss off everyone else.”

    So…without going into too much detail that really doesn’t matter, because of work and life complications, my husband and I are both in the same place with the kids at the same time maybe three times a week for about two hours each time, so thanks for the condescending tip, but that whole “even married people take care of their kids alone” shit? That’s my whole life. I know how it goes, thanks.

    This is why I don’t usually feel comfortable taking the kids out by myself. I do it, but I also know that there are plenty of people who think I shouldn’t go anywhere if I can’t control my kids, and you know what? My kids are pretty good. I’m fairly stern and also pretty good at kid wrangling, but I’m not omnipotent and human beings are born with free will, which means that at some point I’m going to look like One Of Those Assholes Who Can’t Control Their Kids, and I guess according to you, I shouldn’t go anywhere?

    Dude, you’re actively stuffing the strawman that you say you’re trying to kill.

    Anecdata for you: One of the times I was rather unpleasantly slagged off on for not being able to control/properly parent one of my children, it turned out to be an impending illness that landed said child in the ER the next day. At the time she wasn’t feverish or sick, just acting miserable. We had no idea.

    She also frequently does this thing…oh, I’m not going to go into it, but we do get the “You’re a shitty parent” glare sometimes, and the thing? It’s not behavioral. She has a minor physical disability that presents itself in a kind of unusual way, and sometimes it annoys people, and people can fucking suck it.

    We’d all probably get along better if we went into life with the assumption that the people around us are doing their best. That thing that the kid at the next table is doing? Maybe they’ve never done it before today, or maybe their parents are putting in good effort, but lack parenting skills or godlike powers or whatever. Maybe their kid is sick or has developmental challenges and doesn’t happen to be wearing a convenient label to let you know.

    Just assume people are doing their best.

    It’s a nice way to live.

  268. akeeyu
    akeeyu May 15, 2010 at 11:51 pm |

    Miriam Heddy,

    “Rock and hard place, yeah? We’re not supposed to win. We’re not supposed to notice that we’re not winning. And instead of fighting for a bigger pie, we end up fighting for a bigger share of the small bit allotted to women.”

    I would like to nominate you for Thread Winner.

  269. haley
    haley May 16, 2010 at 12:28 am |

    Interesting thread.

    A couple things really stand out to me while reading these comments. The main one being is how parenting values differ depending on the socio-economic class of the individual. I’ll try not to rant about this particular, obvious, subject, but in my daily life (and readings) I see a lot of well-meaning middle class ( i.e. college degreed professional) liberal feminists who feel that they can represent the wide spectrum of experience of women because they share a common chromosome. Indeed, a parent (male or female) may feel they know the best method of parenting for all people because they share the common experience of raising (a)child(ren). But being a working-class mother is very different from being a mother within the upper-class, which is a different experience from being impoverished parent, and so forth. This is sort of touched upon with comments concerning whether parents should or shouldn’t bring their kids to a fancy restaurant or get a babysitter. I think social momentum towards visible change is more sustainable if we don’t limit ourselves to identity politics, and as feminists, we include addressing overlapping problems (and ideas) as being part of a larger class issue.

    So how does this apply to children? Well, we could start with universal daycare, this way parents of any economic class could afford a nanny or babysitter, allowing them to go to work, get chores done, see the doctor, or even go out to dinner…. this would allow other patrons to eat without being ‘disrupted’ by children or parenting skills or whatnot.

    There are other examples, but if anyone is even reading this, i will spare you and wrap this rant (though i said i wouldn’t) up.

    The last thing I want to comment on, is to agree that children are not our property. Unfortunately, that is exactly how our culture, parenting values and majority of people are brought up to think and by extension treat their children. That said, I don’t think spanking is the best or most pressing example of children’s rights being violated. The law and culture, view children as property of the parents, obviously their are some notable exceptions (abuse), but otherwise parents are free dictate the actions, indoctrinate, and deny the basic dignity ( which adults expect from each other) from their kids.

  270. Anony Mouse
    Anony Mouse May 16, 2010 at 12:33 am |

    I feel like all these parents that are supposedly letting their children throw temper tantrums and run into servers at Le Cirque are about as common as all those women that are supposedly having abortions with reckless abandon as a jolly fun form of birth control. I’m 27 years old, have traveled quite a bit, lived in three different U.S. cities, am no shut-in and still have yet to encounter this epidemic of out-of-control children and apathetic parents that I hear so much about on the internets.

    And everyone who is saying ‘it’s my right not to be helpful to parents who look like they could use a hand?’ WTF, dudes? Ok, it’s your ‘right’ to be a total douchebag. You have fun with that. It’s also my ‘right’ not to help you pick up your groceries cause your paper bag broke in the rain, and it’s my ‘right’ not to pick up the sunglasses that just fell out of your purse and hand them back to you, and it’s my ‘right’ help you up after you took a spill off your bike, it’s my goddamn consteetushonal ‘right’ to drive on by your broke-down car and not stop to ask if I can help you change a tire or call for a tow. Yeah, I also have the ‘right’ to be a total asswipe, but, you know, that’s not the kind of person I want to be and a world full of cavalier asswipes is not the world I want to live in. If I see a mom with a stroller at the top of the steps down to the subway I ask her if I can help not because I’m obliged to parent other people’s children but because I’m not such an asshole that I’m going to ignore a human being who needs a little help, especially when helping costs me a whopping, like, ten seconds of my time. My momma raised me (in NYC!) better than that.

  271. April
    April May 16, 2010 at 12:48 am |

    I just want to say that 1. I am in support of this becoming the largest comment thread on the whole internet, and
    2. This whole thing makes my head hurt, literally, but I can’t stop reading.

  272. Uccellina
    Uccellina May 16, 2010 at 1:01 am |

    Thank you, Miriam Heddy @279, because I couldn’t have said that as well as you did.

    I don’t think any of the commenters here are necessarily aware of how much time parents spend parenting the public, as well as our own children. I sure as hell don’t deal with my kids the same way in public as I do at home, because I am always conscious of the eyes on me. While I may know that the quickest way to get my son over his tantrum is to let him have it, I also know that the people around me don’t know that. So I haul a limp and howling child out of the way, talk to him, try to distract him, and do all kinds of things that may well prolong the drama because if I don’t all of the assholes on this thread will come down on me like a ton of bricks for “not parenting”.

    And when we do discipline, please believe we get shit for that too. Just today, in a farmer’s market/open air restaurant setting, my daughter freaked out and tried to snatch a cup of milk away from her brother, spilling the milk everywhere. A man watching assured me the coffee stand would replace the milk for free, and when I demurred, saying “no, thanks, but she has to learn that if she throws a tantrum, I’m not just going to replace whatever she breaks,” he raised his eyebrows, shook his head, and glared at me as if I had just slapped the kid. So to those who wonder why their helpful contributions are met with defensiveness? It’s because you’re not the norm. People who are used to getting shit on sometimes bite back first, even when it’s undeserved. Sorry.

    This uber-privileged parent who encourages their child to ruin the happiness of everyone around them is a total straw man. I have lived my adult life in Brooklyn and Los Angeles, two places with a lot of uber-privileged parents. In my experience the children who are behaving in ways that cause drama or difficulty for others belong to parents who are 1) overstressed 2) exhausted or 3) hapless. Sure, category 3 is particularly irritating, but not everyone is brilliant at managing their child all the time, and not every child is easily managed with the strategies that work for others (ahem, “my parents raised me right and I never did that/I raised my kids right and they never did that” people.)

    For the server so proud of how you make it unhospitable for parents and children? When I was a waitress (way pre-children), I did whatever I could to make the experience as pleasant as possible for all of my tables, even the regular who dribbled chicken soup everywhere and kept asking for new spoons. If you won’t pick up a damn fork or do anything to make a parent’s job a little easier, I hope the other patrons thank YOU when kids act out in your restaurant, for deliberately prolonging/exacerbating everyone’s misery.

  273. ampersandT
    ampersandT May 16, 2010 at 1:55 am |

    So many good posts, so many, um, let’s just call them ungenerous posts. I for one can’t see how kids could possibly NOT be a feminist issue. My understanding of feminism–and, hell, of morality–is based on empathy, compassion, and trying to understand other people’s perspectives. It reminds of that quote by Dave Eggers, of all people, which I saw linked on another feminist blog: “It is a fuckload of work to be open-minded and generous and understanding and forgiving and accepting, but Christ, that is what matters.”

    I just don’t see any sense in dismissing the real experience and wisdom of parents based on the fact that some parents, and some children, are jerks. Would it be acceptable to talk about all the times I’ve been treated rudely by [insert group here: Jews, people of color, thirty-six-year-old men, Anabaptists, whatever] and explain that that’s just why I don’t like people of [that group]? No, it would be bigoted, gross, and illogical, because most people of every group are fine. The annoying behavior of a few jerks doesn’t give me the right to be bigoted against all people of whatever groups they belong to.

    On the other hand, I can see how annoying it must be for people without children, especially women without children, to be judged, shamed, and otherwise treated badly for exercising their right not to reproduce. That sucks. But I don’t think the solution is to see society as a zero-sum game between people with children and people without children, women with children and women without children. That’s not what my feminism is about, either. Pitting women against women is another convenient tool of the patriarchy. If women are viciously judged for not having children and then viciously judged for having children and not “controlling” them 100% of the time (which is impossible, regardless of “In MY day…” impressions), there’s no way to win. The problem is deeper and more systematic than the time a kid was rude in a restaurant and their parent didn’t correct them, or the fact that I pay more taxes than someone my income who has a kid.

    By the way, though I don’t have kids, I’ve worked in restaurants/food service for years (in places that are family-friendly, but not specifically kid-oriented), and some of my favorite customers to work with have been children. Polite, friendly children, like polite, friendly adults, are awesome. I would hate to live in a society where they were expected to stay home because a few of their brethren are sometimes annoying.

    I actually have a question about something brought up about a million comments ago. From 113:

    One way to do this is to say to the adult, “Wow–parenting looks hard sometimes. I don’t have any kids, and I don’t know how I’d handle it. Is there anything I can do right now to make this moment easier on you?”

    I absolutely disagree that this can’t be done in a productive, helpful way. In the past, I’ve offered, at most, sympathetic smiles to parents dealing with fussy kids, but as part of that whole “be the change you want to see in the world,” I’d like to help my neighbors out as much as I can. I’m curious as to how this works out in different cultures and environments. One part of Jill’s original post (which I found nuanced and reasonable, for the record) that most interested me was the reflection on how public vs. private space is different in a city like NYC. I’m a native Midwesterner, but moving to the Tri-State region soon. Right now, offering a hand to a parent–in a neutral, feel-free-to-say-no but friendly tone–seems about as normal as chatting to someone in line at the grocery store or smiling at a stranger on the street… but obviously, as pointed out, norms vary enormously by region.

    I’m wondering, does anyone have experience offering or being offered help with children in places like New York City, where the norms are different? Obviously, some people are going to say “Buzz off, leave me and my kid alone” no matter where you are, but I’d rather take the risk of getting a rude answer than pass up the opportunity to make someone’s day a little easier. On the other hand, I don’t want to intrude or condescend, because I really don’t know jack about parenting, and would hate to imply that I do.

  274. southpaw
    southpaw May 16, 2010 at 2:09 am |

    My apologies, “Helen,” I don’t know why you’re looking at me. I was just trying to suggest was that the short-term interests of the public and the long-term interests of the parents are probably aligned in this matter–neither the hoi polloi nor the parenting elite can possibly find outlandish public scenes pleasing and would hope to discourage their repetition. It benefits all involved if parents teach, or at least try to teach, their children to be considerate.

    Additionally, while I would suggest that restaurant staff pick up any forks that are dropped (liability), at some point I would think it’s reasonable to stop cheerfully supplying forks for the dropping.

    I don’t think either of these propositions requires much deducing. But if you think I’ve fallen into an error of logic, I hope you’ll spell out where I’ve gone wrong.

  275. Ariane
    Ariane May 16, 2010 at 2:25 am |

    @ampersandT I once offered help to a woman who was on a plane on her own with a little kid. I knew she was Australian (from her accent) but I can’t tell you whether she was from a big city or not. She looked awkward at the offer. But them I’m awkward when people offer me help. I don’t think we should stop offering on that basis though, I think we should carry on offering so that we overcome the awkwardness. Sydney is probably more like NYC than the midwest – offers are rarely accepted, but better received than death stares or complaints.

  276. Rose
    Rose May 16, 2010 at 2:43 am |

    When I read this post, I thought it was a fairly balanced opinion piece about the importance of being polite in public space, and why public space is a hot issue for the person writing the post. As someone has already said above, the issue is one of politeness and responsibility, which works both ways. If a child starts to cry and then settles whilst I’m in a cinema, I just ignore that. To me, it would be impolite to glare or tut. However; if a child cries for fifteen minutes, and I can’t hear the film then I think the parent of that child is being impolite not taking them out to settle down.

    Yes, this situation is rare and pretty specific. I’m more regularly annoyed by adults who do not think that basic cinema etiquette like switching off mobile phones and not talking, applies to them.

    A society that works is one where people are tolerant and empathic, where people accept the responsibilities that go with their rights. On both sides above, some pretty appalling things have been said by people who do not accept the responsibilities as well as the rights.

  277. Rebecca
    Rebecca May 16, 2010 at 2:54 am |

    Wow.

    I am just amazed at what jerks Certain People on this thread are.

  278. Uccellina
    Uccellina May 16, 2010 at 2:59 am |

    Yes. Years ago, I was on the subway in NYC, sitting next to a woman and a toddler in a simple stroller. The baby was wailing, just crying her heart out, and the mother was sitting with her hands over her face, clearly unable to deal. I bent down next to the baby and started talking with her, trying to distract her, playing peekaboo, whatever (I did NOT touch her). It worked – after a little while, she stopped crying and started watching me make an ass of myself for her amusement. Eventually I sat back up, and her mother just looked at me. I shrugged and said, “sometimes we all need a little help.” She didn’t say a word.

  279. Uccellina
    Uccellina May 16, 2010 at 3:00 am |

    Er, that was my failure to blockquote appropriately. Anyway, it was in response to AmpersandT @289.

  280. rmb
    rmb May 16, 2010 at 3:03 am |

    I’m wondering, does anyone have experience offering or being offered help with children in places like New York City, where the norms are different?

    This comment isn’t about children, per se, but on the topic of New Yorkers and offers of help: Jill’s analysis of mental space and physical space in New York is spot-on, with the caveat that New Yorkers are actually very aware of what’s going on around them, even if they don’t appear to actually look around. The expectation is that they will notice everything, without actually engaging with other people. But when something is actually wrong – say, someone slips and falls, or a woman is trying to get a stroller and a couple of kids down the stairs into the subway – people instantly pitch in to help. So I guess I’d say that people are happy to help and be helped, as long as it’s as efficient as possible and with as little eye contact as possible.

  281. lauredhel
    lauredhel May 16, 2010 at 3:13 am |

    Two, three, four, five dollars an hour? Are you serious? A minimum legal wage here for unqualified casual night-time/weekend child care labour is around $27/hour. $45/hour on public holidays. Paying a babysitter legally is a non-trivial undertaking for all but the truly rich.

    I’m guessing the people talking about these tiny wages are USAn. So you’re talking about contributing to the systematic exploitation of girls and women, I’m guessing primarily girls and women of colour in many areas, as a suitable systemic solution for these perceived issues.

    For serious?

  282. Deborah
    Deborah May 16, 2010 at 3:42 am |

    If I get a babysitter through an agency here (Adelaide, Australia), I pay $60 for up to 3 hours. That’s the base fee: even if I am back within two hours, I still pay $60. After that I pay $12.50 per hour. Not quite as much as Lauredhel pays, but not cheap either. I prefer going through an agency, because then I don’t have to worry about the tax issues.

    We don’t go out much. When we do, we take the kids, because $60 minimum on top of going out is a big chunk out of our weekly budget.

  283. thetroubleis
    thetroubleis May 16, 2010 at 4:18 am |

    I’m in the USA and even my 15 year old sister makes more than $4 an hour for babysitting. Personally, I think paying fare wages to people doing work like child care is a huge feminist issues and I’m surprised that $2 an hour is consider reasonable anywhere. I wasn’t even a good babysitter and I always got minimum wage.

  284. Helen
    Helen May 16, 2010 at 4:48 am |

    because it’s more acceptable for women to be emotional in society, and they sometimes will rely on their ability not to be called on that in an attempt to manipulate others.

    Jeez, did I take a wrong turn and end up on an MRA site?

  285. mazaru
    mazaru May 16, 2010 at 4:51 am |

    There are a lot of commenters weighing in with anecdata about that one time a screaming child ruined their meal. I have a bit of anecdata in response.

    My sister has four kids, very close together. Her asshole ex-husband left in the middle of the night when the oldest was 5 and the youngest was 6 months old. Because she was off work on maternity for pretty much 5 years, she had very little income. Still does, but tries her hardest to make sure her kids get to do normal things – go out to eat occasionally, see films. She has to bring some or all of them when she goes grocery shopping.

    Some folks on this thread say if one of her children loses it – for whatever reason, illness, sadness, tiredness, hunger, the Terrible Twos, whatever – she should take them out so they don’t get bothered. But if she does that she has to chose between leaving 3 children unsupervised or bundling all of them out and effectively punishing the ones who’ve done nothing wrong – and often leaving herself out of pocket for leaving.

    She didn’t choose this way of living, but she chooses to carry on and bring up four awesome children on her own, helping them deal with their dad leaving and the rest of the crap the world throws at them, and you know what? The only time most people notice the work she does is when something goes a little wrong. No one stops her in the street when the kids are all happy and well to say what a brilliant job she’s doing. No one congratulates her on a tricky situation well handled after an uneventful meal out. And she doesn’t expect or want them to. But if one bad thing happens, if one thing goes wrong, she’s suddenly the Worst Mother Ever and has to deal with an upset child, three more children who are now upset or worried or don’t understand, and judgemental assholes as well.

    This is a feminist issue. We ignore women’s work when it’s done “well” – when it’s invisible, seen but not heard, doesn’t encroach on us, fits our arbitrary standards – and when we think we see it done badly we come down on the woman like a ton of bricks. We ignore and assume and judge, we tilt at strawparents whose children are running wild and ignore the very real women and children who suffer when those ignorant stereotypes are perpetuated.

  286. Chally
    Chally May 16, 2010 at 5:19 am |

    ‘I guess I should be understanding that sometimes parenting is so overwhelming, that occasionally one might forget how to use speech.’

    Okay, between that and the ‘fragile child’ thing, not to mention the emotional manipulation thing that Helen just pointed out, you’re ticking me off, Jackie. Please watch yourself in this thread.

    On another note, folks, please don’t cast aspersions on people’s personal lives.

  287. Jackie
    Jackie May 16, 2010 at 6:00 am |

    I have something to share with you, I have Hyperacusis, a sensitivity to loud sounds. Many people with this get little to no understanding when it comes to this, aside from the advice to wear earplugs 24/7.

    Since there was discussion about, people and children who have special needs or are disabled, I think it would be good to remind you that children with special needs don’t grow out of it. I happen to also have Asperger’s Syndrome.

    Now when I hear a child cry it feels painful to me, my Amygalda perceives it as danger and overloads my nervous system with adrenaline causing an anxiety attack.

    Now I could just say, “Well I have a form of Autism if I scream or act out, I’ll say that’s why and people will understand.” I prefer not to make my Asperger’s Syndrome everyone else’s business.

    When it comes to sitting near a family with loud children, it’s more then a matter of discomfort. Most people would say, “If it’s so bad why don’t you stay at home?” I do stay at home more than I should, it’s common for Aspies to find being out and social stressful. I don’t think I should stay home and never go out, because I happen to have a condition that may make life more difficult for families and small children.

    Rarely if ever do parents consider this or show understanding when I try to explain it. As you can imagine this creates a lot of uneeded stress for all in the situation. I am tired of being told to consider the invisible circumstances some people may have, when it’s a rare occurrence mine are considered, or many others with my condition.

    I would be estatic if parents were willing to understand, it’s not about hating kids, it’s trying to tell them I have a sensitivity to sudden loud noises before they yell at me for suggesting their kids aren’t perfect, causing me to go into an anxiety attack and to shut down.

    I think parents should treat others, as they would their own children. If they wouldn’t like someone being intimidating or aggressive to their children, why behave in that manner towards others?

    I also have been glared at by parents for reacting to their child’s ear piercing shreik, with wide eyes. Maybe I look threatening to them, but the thing is that’s not in my control at that moment. I also get looks from people when I cover my ears in defense to a sudden loud sound. Like I’m some sort of freak, I’m just trying to defend myself from pain.

    Now some people may read this and think I’m being a martyr, or looking for a pity party. I’m not, I just want you to be aware this is a reality for many people. I also find it upsetting when parents yell at their kid for something that’s not a big deal, like knocking DVDs off a stand accidentally. Not just the noise, but why upset kids over an honest mistake? Why not offer to help them pick up the DVDs?

    I also have trouble understanding this hatred people have for “helicopter parents”, they’re doing what they’re supposed to, look out for their child. I really don’t understand the idea, you don’t want parents to act oblivious of their children, yet also not to care for them indulgently. Perhaps you’re not considering the invisible circumstance of the helicopter parent or their child.

    Every child or person, may not be able to take life in stride as easily as others. Instead of assuming a helicopter parent is lazy, and letting their kid get fat playing video games and watching tv, consider that their child may be more sensitive, and that there’s nothing wrong with that. Would you rather have a parent who over stresses their child, or one who understands their temperament?

    I think there is more to worry about, when it comes to a parent not protecting their child, then a parent who may overprotect them. I hear a lot of, “I grew up without having a special snowflake syndrome, and I’m fine.” I find this ignorant not only of the struggles people with special needs have, but also ignorance to the fact that there was improvement from when they grew up. Perhaps it’s resentment over not getting the support they needed as a child, and turning that into resentment towards those getting that support now.

    I hope I didn’t go too far off-topic, it’s that I want there to be an acknowledgement that people may simply not be able to cope with the unpredictability a family with small children brings with them. That it’s not just about the parents and kids, people without children have valid struggles too. I think a lot of that is lost, when the assumption is someone either helps parents, or hates kids and is a jerk.

  288. Yonmei
    Yonmei May 16, 2010 at 6:55 am |

    However; if a child cries for fifteen minutes, and I can’t hear the film then I think the parent of that child is being impolite not taking them out to settle down.

    Or is the parent of two children, one of whom is crying her heart out, and the other of which is sitting with her best friend having a great time watching the movie, and the parent is stuck with the choice of: shepherding all three children out of the theatre: leaving two young children (one of whom isn’t even hers, so there’s the level of babysitter-responsibility there) all by themselves until the child who’s crying calms down: or … waiting until the crying child quits crying. There are different decisions to be made if it’s a crowded cinema, a big auditorium, a specific kind of movie, how responsible/how old the two kids who aren’t crying are, how upset the kid who is crying is, and so on and so on and so on…

    Trying to squish all that complex process of decision-making into the parent/carer being “impolite” is just plain wrong. And I don’t mean wrong morally, I mean it’s as incorrect as claiming George W. Bush was elected. The parent/carer is not trying to be rude to you or to anyone else in the cinema: they’re not being impolite because their child is crying: they’re just trying to deal with a complex situation in a culture where – as demonstrated by this thread and so many other discussions – they’ll get crapped on by other people whatever they do.

    dellery: My first reaction? No. Or even if it was, I’d have enough sympathy to keep it to myself. If the sobbing went on for five or ten or twenty minutes? That’s another case all together.

    So basically: you have enough sympathy to tolerate uncontrollable grief for 4 minutes 30 seconds, after that you start thinking jesus, this person’s sobbing is really spoiling my meal, i’m trying to have a good time here! get them out of my way! As someone else said: it’s everyone’s right to be a jerk if they want.

    Jackie: thanks for explaining. I don’t react like you to loud noises, but I do react badly to parents yelling at their kids (to people yelling, actually, but parents yelling at their kids hits a particular neuroticbutton that goes way back). And babies crying actually hit everyone’s neuroticbuttons – like kids, don’t like kids, it still gets you.

    But it doesn’t keep me from recognising that in this situation, I’m the adult: it’s my responsibility to take care of myself without harming others. If I’m eating out and I can’t cope with something that happens in the restaurant, I am a lot better able to get up quickly and leave the restaurant than any parent caring for a small child will be. (Hell, when I’m eating with a friend who’s a tobacco addict, the both of us will get up and leave the table at least twice during the meal because he needs a cigarette and he can’t smoke in the restaurant.)

  289. Natalia
    Natalia May 16, 2010 at 6:58 am |

    Why I think this lets see, well there was the woman who invited me into an elevator with her crying baby. Now some people think she was being polite, and holding the door for me, probably no longer aware of how her child’s cries may affect others. I don’t think she was being rude, but just take time to think, who would want to be inside a small room with a child’s crying echoing off the walls?

    LOL, seriously? Someone holds the door for you and all you can think about is “but she didn’t think about how her crying child might affect me!”? Something tells me that if she hadn’t held the door for you, it would have become an issue of, “mothers are so rude! Why, she didn’t want me in a small room with her child! She probably thinks I have cooties! She’s SO prejudiced! Mothers everywhere are prejudiced!”

    I was leaving the metro the other night, and a homeless person who’d been begging by the ticket booth held the door for me. I suppose my response should have been, “how DARE he!!! Doesn’t he realize that he stinks and I had to be SUBJECTED to it?! Bums and their lack of manners!!!”

    Also, LOVE your comments about stereotypical fragile females and whatnot, and how superior you are to all of them. Gold star for you!

    As for this post & thread in general – you know, what’s often missing from these conversations is lack of adequate childcare, and lack of simple support that a lot of parents face (especially when it comes to the psychology of having children – and being able to cope) – problems that then spill out onto everyone, including people who don’t have kids. It’s one of these things that sincerely makes me hope that my parents are around and available if and when I have children (hoping that’s more of a “when” question, at this point). They’ve expressed interest in being grandparents who would be involved in their grandkids’ lives and in my life – and that would be a huge bonus right there. “This life ain’t easy” to begin with.

  290. Natalia
    Natalia May 16, 2010 at 7:24 am |

    Jackie, I have chronic post-traumatic stress and, believe it or not, I can relate to a lot of what you say here. What I simply cannot relate to is the assumption that the mother holding the door for you is a selfish jerk herself, or all those lines about women and emotion that remind me of some Victorian text on “feminine hysteria” and the like, or that fathers are just better at this stuff than mothers, because [insert outright prejudice here].

  291. Faith
    Faith May 16, 2010 at 7:29 am |

    “Parenting is a choice. Obviously children are people, and should be treated as such and allowed to go to public spaces.”

    April,

    Sailorman specifically stated that people shouldn’t bring their children to certain places. Namely his fancy restaurants where he is trying to eat an obscenely expensive meal. You don’t see the privilege in that statement? Really? Seriously? Telling someone that they can’t take their children to certain places where children are legally allowed is not only privileged, it’s rude, arrogant, and condescending.

    And this “parenting is a choice”. Utter crap. For some people, parenting is a choice. Not everyone has the luxury of deciding to become parents. And even when they do, they still have the basic right to interact in society and to not have people behave like total assholes towards them. Becoming a parent does not mean that people suddenly get the right to tell you what you can or can not do and viciously pass judgment on you.

  292. Ledasmom
    Ledasmom May 16, 2010 at 7:29 am |

    I’m unclear as to how providing a children’s menu means you must therefore turn your restaurant into a Chuck E. Cheese equivalent. Surely it only means that children whose parents think it is beneficial to expose them to fine dining (a form of cultural enrichment, the sort of thing that’s quite good for children) have options that may be somewhat less complex or contain fewer obscure ingredients than the main menu.
    It would be awfully nice if restaurants had a quiet dining room in which it was understood that voices should be kept down, no cell phones, no babies. So difficult to find quiet anywhere, these days.
    It is a mistake to assume that the child you see behaving badly today is the product of inept parenting. That same child, had you seen him yesterday, might have been one that you particularly noted for his politeness.

  293. SandyH
    SandyH May 16, 2010 at 7:34 am |

    “I have something to share with you, I have Hyperacusis, a sensitivity to loud sounds.” Jackie

    I have ADHD and am hypersensitive to sounds but other stimuli as well, light, smells, movement, bright colors, etc . . . The supermarket is hell for me if I don’t plan it out well. I flat out refuse to go sometimes and can’t wait to get back to the states where there are 24 hour markets so I can go back to midnight shopping. But that’s the thing. It’s a gigantic waste of energy to try to get the majority of the world to change what is normal behavior for something that affects the minority. Or the majority even. Especially if it’s an invisible disability. The best you can do is try to figure out how to minimize the situations which are going to be problematic for you. Sometimes there is no choice, needing a prescription at the worst possible time to go to the pharmacy for example, and sometimes the unexpected happens. I try to remind myself that the reason I don’t want children is precisely because it’s a hell of a lot of work with little thanks, a lot of frustration, noise and chaos. Not signing up for that, thanks. And I know I can go home to a quiet house and hide my head under the covers and not be disturbed. I still get a bit squirrelly at times, but who doesn’t, really?

  294. Samantha B.
    Samantha B. May 16, 2010 at 7:49 am |

    Bingo! Guess what, there are many more children who don’t become those things. Nice try at trying to tell those of us who are child free why we should hold reverence over children though.</i.

    You're just neck deep in classism here, Jackie. You know, even if they just deliver your mail or work as your bank teller or what have you, well I suppose you aren't interested in having "reverence" over such children, but you might have the foresight to acknowledge that they will impact your life regardless.

  295. Faith
    Faith May 16, 2010 at 7:54 am |

    “I’m wondering, does anyone have experience offering or being offered help with children in places like New York City, where the norms are different?… the other hand, I don’t want to intrude or condescend, because I really don’t know jack about parenting, and would hate to imply that I do.”

    Ampersand,

    I’ve never spent much time in NY. I’ve visited for short periods of time on a handful of occasions. I’d always thought it was a terrible stereotype that NYers were rude and cold. My experiences in NY told me that that stereotype was not accurate either. While I wasn’t with my kids when I was in NY, I did not have any problems with people behaving rudely towards me in any fashion (with the exception of being harassed by men on the street which happens everywhere in my experience). That being said: This thread is really starting to make me question just how much truth there is to the “rude Nyer” stereotype.

    Now, as for your question, maybe in NY it’s considered rude to offer a parent help when it’s obvious a parent might need some help. Where I’m from, offering to give a helping hand is just the polite thing to do. Just as it is in any other circumstance where you see a person struggling. I will personally do exactly that whenever I see a struggling mother and I’m in a reasonable position to help. I’ve been known to pick up thrown pacifiers, talk to a fussy child in a stroller while a mother attempting to pay for something, and intervened when a mother was distracted and a child was getting ready to break something. I’ve never encountered this apparent “fuck you for trying to help me!” attitude although I’m sure it does happen in situations where the parent is seriously stressing out.

  296. Faith
    Faith May 16, 2010 at 8:01 am |

    “That it’s not just about the parents and kids, people without children have valid struggles too. I think a lot of that is lost, when the assumption is someone either helps parents, or hates kids and is a jerk.”

    I have no objections to people without children not feeling comfortable around children and not really being sure how to behave. I don’t think that automatically means that the person hates children. I just object to the idea that childless people have a right to glare at parents and tell us where we can and can not take our kids. Plus, the people in this thread are actively saying that they hate kids. They didn’t simply say that kids make them uncomfortable and they just don’t “get” kids. They said “I hate kids” and then started treating parents of kids like shit when we didn’t bow down to their apparent hatred, rudeness, and arrogance.

    That’s the problem.

  297. Julie
    Julie May 16, 2010 at 8:09 am |

    I don’t know where to start, but this is a topic that is important to me so. I have always liked kids, I grew up baby-sitting, I typically enjoy spending time with children, and I have two children of my own whom I adore spending time with. I actually largely agree with both things that were stated in the OP- a blanket dislike for children, IMO, is not ok and that parent’s have a responsibility to ensure their child is acting appropriately for the space they are in. I also don’t have a problem with adult-only spaces, just like I don’t have a problem with kids-only places. It’s sometimes nice to go out with my friends to a bar and not have kids with me and sometimes it’s nice to go to Chuck E Cheese and not have to worry that my kids just being kids are annoying the person at the next table. Where I think the trouble springs from is when people who are not parents have unreasonable expectations either for kids or for parents. I remember saying on another site once that I am cool not taking my crying infant to a fancy restaurant, or taking my child outside if he/she starts crying, so long as I can go to a grocery store without getting dirty looks if my kids are crying. My husband and I work opposite shifts, I go to school full time and I work. If I’m at the grocery store, it’s the only time I have available and sometimes my kids are going to be upset because they want something they can’t have. I shouldn’t have to take them home because of that- it’s the freaking grocery store! Yet, I have gotten dirty looks because my son crossed his arms, yelled “I’m not happy at you” and cried for a couple minutes. He was over it by the next aisle, and if I had given in to keep him quiet, I would have gotten crap for that too. That is the stuff that is SO frustrating as a parent. Another part of unreasonable expectations is getting mad at kids for being kids. Sure, if my child is screaming or throwing things in a restaurant, I’m going to take them outside most of the time but I’ve seen people give my kids dirty looks for talking (let’s face it, kids are in general a little louder than adults, but they weren’t be excessively loud), accidentally dropping a fork (which many adults I know have done), turning around in a booth to see the person behind them, spilling their water, etc…. None of these are big deals, yet people glare at kids and make the parents feel like shit about it. It becomes very easy to feel defeated as a parent when everything your child does earns you contempt. Yet, no one comments when your children are do everything they are supposed to do (or if they do, it’s very rare and usually along the lines of “wow, I didn’t even know they were here”). I also see blanket statements- “No one should bring an infant to a movie theatre”… Well, I’ve done it twice and both times no one even knew she was there. I brought a bottle to feed her, sat in the back so I could leave quickly in case she started crying and she slept through the majority of the movie, while I was able to enjoy seeing a movie with my sisters.

  298. Angus Johnston
    Angus Johnston May 16, 2010 at 8:15 am |

    On the cost of babysitting:

    Lasciel was the one who suggested it’s $2 an hour, and elsewhere in the thread she noted that she’s not a parent. The poster who quoted the $4-5 an hour baseline said she found it through a Google search, so take that with a grain of salt too.

    I live in New York City. I don’t know any teenagers locally, so the babysitters I’ve hired have generally been nannies and preschool teachers. Their rates tend to be about $15 an hour or a bit more for sitting. From conversations with friends, I gather that $10 an hour or more is the going rate for high school students.

    I got paid more than $2 an hour when I babysat as a middle schooler, and that was a quarter century ago. I feel pretty confident that Lasciel just made that number up.

  299. Ariane
    Ariane May 16, 2010 at 8:20 am |

    @Jackie We may be working on different definitions of “helicopter parent”, but I have a lot of problems with what I think of as helicopter parents. But a disclaimer first: I can’t tell from a single encounter whether someone is a helicopter parent. Period. What follows is a discussion of parenting style seen over time, not in a supermarket or restaurant.

    Helicopter parents never give their kids room to make mistakes and take responsibility for their own actions. They hover around, intercepting potentially bad decisions, doing for rather than assisting with, excusing and justifying. Over-protecting can have some serious consequences when the kid gets old enough to be required to take responsibility for themselves. It can be a very effective way of producing the adult jerks often referred to in this thread.

    They may keep their smaller kids quieter in the short term, but it’s not fair to those kids in the long term, because HP isn’t going to be around to do for them forever.

  300. Natalia
    Natalia May 16, 2010 at 8:26 am |

    $2? That doesn’t make any sense to me either. I remember babysitting my neighbours’ kids circa 1996. $2 would have been a joke even then. And that’s down South, where life has tended to be cheaper.

  301. Safiya Outlines
    Safiya Outlines May 16, 2010 at 9:06 am |

    Reading through all these comments and the utter disdain folks have for women how aren’t Just Like Them*, it is obvious why the US has possible the lowest maternity leave, highest rates of infant mortality in the Western world.

    Hating children is bigotry. I am tired, tired, tired of how ‘progressive’ people seem to be capable of, in fact relish, being as hateful as the supposedly less enlightened.

    And for those who really do consider themselves feminists, but thinks that mothers aren’t a feminist issue, please read comment 105 by Alana and burn it into your brain.

    *That same disdain that makes threads about WoC, Trans people, PWD, Muslims e.t.c such carwrecks.

  302. Jackie
    Jackie May 16, 2010 at 9:12 am |

    Natalia did you even bother to read the post I wrote on having sound sensitivity? If the mother closed the door I would’ve thought, “There’s a parent who has the sense to know how their child affects others!”

    Also I write about what I’ve experienced. I’m not making up this sort of passive-aggressive game playing I get from some mothers. Perhaps you should be taking up issue with why some mothers behave like this, perhaps better education on how to talk to people without children in parenting classes would be a good idea.

    Maybe some of this, is that if people without children behaved in the manner people with children sometimes do, they would be criticized for it. Like if I had a meltdown, and was a parent, I’d get some understanding. If I have a meltdown without having a child people will think something is wrong with me.

    This is why I mentioned that people without children also have problems, it seems this is all too easily forgotten, in a society that believes parents trump people without kids.

  303. La Lubu
    La Lubu May 16, 2010 at 9:15 am |

    Miriam Heddy @#279….I LOVE your response!! I too wonder about folks who have no problem offering the “but you CHOSE to be a parent, therefore you have no right to complain about the sexist treatment and parameters imposed on you for being a mother”….but would be horrified at the idea of arguing “but you CHOSE to enter a male-dominated trade, therefore you CHOSE to be subjected to sexism and have NO RIGHT to complain about it!!”

  304. scrumby
    scrumby May 16, 2010 at 9:32 am |

    I know that in certain rural towns in South Georgia the living wage is around 5 dollars. That seems reasonable if you live somewhere that cheap but $2? I guess if you did the math having my uncle slip me ten or a twenty as a thank you (not a payment, a thank you) for watching the kids all day would work out to about 2 bucks an hour.

  305. joytulip
    joytulip May 16, 2010 at 9:33 am |

    seconding La Lubu’s (319) Miriam Heddy (279) love!

  306. Julie
    Julie May 16, 2010 at 9:41 am |

    Ok Jackie… so maybe you would have thought that. But the person behind you may have thought “Wow, what a selfish person, did she really think I wanted to wait for the next elevator?”. Even without my kids with me, I would rather get on an elevator with a crying baby then wait who knows how long for the next one. She was trying to be polite and a simple “No thanks, I’ll wait for the next one” is all that is required.

    Now that I’ve read all the comments- Yup, a meal at Denny’s might be 25 dollars for my husband and I. Add in two kids meals and it’s 35. Pay for a baby sitter and my 25 dollar meal at Denny’s just became 50 easily and I still have to pay for food for the kids and probably the baby-sitter as well (because I’m not a total bitch). The idea that if you can afford to go out to eat than you can afford a baby-sitter is ludicrous- it’s easily 8-10 dollars an hour for a baby-sitter and that’s if you are lucky enough to know someone you trust. If you have a child with special needs, it can be even harder.

    And spanking? I’m really appalled to see anyone supporting it on this thread. It’s bad enough to hear it in public, or see all the groups on facebook that say shit like “Spank your kid before I do” or variations on that theme. Whether you do it once, twice, every day or three times a day, it is NOT okay to physically harm a child. Period. I don’t care if you were traumatized by it as child or not, I don’t care if you think it’s abusive or not. If it is assault when done to an adult, then it’s assault when it’s done to a child and if someone thought they were going to slap my ass because they didn’t approve of my behavior, I would most definitely have them arrested for assault. This has nothing to do with being the mommy police and everything to do with protecting children from abuse and assault.

  307. Julie
    Julie May 16, 2010 at 9:54 am |

    And the thought that women with kids have all sorts of wonderful mommy privilege is crap. Yes, we get to escape one set of issues that childfree women have to deal with- and I don’t think they should have to deal with that and it sucks that they do and I don’t want to make light of that. But someone on the thread actually asked “How would you like it if you were asked invasive questions about the number of children you had?” This happens ALL the fucking time. I have two kids and a very difficult pregnancy that I lost in between the two of them. I get asked all the time why I don’t have more, isn’t it about time I have a third, why did I have my son so quickly after the child I lost, why did I have kids so young (and for the record, I wasn’t THAT young-I was 23), were they planned (they were and I don’t see how it’s any of their business), etc… I am constantly being reminded that I should have another child (and soon because you know I am almost thirty and not getting any younger) by one set of people (usually related to me) and yet there are others who if I even mention my desire for a third child I hear “But why? You already have a boy and a girl, why do you need/want another one?”. My mom had 5 children and was still asked “are you going to try again for that boy?” because she had all girls. It does not stop. Ever. I’m selfish because I work and have kids but if I was a stay at home mom using government help then I’m a no-good welfare mom who should’ve thought before she had kids. You cannot win.

    And no Jackie, no one understands if you have a meltdown because you are a mom. I have ADD, I get overwhelmed easily, I can’t deal with crowds and yes, sometimes those things can reduce me to tears especially when the kids are frustrated and there are people glaring at me because my kids have dared to make noise. No one feels sorry for you and no one offers to help. You are told it was your choice to have kids, suck it up. The one and only time I have ever gotten a special exemption for being a mom was when my daughter had a kidney stone and I had spent all night at the ER with her. I was supposed to take an exam that afternoon, but she had a renal ultrasound scheduled. I went to the professor and he allowed me to take it the following morning, which he also allowed a classmate to do when her grandfather died and she had to go to calling hours. That’s just basic human compassion, not special mom privilege.

  308. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable May 16, 2010 at 10:16 am |

    As far as personal anecdata, I’ve gotten paid $40 for 2, 2.5 hours of sitting with the most well behaved, potty trained three year old imaginable who napped throughout. That said, it was to friends (who I tried to not let pay me at all) in Arlington who were pretty well-off, so I realized that wasn’t a representative sample. Thus the google search. I’m not sure why the NYC data should be more representative of the US than my google search…

    Re: Australian commenters – I’m not sure what the babysitting situation is like there, but in the US anyone CAN babysit your kids. The sub-minimum wages are reserved for people under 16 and it’s typically for family or friends of the family. My understanding is that babysitting and getting paid for it at a young age is related to class privilege (that is, economically disadvantaged youths ALSO babysit their family and friends of family, but will typically not get paid at all). If someone is using an agency, or, as mentioned has the ability to drive, CPR, so on, the wage goes up significantly and typically well over minimum wage – though perhaps not as high as in Australia.

    But yeah, sum, that trip cost them $60 plus the cost of food. To see a movie.

  309. Rebecca
    Rebecca May 16, 2010 at 10:16 am |

    Re: “You chose”…

    I read the situation more as “You chose to be a cop, now you’re complaining about having to arrest people.” I don’t think “hating kids” is justified, and I don’t think it’s fair for parents with kids to get dirty looks if the kids aren’t misbehaving, but when they are…are people really arguing that the job of “parent” does not entail teaching kids how to behave with respect towards others?

  310. Faith
    Faith May 16, 2010 at 10:24 am |

    “I know that in certain rural towns in South Georgia the living wage is around 5 dollars. That seems reasonable if you live somewhere that cheap but $2?”

    I think you might be confusing living wage with minimum wage. Until the federal minimum wage was raised, it was only $5.15 an hour. It was raised to $7.25 in 2009. Apparently in Georgia employers only have to pay minimum wage if they have a certain number of employers. But 5 an hour is just not going to cut it even for rural southern living. This is especially true if you have kids.

  311. Faith
    Faith May 16, 2010 at 10:39 am |

    “are people really arguing that the job of “parent” does not entail teaching kids how to behave with respect towards others?”

    No. We’re stating that some of the things people are complaining about are unavoidable as parents and that some understanding of this fact would be helpful. We’re also arguing that it really isn’t the place for other people to tell parents how to raise their children as long as their parenting isn’t abusive. Oh, and that maybe what appears like lax parenting to other people might actually not be. That maybe people need to be a little more understanding of parents and children instead of believing that they have the right to pass judgment when the kids aren’t behaving the way -they- believe they should behave and that parents should be required to ruin their evening by leaving a restaurant or movie theater just because their children aren’t behaving like perfect angels.

    Look, someone else has already said this but I’m going to say it again. Parenting is a responsibility. But my responsibility is to making sure my kids are cared for. My responsibility isn’t to make sure that every single person in their immediate vicinity is happy and not annoyed or offended. My kids are thankfully pretty well-behaved at this point and I simply didn’t go places when they were very young, or I didn’t stay long, because taking them out alone was just too stressful for me to even try to endure. I also didn’t take them out because of the stress of worrying about other people judging me. Taking my children out when they were that young just wasn’t even worth it to me. But other parents who want to take their infants and small children out? They absolutely have that right and I’m really appalled that so many people seem to feel entirely justified at telling people how to parent their kids in public. Or that they simply shouldn’t take their kids to restaurants or movie theaters. I understand not taking kids to bars or strip clubs, for heaven’s sake, but restaurants and movie theaters are both places that people have every right to take their kids.

  312. shannon
    shannon May 16, 2010 at 10:44 am |

    Even if you are a 14 year old who wants a ticket for the school dance, $5 an hour won’t cut it. :D

  313. exholt
    exholt May 16, 2010 at 10:55 am |

    I’ve seen people give my kids dirty looks for talking (let’s face it, kids are in general a little louder than adults, but they weren’t be excessively loud), accidentally dropping a fork (which many adults I know have done), turning around in a booth to see the person behind them, spilling their water, etc…. None of these are big deals, yet people glare at kids and make the parents feel like shit about it.

    This singling out of kids and the parents for scorn for these behaviors is IME a definite sign the person doing so harbors prejudices against kids and the parents for even existing in a given public space.

    Adults of all ages and backgrounds do the above and worse far more often because they have greater opportunities to be in public spaces due to their adult status and the benefit of often having their behavior overlooked/excused because they’re given the benefit of the doubt and/or because unlike kids with parents, there’s less of a likelihood the “adult” is a socially approved easy target…especially if said adult has many socio-economic and other privileges….or the greater possibility of backlash…including the possibility of physical violence when confronted.

    As an aside, it has been my experience that children are usually no louder than many adult patrons in public places….only that their conduct and speech is scrutinized in a more judgmental manner than their adult counterparts, especially by those like the “I hate children” group of commenters here.

    Also, the loudest patrons I’ve seen at restaurants and public establishments tend to be late adolescents/young adults in high school/college, adults who feel their age and/or professional status means they are exempted from common courtesy etiquette*, drunks**, and otherwise self-absorbed folks who feel the whole world should cater to their every need while simultaneously criticizing others who demand likewise.**

    Then again, I agree with commenters who stated this is more of a jerk/non-jerk issue….and they exist at all ages. Unfortunately, it seems the “adult” jerks who don’t have kids with them are much more of a commonplace public menace than “screaming kids”.

    * I.e. I-bankers, middle/senior corporate executives, lawyers, etc.

    ** Witnessed screaming, yelling, and dishes/silverware being thrown by “adults” who fit in one or both of these categories when things didn’t go their way at various establishments…including a few fancypants ones.

  314. La Lubu
    La Lubu May 16, 2010 at 11:11 am |

    are people really arguing that the job of “parent” does not entail teaching kids how to behave with respect towards others?

    I don’t think they are. The reason these conversations degenerate so rapidly has everything to do with what lines are drawn, and who has the power to draw them.

    When I breastfed my infant daughter, was I aware that I could be offending someone? Yeah…I was. And my opinion was…too bad. They can deal with it. If it offends them, they can look in another direction. Did I take the hard line because I’m a boor? Maybe. I like to think I took the hard line because as a woman, I have already spent a great deal of my life having my body oversexualized and having myself excruciatingly judged over my appearance…..and for that particular moment, I was just going to feed my daughter, period. Becoming a mother was liberating to me in the sense that I…finally appreciated my body for what it could do, not just what it looked like. I mean, I was a gym rat for years, but that form of physicality didn’t teach me that lesson. (what a shame, no?)

    I quickly found out that Motherhood came with its own baggage. A steamer-ship collection of baggage, actually, as “Mother” is a pretty big archetype to fit into, and everyone has a opinion. Somehow, I was supposed to juggle all these Mother images simultaneously and with grace. I didn’t, and I don’t. Not interested.

    What I want to make clear, is that sometimes this is all about people who don’t, or aren’t supposed to have any cultural power, asserting our humanity and claiming that power for ourselves.

    So, that’s why some people are arguing from the screaming-child-in-a-restaurant position. That’s the only time their rights are infringed upon by a child, so that’s what comes to mind. Others here, notably mothers, have pointed out that isn’t where we get the rub. We have our children with us a lot, so we get the full-spectrum of reactions, many of them hostile, because Motherhood is coded as Perfect, and yet it’s being practiced by all these nonperfect beings. All these nonperfect women, unable to juggle the various archetypes of Motherhood. All us mere women, not fluent in the multiple (but all Perfect!) practices of Motherhood, falling down on the job, as it were.

    What I also want to make clear, is that it is no accident that the standards for good parenthood became stricter when women became more liberated. The standards for a more strict separation of child space and adult space became that way after women entered more spaces formerly closed to us. Think about that.

  315. Julie
    Julie May 16, 2010 at 11:19 am |

    I agree 100% Faith. So much of the “but you chose to be a parent” sounds like “so it’s totally cool for people to treat you like shit and have unreasonable expectations for your kids”. I don’t presume to speak for all parents, but I knew having kids comes with major lifestyle changes. I don’t sleep in past 8 anymore, I spend a lot of Saturdays at t-ball games and kids birthday parties, time with just my husband is limited, we have a lot less disposable income, etc… but for me the trade-off is 100% worth it. My kids enhance my life in ways that the things I gave up just don’t and I enjoy raising them. I genuinely like my kids and their friends and I have fun with them. I understand that this is not the case for everyone and don’t think everyone should have kids, or be obligated to take care of mine. At no point do I expect having children to come with no responsibility. What I do expect is people to a)realize that all people have occasional bad days, including parents b)realize my children are people too and c)try to refrain from being judgmental when the vast majority of parents do try to raise their children to be respectful and d)not expect parents to stay in the house, the park and CEC until their child is 18. That’s what I, as a mom, get upset about. Not the appropriately held belief that part of being a parent is teaching your kids to respectfully interact with other people in the world.

  316. Gembird
    Gembird May 16, 2010 at 11:24 am |

    I don’t even know where to start, or whether to say anything at all, because I don’t want to accidentally offend anybody. But I’m going to go ahead and comment anyway.

    In my previous job, I saw a lot of kids getting cranky or crying in public. But you know what? My previous job was selling children’s shoes. When you’re five and getting your first pair of shoes for school, it is not fun. At all. You have to wait for a long time because so many other families need shoes for school, it’s usually warm (I’m in the UK so people shop for school shoes in late August) and you have to talk to the strange lady who is putting uncomfortable shoes on you. Sometimes it was uncomfortable for the staff if kids were acting up, but I understood why they were doing it. The damn place made me cranky too, and I was getting paid to be there. Even if it looked like a parent was being horrible or just not paying attention to the kids, I would feel bad for the kids rather than disliking them. I didn’t like the experience, but neither did they, so why blame them?

    Also, we were encouraged to wear non-uniform accessories and it was okay for us to have non-standard hair and such, because children were interested in the lady with the pink hair (that was me) or the lady with the green shoes, and they would have something to distract them from the un-fun experience. I think it’s a much nicer experience for everyone when the atmosphere is aimed at keeping both parents and children happy. To be fair, I understand that this was a space aimed at children to some extent, but the service is still there for adults.

    Having said that, if your kid is in a situation which is making them upset, sometimes taking them outside might be the right thing to do. The situation is bothering them, so maybe they need to get out of it before they can calm down. I don’t have kids of my own so I don’t expect that to be true for all or even most situations, but yeah, sometimes I can see how going out of the restaurant/shop/wherever might give the kids a bit of fresh air and time to let it all out without having to stay somewhere that’s making them feel bad. It doesn’t necessarily have to be about getting the child away from the adults because that’s what the adult wants. Maybe the kid wants to be away from those annoying adults.

  317. Jemima Aslana
    Jemima Aslana May 16, 2010 at 11:29 am |

    “There is an enormous difference between the serious, considered “childfree” person and a 20 something asshole who hasn’t had children yet and is probably the most an obnoxious helicopter parent just waiting to happen.”

    Oh yeah, ’cause 20-somethings cannot possibly have seriously considered reality and decided that parenting is not for them.

    Tell, me, dear ageist bigot. When are women old enough to make the decision of having children or not? Or rather: when are women old enough to have their reproductive choices respected by asswipes, like the many in this thread?

    When you’re 20-something, then you haven’t had children yet, because you’re an asshole and will definitely eventually have them. When you’re 30-something then you’ve made a conscious choice to not have them. Is that it? What is it when 20-somethings do have children then?

    What. The. Fuck?

    There’s generally a whole lot of wtf in this thread. Now, I don’t live on, nor have ever been in a place as densely populated as New York City. And dear gods, I hope I’ll never have to. I live in Denmark, tiny little spacious country that it is.

    My need for space is of a different nature than most other people’s. I’m autistic, and though I make sure to calculate my spoons carefully, I do occasionally misjudge how many spoons are needed for a given activity.

    The things I need to save spoons for include (but are NOT limited to) sensory stimuli – especially auditory and tactile, awareness of the presence of other humans (of any and all ages), partly because of possible interaction with them, partly because of possible sensory stimuli coming from them.

    The above means I am very careful when do go out. And I go out VERY rarely. When it does happen that I go to a restaurant (to use the prevalent example in the thread), it only happens after careful consideration of level of noise in that restaurant, and that consideration does not only involve the presence of children, but also the type of clientel. Is the restaurant often used by people who’ve been to see a sports event and can therefore be expected to be loud-esque? Is there a sports event taking place the night in question? If so, then the place is not for me.

    But yes, the presence of children is also included in my considerations. And not only for the noise level. Also because I have on (thankfully only one) occasion had to bruise my hand, while using it to pad a corner of a table, because two nearby children were having a wrestling match and bumping into tables. My spilled mug of cocoa be damned. Those children could have hurt themselves badly. I kept seeing visions of a child’s head bumping into that table’s corner without my hand being there.

    I’d rather not have to do that too often, because touch triggers me severely. But I’d also not sit by and see a child injure hirself severely, because I couldn’t be arsed to literally just move my hand.

    On the other hand, I’ve spent a lovely restaurant dinner with a couple of friends, while a child belonging to the neighbouring table sat quietly underneath our table playing with legos. We had to be a little careful how we moved our feet, but I actually found the set-up rather adorable :P His mother had looked absolutely panicked when the boy disappeared from their view, and when they realised where he was, his father looked deeply mortified. A smile and the words: “It’s okay, he disturbs no one here,” set them at ease.

    I can deal with a quiet child under my table. I cannot easily nor always deal with children having a wrestling match next to me.

    Either way, those were just anecdotes. My point coming up:

    Being out in public there are a whole lot of things to take into consideration – and that goes for all of us. And we are many different people with many different needs. And sometimes – some unhappy times – needs will conflict with each other. The solution is not to order every single place to accomodate every single person, because that will end in no one being truly accomodated. The solution will be to have different kinds of venue for different kinds of people and their different needs. And those who have preferences, which correlate with a set of needs can choose those places to go.

    In some cases this is not a viable solution (like public toilets, public administration and other such things that can’t come in 30 different accomodation-versions, they’ll need to be as accessible to everyone as it’s possible to make them – all at once), but in the case of restaurants it’s very possible.

    I (mostly) choose restaurants without high chairs, because there’s a bigger chance I won’t be triggered there. For parents to demand that they can go everywhere, and still be allowed to wait a tantrum out, is essentially depriving me and others with similar sensory disabilities the right to go out and be accomodated.

    I do not demand that all restaurants are made accessible to me and my disability. Why? Because that would mean all people displaying unpredictable behaviour (ie. quite a lot of people with disabilities, as well as quite a lot of children, not to mention the boatload of adults, who are just plain unpredictable) should be kept away from these venues all times. And frankly: just, no. Instead I heartily endorse the choice of different restaurants to differentiate their venues so as to attract different clientele.

    Some restaurants I’ve been to have catered only to adult clientele, but I still won’t be going again, because the lighting triggered me, or the lay-out of the rooms made the acoustics triggering for me, even with only 10-15 guests. Other places have been child friendly, with high chairs and menus, but have been layed out in such a way that noise is swallowed by carpets, upholstery and fancy ceiling decorations. These places I definitely will visit again.

    To demand that all places accommodate everyone is frankly quite ignorant of the implications this has. Everyone will be allowed, but no one will be comfortable. What a grand ambition! At least we’ll all be equally miserable, and end up resenting each other equally much.

    Generally, I only visit cafés (on those rare occasions) if they have rooms especially for changing diapers and such (what are those called in English?Nurseries?). Because I do not want to support places which force parents to change diapers on the lid of the toilet. Or heck, in the stroller in the middle of the room*. I think we would all (baby included) feel better without being seated in the smell of poo.

    I also don’t visit places that prohibit breast-feeding, though I don’t actually think it’s legal to prohibit that here. And if I see anyone giving a nursing mother a glare, the glaree will get a smile from me, and the glarer will get a glare themselves. I find the OMGBOOB-scare quite ridiculous.

    I want to accommodate children, because heck, they have a right to be here. But I cannot personally accommodate them all the time because of my disability, gods, I wish I could – my life would be so much easier, I might even *want* children if I could stand touching another human more than every 4 days.

    I have accepted that I should not show up in amusement parks and expect to find peace and quiet. So I don’t. But I do feel I have the right to expect at least a few restaurants to be quiet and stay that way. And I also feel I have the right to know which ones are which, so I don’t have to gamble with my mental health and go for the off-chance that tonight no children will show up.

    Oh and sometimes the parents of these children have disabilities similar to mine. So don’t think for a moment that sensory overload only exists for those without children.

    *I didn’t actually see this happen myself, but I heard an acquaintance complaining about a mother having changed her baby’s diaper on the dining table in the café. And what with eateries having to live up to quite severe restrictions here I doubt this truly happened. I’m guessing the mother changed the diaper in the stroller NEXT to the table. That’s different. And it was apparently necessary, because the place it was reported to happen in, does NOT have a room for this. And leaving baby with a dirty diaper? Oh heck no. That’s not fair to the poor child.

  318. Rebecca
    Rebecca May 16, 2010 at 12:54 pm |

    Wow, reading these comments has been really disheartening. It seems like a great many supposed-feminists think that a “good mother” is one that doesn’t allow her children to annoy anyone. The way to do that apparently is to telepathically determine what will annoy those around her and prevent her children from doing it, preferably without raising her voice — or to confine herself to kitchen and home. Or maybe McDonald’s.

    I guess I’m a bad mother. If I’d tried to live up to all of these expectations, I would have had to stay in my house for the last twenty years. (To all of the other mothers, appalled as I am by these attitudes, embrace your bad-motherhood.)

    That’s right, people. If you don’t like the noise my kids are making, screw you. I am not staying in my house, and I am not confining myself to the play yard at McDonald’s. I do the best I can, and I try not to be inconsiderate, but I don’t “control” my children. They are full human beings with wills of their own. I try to teach them appropriate behavior, but they are kids. One is quite well-behaved and quiet, and one is rowdy as hell. The other has sensory issues and is distressed by what often seem to me to be invisible winds or spirits.

    People have the right to be annoyed by me or my children, but they don’t have the right to tell me where to be.

  319. Jamie
    Jamie May 16, 2010 at 1:02 pm |

    smmo -

    it’s ‘childfree’, thanks.

  320. Ellen
    Ellen May 16, 2010 at 1:16 pm |

    Wow. OK, well instead of putting in my two cents and potentially getting yelled at, I’m going to go donate money to Planned Parenthood, UNICEF, and CREDO. That way I’ll have contributed to the cause instead of allowing myself to get drawn into the madness that is this thread. If you had to donate a dollar for every comment you wanted to post would you do it? If the cause was for one of the aforementioned agencies? Then they’d be well over $300 and some of the comments would probably be more well thought out, and you know, you’d get your moneys worth. I’ll leave ya’ll with this quote from Matilda, because after reading all of these comments over the past 2 days this is all they’re boiling down to from BOTH sides:

    “I’m smart, you’re dumb; I’m big, you’re little; I’m right, you’re wrong and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

  321. leedevious
    leedevious May 16, 2010 at 1:25 pm |

    ooof.
    Basically I feel like there are some places where you shouldn’t bring young children. When I was a kid the nicest restaurant I ever went to was Friendly’s. My parents went out very rarely, only when there was a family member around to watch us. However I was first aid certified when I was 12 so my parents felt comfortable with leaving my younger sister and my disabled older sister with me at that point.

    I think kids definitely belong out in public, but there has to be some places where you wouldn’t find young children. I remember when I saw the Dark Knight, there was a kid making noise the whole time. I was thinking “Really, you took your baby to see the Dark Knight?”

    Also, let’s stop comparing children to adults with disabilities. Adults with disabilities are not like children!

    And what’s with all the people being like “OMG I’m gonna be sick I’m gonna die My brain is gonna explode and leak out my nose I can’t believe you people are saying that.” Melodramatic much?

  322. Xenu01
    Xenu01 May 16, 2010 at 1:49 pm |

    I dislike that threads like this inevitably pit women with children against women without children, when feminism should be about my right to have kids or not have kids and having support of society either way. We should be fighting together for equal paid parental leave time, fair treatment of women in the workplace, free and subsidized day care, nutritious food and clothing and housing for all families, and the right of women to not produce children if they so choose, including birth control and abortion. All of these things are feminist issues, and more.

  323. Yonmei
    Yonmei May 16, 2010 at 1:56 pm |

    Rebecca: are people really arguing that the job of “parent” does not entail teaching kids how to behave with respect towards others?

    No. No one on this thread has argued that. I realise it’s a very, very long thread, but just the same… you could try reading it before asking loaded questions about what you think might be in it?

  324. Sailorman
    Sailorman May 16, 2010 at 2:06 pm |

    akeeyu 5.15.2010 at 11:40 pm

    Sailorman,

    “But to answer the question: What you should do is to act just like a non-single mother (or father!) with an absent spouse. Yes, even married people take care of their kids alone. You don’t go anywhere that you can’t control your kids, and you leave if you need to, so that you don’t piss off everyone else.”

    So…without going into too much detail that really doesn’t matter, because of work and life complications, my husband and I are both in the same place with the kids at the same time maybe three times a week for about two hours each time, so thanks for the condescending tip, but that whole “even married people take care of their kids alone” shit? That’s my whole life. I know how it goes, thanks.

    I have kids too. I make those same choices. I got a night out–well, two hours, actually–with my wife recently for the first time in months.

    Except I don’t think that my life, and my kids (which is to some degree under at least some control) makes other people obliged to make things easier for me. So although I might like to go out with the three year old sometimes, I don’t in some cases because I have respect for other people.

    So if I work all the time and haven’t seen my kids awake for a few days–happens all the time–it’s my responsibility to see them if i can, but it doesn’t mean that everyone else on the damn neighborhood is to support me on it. Why should they care? Why should I be so self-centered to ASK them to care? Why should you, or anyone else, be entitled to expect that privilege?

    It’s funny that you think MY position is privileged. I take plenty of account of other people all the time, and adjust my life accordingly. I was raised to have consideration for other people, even if I don’t know them. The only thing I am arguing for is that those other people exercise the same (not higher) level of consideration.

    I’m not asking for a thing that I’m not already giving myself. You and a lot of people in this thread seem to be arguing that you are entitled to MORE respect from others, and that you have to give LESS respect. [shrug] if that’s true, it seems a bit odd to be throwing the ‘privilege’ label around, hmm?

  325. Angus Johnston
    Angus Johnston May 16, 2010 at 2:26 pm |

    I don’t think that my life, and my kids (which is to some degree under at least some control) makes other people obliged to make things easier for me.

    See, I think we’re all obliged to make things easier for you, just as you’re obliged to make things easier for us.

    People don’t exist in isolation. We’re interconnected, and interdependent. A model of human society that assumes that none of us will ever impose on anyone else is doomed to create huge tensions, because it’s based on a flawed premise.

    The question isn’t whether we’re going to impose on each other, it’s how much, and in which directions. And if we frame the question that way, if we acknowledge that at some point in our lives we’re all going to need someone to cut us some slack and we’re all going to have to give slack to someone else, a lot of this us vs. them crap is bound to evaporate.

  326. Yonmei
    Yonmei May 16, 2010 at 2:27 pm |

    So if I work all the time and haven’t seen my kids awake for a few days–happens all the time ….. Except I don’t think that my life, and my kids (which is to some degree under at least some control) makes other people obliged to make things easier for me.

    The irony, it burns.

    I’m not asking for a thing that I’m not already giving myself.

    I suspect that the person who looks after your kids while they’re awake has a different perspective on whether she should be allowed to take them places than you do.

  327. ginmar
    ginmar May 16, 2010 at 2:41 pm |

    Re: the whole, “You chose to have a child, accept the consequences….” argument, let me offer some variations on that.
    —-
    “You chose to be a cop. Now you’re complaining about a ‘hostile work environment’ because of a couple of titty calendars and a dick drawn on your locker? What, you can’t take a joke? You didn’t have to work here. It was your choice“.

    “You chose to work in the coal mines. Now you’re complaining that you’re trapped underground with no air and arguing the mine owners should’ve done inspections? The job pays well because there are risks. What a pussy.”

    “You chose to work as a prostitute. Now you’re complaining when your pimp beats you up and Johns rape you and get away with it? You chose that line of work. Shut up, slut.”

    “You chose to get a job in WhiteMale Incorporated even though you know we’ve never had a female on the board. Now you’re complaining about a glass ceiling and pay discrimination? It was your choice to work here. Man, those feminists want everything!”

    Yeah, you want some more straw for that strawman? Because if you light a match near that fucker it’ll catch fire like you wouldn’t believe. People are saying if you have a kid you may not be able to cavort like a carefree unmarried childless teenager, not that having kids means you have to live in a ditch, eat sewage, and get sexually assaulted. Christ, what a dishonest take on it. Doesn’t reflect on the parenthood apologists at all!

    And to whoever said that having dinner in a fancy restaurant is a privilege, think again: it’s a purchase and if you stomp all over it, then you better pay for the bloody thing. It’s discretionary and other people are going to partake, too. You can’t exactly call somebody out on privilege when you’re arguing that you and your pwecious kid get to ruin it for other people. Which is it?

    ““I also find it quite interesting that most “kid haters” define their right to a kid free space but refuse to recognize their ability to leave said space. If they dislike kids, stay home. Order in. Hire someone to do your shopping for you.” – Jesse

    Yeah, that pretty much says it all. All the childfree people should keep their childfree selves at home so the parents and kids can rule the world, but that’s not unfair or anything.

    Renee:

    Renee 5.14.2010 at 7:12 pm
    @Amanda Marcotte,
    Save it with your childless twisted logic. You cannot expect a child to behave like you because you my dear are an adult and they are a child. So stop holding them to the same standards

    Yeah….well. There really doesn’t seem to be anything one can add there. “Twisted childfree logic?” Really? What, you think having a uterus that pumped out a kid makes you Goddess? .

    @Diz my child has never over run me so how dare you suggest it. Don’t make it personal with me. Waiting for a child to calm down to talk to them acknowledges that they are going through something. I most certainly correct inappropriate behaviour but I do so in a way that respects my child as an individual something many people in this thread cannot seem to grasp.

    Finally, if you don’t like the way a parent deals with it too damn bad. If the child is not in danger it is none of your damn business. I see nothing but selfishness repeatedly. Like having your precious meal interrupted is the worse thing the world…oh dear what ever shall you do. No I suppose it is better that we just lock the little dears in their rooms until they are 18.

    Yeah, the most selfishness being tossed around here is by parents.

    —-

  328. Kaz
    Kaz May 16, 2010 at 2:55 pm |

    Some things:

    @Jackie: I really sympathise, believe me. I have AS + auditory processing issues + some degree of hyperacusis myself (although quite possibly milder than yours), so I’ve had my experiences with pain caused by loud children.

    The thing is, I see this as a matter of conflicting access requirements: in order to be in a space, I need it to be reasonably quiet and without a lot of background noise, whereas a parent may need it to allow for their child to be noisy. I don’t think the solution of this is for me to say my issues trump theirs – or vice versa (“suck it up and deal” is equally unfair.) In general, I’d like it if competing access issues were solved structurally instead of putting the two groups into competition against one another. This one would be a bit tricky, but structural support for cheap or free childcare (so that parents *can* leave their kids at home if necessary) and “quiet zones” or “kid zones” in more public places would definitely help, I think.

    But that kind of thing seems a while in coming, so I do sympathise, and agree that people can be really awful at understanding that kind of thing. Although I wouldn’t blame parents in particular so much as ableism in general – e.g. my main problem source in that regard has been students in their late teens/early twenties who simply would not understand why I wouldn’t go out to the pub or a party with them and took it as a personal rejection, but I wouldn’t focus on that group on particular when talking about the problem.

    On another disability-related note, I’m surprised at some of the comments upthread who said that of course they would sympathise with a disabled adult who made loud noises because of their disability but not with loud children… given that there’s usually no way of knowing whether the children in question might not have that sort of disability as well.

  329. octogalore
    octogalore May 16, 2010 at 3:09 pm |

    Seconding a number of points Renee and Faith made above.

    The fact that children being a feminist issue is even questioned (eg by Leah) is mind-boggling. And arguments that toss in “they’re an oppressed class” as a rationale for being a feminist issue are equally problematic, IMO. Women are an oppressed class — does that make our issues part and parcel of other human rights movements? Haven’t seen other movements use this definition.

    Why is this a feminist issue? Well, can anyone imagine 300+ comments of mostly-men talking about this issue and its ramifications for women’s rights to make decisions about our families?

    Amanda said “if I have a fight with a friend or boyfriend in public, I take it home instead of screaming it out in a restaurant. According to the logic I’m seeing here, I’m entitled to scream it out in front of the world.”

    Not at all. People in a dinner restaurant have a reasonable expectation that adults who can control the timing and pitch of their outbursts will do so. As Renee and others made clear above, kids’ minds work in ways unique to kids. Nobody is suggesting that kids shouldn’t be disciplined at all — that’s a strawargument. But parents can make the decisions about what works best for their kids, rather than yielding to some non-parent’s idea that removal is the necessary way to go.

  330. April
    April May 16, 2010 at 3:58 pm |

    Let just meet in the playground in an hour and punch each other about it.

  331. LemonDemon
    LemonDemon May 16, 2010 at 4:37 pm |

    Octogalore says

    “The fact that children being a feminist issue is even questioned (eg by Leah) is mind-boggling. And arguments that toss in “they’re an oppressed class” as a rationale for being a feminist issue are equally problematic, IMO. Women are an oppressed class — does that make our issues part and parcel of other human rights movements? Haven’t seen other movements use this definition.”

    Yes, actually. It’s called ‘intersection’, many other communities do it. All women are not seen as equal to each other.

  332. April
    April May 16, 2010 at 5:15 pm |

    But my responsibility is to making sure my kids are cared for. My responsibility isn’t to make sure that every single person in their immediate vicinity is happy and not annoyed or offended

    Weird. Because as a married person without children, I know that I have a responsibility to ensure that my social and public behavior doesn’t offend or endanger anyone, within reason. I was unaware that my obligation to be a respectful member of society completely stops once/if I have kids. Thanks for the tip.

  333. octogalore
    octogalore May 16, 2010 at 5:21 pm |

    “It’s called ‘intersection’, many other communities do it.

    Strawargument. I’m not arguing against intersectionality, I’m arguing against substitution.

    “All women are not seen as equal to each other.”

    Strawargument. All women’s issues are part of feminism, including the issues women who face other oppressions deal with. But intersectionality requires that one part of the intersection be gender. Other human rights movements do require that one part of the intersection be their particular issue.

  334. La Lubu
    La Lubu May 16, 2010 at 5:40 pm |

    I was unaware that my obligation to be a respectful member of society completely stops once/if I have kids.

    It has been by experience that sometimes, I piss people off just for my presence, not my behavior toward or around others. Folks who think I don’t meet a certain physical standard for feminine appearance. Folks who think I’m the wrong ethnicity or social class. Folks who think I’m the wrong religion, or that I don’t have religion. I’ve been on the receiving end of catty commentary for going to restaurants by myself, because I take up a table that would be better suited for….someone besides Some Woman, Who Does She Think She Is, Making Us Stand Here for Another Half Hour? Why can’t she be the one to wait?!

    Any woman who dares to breastfeed in public (in the U.S.) will have a story to tell about how offensive and rude they were for their nonstandard choice of feeding, and how the “reasonable compromise” is supposed to be to find a bathroom and feed their child on the toilet.

    You can’t please everyone. That “within reason” makes all the difference, because so often women are held to unreasonable standards.

  335. April
    April May 16, 2010 at 5:58 pm |

    La Lubu, you just said things that would make any regular reader of this or other similar blogs think, “duh.” Obviously as women, we are already an oppressed class and are given unreasonable expectations to achieve. But what so many people on this thread seem to be suggesting is that people without children in tow be more reasonable and more accommodating to those with children than is expected from any other class of people. I will not be told that I have to live with the expectation that I accommodate children and parents at all times, and be okay with the fact that my personal needs and desires are never considered important, at all. I do enough of that just existing in this world as a female.

    You know, it’s dumb that anyone else even bothers commenting on this thread– myself included. Everyone reasonable and unreasonable alike has already made every argument possible. I say we close this thing and call it day. Then wait for next week, when 20 people put up their own blog posts explaining their “very reasonable and very right and correct” viewpoint.

  336. Faith
    Faith May 16, 2010 at 5:59 pm |

    ” I was unaware that my obligation to be a respectful member of society completely stops once/if I have kids. Thanks for the tip.”

    April,

    I really don’t know what else to say to you. If you can’t understand that there is a difference in the expectations of adult behavior and kid’s behavior, then I don’t think there is anything anyone else can say so in order to help you comprehend what is being said. I’m assuming you are at least 20+, correct? Believing that you can hold children to the same ideals as full-fledged adults is just ridiculous. Kids, particularly very young ones, simply do not possess that capacity.

  337. Kat
    Kat May 16, 2010 at 6:08 pm |

    I haven’t read through all the comments because — wow — there are over 350 — but I’m going to put my 2 cents in here anyway.

    I have two children, one with autism. We spend a lot of time “in public” to desensitize/acclimate the one with autism how to be in public and social situations. This takes a lot of time and energy and I get the evil eye a lot because sometimes it doesn’t look like we’re doing much at all, when really there is a much bigger plan and tons of prep behind the scenes. So, yea, that can be irritating and make me feel like I need to stay home. Sometimes, I have had to say to myself…. “Okay, we are going into (restaurant, mall, store, etc.) and we are going to (eat a meal, get what we came for) and not leave until we are done, because we need to figure out appropriate behavior for this environment, and I have to learn any triggers in this environment, etc., and to hell with what anyone says”.

    So having said that, what really pisses me off is parents who very cavalierly (is that a word?) bring their kids in public and don’t hold them to any standards. Maybe I’m jealous because they don’t seem to have to plan their outings the way I do. Or maybe it is that they should — that is just parenting, plain and simple. My son happens to have autism and needs more help and guidance with social interaction and new environments, but every child needs to learn these same lessons to different degrees. So geez, fellow parents out there, put in a little effort. A teeny bit.

    I don’t have an answer for this, really. The conundrum is that you can’t learn to act in public unless you go into public, but you don’t know how to act in public until you go, right?

    My personal feeling is that kids like a night home with pizza and a movie and a fun babysitter a lot more than coming out to your boring restaurant with you. But I do think that many mothers feel tons of guilt about leaving their kids with sitters, which is just another one of those mom-guilt things that needs to go away. I have many friends who have completely sidelined any hope of a social existence because they can’t leave the kids with a sitter, they feel so guilty doing that.

    And then, start out with the small stuff. Start out with kid-friendly restaurants. Teach them skills at home. Go to a fancy restaurant EARLY before it gets busy and/or the kids get cranky. Ask for a corner table. Etc. Etc.

    And, a side note — The Park Slope Mommy/Parent-types are annoying even when they leave their kids at home. They were probably annoying before they have kids. And they will be on their bluetooth in the nice restaurant even if they hire a babysitter.

  338. amandaw
    amandaw May 16, 2010 at 6:21 pm |

    I am deliberately not reading any comments here.

    Jill, this has been turning about in my brain for a couple days now, and I wanted to say this.

    This post sounds like you are struggling with intellectually knowing something is wrong based on your own principles but not being ready to let go of the real-world manifestations of our fucked up societal structure, manifestations which might benefit you in certain ways.

    You basically write, “I know X is wrong and deeply antithetical to my strong personal beliefs, but let me explain all the ways in which X is actually totally right, using spurious examples of things that never actually happen to justify further marginalization of a class of people to which I do not belong, in a way that just happens to have certain benefiits for me.”

    See also false rape accusations, abortion as birth control, people who eat at McDonald’s every single day, women sleeping their way to the top, rainbow bracelet parties, poor women of color who pop out more kids to get that weekly welfare stipend, and so forth.

    A lot of otherwise-committed people nevertheless hold up these things that rarely to never happen specifically because they are cultural lightning rods, symbolic instances that justify the continued maintenance of an oppressive system, which have been so thoroughly hammered into our heads from day one that most of us just accept them as something that Everybody Knows, and even though we are completely against the belief system at the root of those examples, we continue to use them unthinkingly, because that is how strong our cultural programming IS.

    I honestly believe that is what’s going on here. A struggle to reconcile the cultural programming we have built our very selves around with the principles that drive our activism. Not everyone will reach the same conclusion with those struggles, but we’re all dealing with it.

  339. lovelylarry
    lovelylarry May 16, 2010 at 6:46 pm |

    Kids don’t need your fake tolerance. Kids are a part of the community too, so you say. Stop making excuses for being a jerk to kids.

    You wouldn’t suggest that cell phone guy should not come into restaurants until he no longer owns a cell phone. In fact I’m sure you don’t say or do anything about cell phone guy except a passive aggressive stare.

    Stop pretending that the 7 year old in the booth next to you is somehow oppressing people.

    What a bunch of meandering nonsense this is.

  340. Sailorman
    Sailorman May 16, 2010 at 6:59 pm |

    Faith 5.16.2010 at 10:39 am
    …That maybe people need to be a little more understanding of parents and children instead of believing that they have the right to pass judgment when the kids aren’t behaving the way -they- believe they should behave and that parents should be required to ruin their evening by leaving a restaurant or movie theater just because their children aren’t behaving like perfect angels.

    You still keep on ducking the question:

    If the choice is between you ruining your evening (by leaving) and ruining the evening of a whole lot of other people (by deciding that you will basically think “screw them, I’m entitled to do what I damn well please,”) what choice do you make?

    And if you make the “screw them” choice, why shouldn’t others judge you for it? I mean, you just basically made a call which shows that you don’t give a shit about ruining their evening, and now you’re trying to escape blame as well, and blame THEM for getting annoyed? Nice.

    And way to keep the privileged thing going. But you keep ducking that issue, too. Is every single person in the theater/restaurant a privileged irresponsible person other than you, hmm? You’re there, right? Are you so very certain that you’re sticking it to the privileged folks and not actually fucking up the sole night out of a people who are just like you, but more considerate?

  341. Marle
    Marle May 16, 2010 at 7:12 pm |

    On the topic of screaming kids in restaurants: how exactly would a single parent leave with them? Do they track down a waiter/ess and demand the check now, possibly making a bigger scene and hassle if the restaurant is busy? Do they just leave, leaving the wait staff to think they just got stiffed? And what if the child is screaming b/c their hungry (a reason I’d be screaming if I couldn’t talk very well)? Does it really make sense for a parent to pick up the kid and drive home and cook dinner while the kid’s feeling worse and worse, instead of just waiting for the food they ordered to come?

    I’m not a big fan of screaming kids either. But it happens.

  342. La Lubu
    La Lubu May 16, 2010 at 7:16 pm |

    I will not be told that I have to live with the expectation that I accommodate children and parents at all times,

    April, how are you interpreting that? How are you getting that from anything Faith said? I ask because I would interpret “accommodate children and parents at all times” (a phrase I can’t recall seeing anywhere above, but…whatever) as “give the benefit of the doubt to, just as anyone” or “ignore their presence, just as anyone.”

    I don’t expect any special accommodation…..but I do expect that folks treat me and my daughter with the same level of politeness that they would treat people who are like themselves. Not hold us in an inferior category or treat us with special disdain for “invading” their space.

    I get that some people have a more closed idea of what “adult space” is (one example above being the code of high-chairs in a restaurant). But how that is interpreted on the ground floor of everyday life is another thing. It’s easy to avoid going to restaurants that don’t have high chairs….when your child needs a high chair. But there is a hell of a lot of time between high-chair sitting and the teenage years. A hell of a lot of opportunity to rub up against differing social norms despite most people not really setting out to conquer the world every day—just wanting to go out and live life.

    Bedtimes, for instance. I never had one, and I never felt the need to set an arbitrary bedtime for my daughter. Seems to work out just fine for us. Clothing choices. I always dressed rather androgynously (still do, actually—it’s just not “read” that way anymore) as a kid, and so does my daughter. Strange how such a little thing that doesn’t really affect anyone else, can get such a pissed-off reaction. Drinking—occasionally, I like to have an alcoholic drink. According to some folks, children should never witness a parent drinking. Violence—people have different levels of strictness on violent movies, toys, games. I’ve had folks criticize me for karate lessons for my daughter. Am I not worried that’s giving her the wrong idea about violence? (No.) Coffee. It was normal for me to drink coffee growing up, and occasionally my daughter has a cup, too. No, it hasn’t stunted her growth. (having a short mother stunted my growth, not the coffee!, LOL!)

    That’s why I continue to compare the arbitrary sand-lines drawn to the same arbitrary sand-lines drawn for women’s appearance, behavior, presence, station in life. Those attitudes have the same source. That’s pretty much how I break it down to my daughter, too, when she has the misfortune of overhearing some passive-aggressive bullshit…I call it the “kick the dog” syndrome. When some people have a bad day, or a bad life, they look for someone else with less power to take it out on…even if the extent of that is just to say something really rude.

    Again, I almost never see meltdown behavior by children in public. I see/hear a LOT of sideline critiques of parenting practices that I regard as….totally standard, nonharmful behavior. Every year, the editorial page of my local paper is filled with irate folks writing in about those terrible parents who bring their kids to the blues-and-barbecue fest downtown where there is drinking!! and dancing!! and loud music with lyrics about sex and cheating and drinking and dancing!! and this goes on until 11PM!!!!111!!!….despite the fact that using the “community standards” rule, this is totally standard stuff, and the event is heavily advertised as a family event.

    And I think to entertain that kind of patronizing bullshit is, at best, self-defeating. So, to flesh out what Faith implied, it’s my responsibility as a parent to insure that my daughter behaves respectfully toward others. It isn’t my responsibility, or hers, to read their minds and figure out or display ourselves as examples of mother-daughter respectability as if we are zoo animals instead of people sharing space in the urban landscape. Other people don’t get to choose how appropriate it is for us to be in any given public environment based on our identity or perceived lower status as people. Shorter version: live and let live.

  343. La Lubu
    La Lubu May 16, 2010 at 7:24 pm |

    I’d really like to see a post based on amandaw’s response at #354, especially THIS:

    A lot of otherwise-committed people nevertheless hold up these things that rarely to never happen specifically because they are cultural lightning rods, symbolic instances that justify the continued maintenance of an oppressive system, which have been so thoroughly hammered into our heads from day one that most of us just accept them as something that Everybody Knows, and even though we are completely against the belief system at the root of those examples, we continue to use them unthinkingly, because that is how strong our cultural programming IS.

    I didn’t think anyone could beat Miriam Heddy’s response, but you just did. Salud!

  344. April
    April May 16, 2010 at 7:34 pm |

    Faith, I absolutely understand that kids and adults can’t be held to the same standards of behavior. Are your really saying that ALL people should not go out in public without being okay with the fact that ALL people have every right to be as loud and violent as they please? Are you really actually opposed to loose behavior standards for all people? I can’t fathom how anyone can see that as an unreasonable position.

  345. April
    April May 16, 2010 at 7:44 pm |

    I ask because I would interpret “accommodate children and parents at all times” (a phrase I can’t recall seeing anywhere above, but…whatever) as “give the benefit of the doubt to, just as anyone” or “ignore their presence, just as anyone.”

    It is impossible for me to ignore a baby who is literally screaming for 15 minutes straight. It is especially impossible to ignore when what I’m trying to do is study in a quiet place, which I know the coffee shop to generally be. So no, you don’t get to tell me to figure out how to ignore it. I do not always have to account for the fact that going in public means possibly being subjected to extremely loud noises and uncomfortable interactions with children that I did not give authorization to. How could you say with a straight face that I should learn how to ignore bad behavior that directly affects me when I go out in public, but expect that you, as a parent, not be held to those same standards? I do NOT have to learn to IGNORE it. That’s laughably absurd that you could suggest that anyone ignore a screaming infant.

  346. Jackie
    Jackie May 16, 2010 at 7:47 pm |

    I appreciate that April is mature enough, to understand that being a parent doesn’t mean she should see herself as more privilaged then people without children. It seems a lot of people here, have trouble digesting that, it must hurt when it’s one of your own telling you to get your act together.

    About screaming and crying children, there are these things called pacifiers, are they passe now? I don’t see why people don’t use them anymore, I guess it’s a part of this “Children are people just as adults are” movement.

  347. Shoshie
    Shoshie May 16, 2010 at 8:08 pm |

    Geez, April, you seem really hung up on this screaming infant. I spend a lot of time in public spaces. I work/teach at a public university, take public transit, live in a major city (Seattle), and frequent many a coffee shop and bar. I also fly a lot, since my parents live in the midwest. I can think of only one time in the past six months that I have been exposed to a screaming child for more than a minute or two. This was on a bus, and, while I was irritated, the mother seemed to be trying to control the kid and, really, what was she supposed to do? Step off the bus? It sucked, and it distracted me from my reading, but I have a feeling that I was a whole lot less inconvenienced than that embarrassed mother who had to deal with a screaming child on public transit.

    For the record, I think kids are like all people. You like some of them, you don’t like others, but you deal with the ones you come into contact because we’re a public society. That’s what you do. I think I’ve come into contact with more misbehaving adults in the past six months than misbehaving children. But I treat those adults and children alike– ignore them unless they are impinging upon my rights in some way (obstructing my path, touching me, etc), in which case I tell them to move or stop. They usually do.

  348. tinfoil hattie
    tinfoil hattie May 16, 2010 at 8:08 pm |

    Jackie, I gather you don’t actually know much about children, and that you just make stuff up to support your position.

    Yes, people use pacifiers to soothe their children. Are you really that oblivious, or do you just have so much extra straw lying about that you can’t help yourself?

  349. tinfoil hattie
    tinfoil hattie May 16, 2010 at 8:10 pm |

    April, how about you do a little experiment? For the next month, every time a baby starts screaming, time how long the baby screams. Figure out how many times in one month you actually have to endure a baby screaming for 15+ minutes. Unless you hang around in pediatrician’s offices or your local PICU, I bet it’s not as often as you believe it is.

  350. evil_fizz
    evil_fizz May 16, 2010 at 8:19 pm |

    The stench of Eau de Sanctimony is stifling in here.

    Anyway, the myth of the screaming baby who invades some otherwise quiet space while an oblivious parent (i.e., mother) pretends that her precious darling has every much as right to wail at top volume as the next comer is exactly that, a MYTH. To hold it up as the epitome of all adult/child interactions that occur in public on a daily basis is asinine.

    My daughter’s almost 11 months old and a remarkably laid back baby. She thinks restaurants are interesting and always wants to taste what we’re having. (Which, with the exception of when she tries to steal my beer, is awesome.) She’s handled planes, live theatre, and nice restaurants with remarkably aplomb. And I resent the hell out of the idea that I am infringing on someone else merely by BRINGING HER TO A COFFEE SHOP. I mean, for crying out loud.

  351. La Lubu
    La Lubu May 16, 2010 at 8:22 pm |

    Y’know, I don’t live under a rock, and yet I somehow manage to not see screaming infants very often, and never for fifteen minutes. In fact, the last time I saw a child’s meltdown that lasted more than 60 seconds it was in the Emergency Room. Mostly when I see infants in public, they’re sleeping.

    I think amandaw is really on to something.

  352. Deborah
    Deborah May 16, 2010 at 8:28 pm |

    Studying in a coffee shop? I used to do that too, mostly when I was doing an edit-run on an essay. I still take work to coffee shops when I’m up the editing and rewriting and re-rewriting stage. But the thing about coffee shops is that they are public spaces, and they are not, like some areas in libraries, designated as quiet spaces. People are entitled to come in there and chat, and talk, and clatter about with cups and plates, and answer their phones, and do all of those noisy things. I really don’t think it is reasonable to complain because a child made some noise in a coffee shop when you were there studying.

  353. Jackie
    Jackie May 16, 2010 at 8:33 pm |

    April well, it seems some of these parents in their ever present exhaustion, have no trouble at times ignoring their screaming crying child.

  354. DiSnazzio
    DiSnazzio May 16, 2010 at 8:34 pm |

    Why was this post necessary? Why was it necessary on a feminist blog? Is “oh noes kids be ruinin mah fancy dinner” a feminist issue? Did you just want some validation because the Bitch PhD post touched a nerve about your bias and your reeking privilege? Anyone who has spent 30 seconds on the internet could have known that what was going to break out here was a bunch of anti-feminist bullshit along the lines of “kids aren’t a feminist issue,” and I am sure you saw it coming. You chose to post this trite, uninteresting, non- (if not un-)feminist waste of words anyway, and you should seriously think about why that is.

    Other commenters have taken apart the nonsense in this post, but I’m going to add my voice. It is deliberate, chosen ignorance and rampant unchecked privilege that allows you to say ridiculous things like parents should assess their child’s mood before deciding whether to go places. Maybe as an adult, it’s your responsibility to assess your mood and determine whether you’re capable of putting on your big-girl pants and dealing with any and ALL members of society and your community before you decide whether you should be allowed outdoors. Kids are annoying sometimes, they behave badly sometimes, get over it. You behaved badly – like a petulant, special-snowflake-syndrome-having CHILD, in fact – all over this thread but no one’s demanding you be locked away from the internet for the next 18 years. Grow up.

  355. Charity
    Charity May 16, 2010 at 8:37 pm |

    I am also extremely skeptical of just how “frequently” some of the commenters are supposedly encountering these tantrums and screaming infants. I think the last time I was bothered by a child in any fashion was on a transatlantic flight about nine months ago and it only lasted a few minutes while the kid and his parents got their bearings. Again, like the bus example, they had nowhere else they could go. Please consider that without actual data, the sinister motives and particularly, the sense of entitlement you attribute to these parents whose actual lives and personalities you see only a tiny sliver of, are just your own projections. Jackie, I’m particularly troubled by your two so-called examples of “bad parent behavior” – a woman who held an elevator for you after not reading your mind that you didn’t want her to, and a woman who gave up her table for you in a situation in which it appeared much more convenient for her family to sit at it. You then proceeded to engage in some mind-reading as to her resentment of you. But even if she did resent it, so what? She still gave you her table. I appreciate what you’ve said about protecting yourself from noise and pain, but the way you have described these encounters, you are imagining you can read these women’s minds.

  356. Jesse
    Jesse May 16, 2010 at 8:47 pm |

    After reading this post Friday, I happened to have dinner in a tiny, ten table sushi restaurant. A toddler and his parents were there. So was a family of three, my fiance and our two friends.

    The child did not make a disturbing noise throughout dinner. He was well behaved of a child of two. At the end of the dinner, while his Dad was lifting him up, he did scream. Once. Because he had been lifted to eye level to a picture of fish that he had been admiring all night. The parents dealt with it. But the woman behind me (not facing the child) said “Take the child home if you can’t deal with him.”

    I think many individuals can’t determine the difference between a happy baby noise and a cranky baby noise. The first is easier to tolerate. You smile, then ignore. The second goes on for a long long time, and disrupts everyone.

  357. eli
    eli May 16, 2010 at 8:54 pm |

    The silverware thing? Really, really annoying. It just reeks of privilege. My little darling made a game of dropping her silverware and having the waiter pick it up. Did he really love that little game, or is he just keenly aware of the need to pay his bills? Is it a cute game or an insidious way of this child being taught how powerful she is and how powerless others have to be, because her parents have money>

  358. Jackie
    Jackie May 16, 2010 at 8:59 pm |

    DiSnazzio those of us with Autism Spectrum diagnoses didn’t choose to be on the spectrum, we were born that way. Whenever someone brings up special snowflake syndrome in regards to people who have invisible disabilities, it smacks of ableism. “You shouldn’t be able to go out, until you behave like a Neurotypical person, you silly little retard!” That’s how it comes across. I cannot turn off my sound sensitivity, any more then a parent can stop their child’s crying with an on/off switch. I’m sick of the notion that I should stay at home the rest of my life, unless I learn to become a part of the baby loving mommy worshipping cult.

    Charity perhaps you should go through these posts, and take a look at all the times people have suggested those of us without children should be able to read parents minds. We’re supposed to be able to tell if a parent has had a particularly stressful morning, we’re supposed to constantly consider the unending trials and tribulations they encounter on a daily basis, and never ever feel it’s in our place to tell them that maybe they should consider moving their child to another area to calm down, or offer advice as a non-parent. Nobody but another parent, knows the endless struggle and strife that they encounter on a daily basis, from a cruel society that never considers how they’re rasing a future generation. They live every day, trying their best against incredible odds, they are the mommy warriors, fighting against a world that hates their angelic perfect children. Only they have the vision and ability to know how to care for a child, and we all should be awed in their presence, for they are the martyrs of our time. Yes, Charity I guess until I have the increased awareness that comes with having a child, I’ll never be able to even suggest any parent even looks at me the wrong way, for they are the ones who suffer for the benefit of the future. Yeah, I don’t think I’m suited for all the fantasy and drama of parenthood.

  359. Faith
    Faith May 16, 2010 at 9:03 pm |

    “You’re there, right? Are you so very certain that you’re sticking it to the privileged folks and not actually fucking up the sole night out of a people who are just like you, but more considerate?”

    Sailorman,

    Don’t address me. Just don’t. Ever. I can’t respond to your comments in any reasonable way without getting infuriated at your utter and complete arrogance. I have explained myself. If you still don’t get it, just leave me the hell alone and I’ll do the same to you.

  360. Rebecca
    Rebecca May 16, 2010 at 9:06 pm |

    @Yonmei:

    No. No one on this thread has argued that. I realise it’s a very, very long thread, but just the same… you could try reading it before asking loaded questions about what you think might be in it?

    I’ve been reading it since the beginning, and I’m not sure how you’d interpret this exchange (paraphrased):

    “You chose to be a parent, so you’re obligated to raise your child to respect others.”
    ” ‘You chose to be a cop, so you’re obligated to put up with harassment’ .”

    as anything other than a statement that expecting a parent to raise a respectful child is some kind of oppression.

    Re: frequency of encounters with screaming kids – No, it doesn’t necessarily happen very often, but that’s what the post is about, in the same way that not every post about parental consent for abortion needs to devolve into an argument about whether abortion is okay. That’s why everyone pulling the “childfree bitches hate kids!!!1!! line is just acting, well, childish.

  361. Faith
    Faith May 16, 2010 at 9:12 pm |

    “So, to flesh out what Faith implied, it’s my responsibility as a parent to insure that my daughter behaves respectfully toward others. It isn’t my responsibility, or hers, to read their minds and figure out or display ourselves as examples of mother-daughter respectability as if we are zoo animals instead of people sharing space in the urban landscape.”

    Thank you, La Lubu.

  362. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable May 16, 2010 at 9:12 pm |

    DiSnazzio, uninteresting? You were comment 370 or so. And this? “…dealing with any and ALL members of society and your community before you decide whether you should be allowed outdoors”? Jill didn’t say parents should never be allowed outside of their homes. She didn’t say kids need to be locked up for the next 18 years. If you’re going to argue whether this should be on a feminist blog (whatever, it’s your opinion and you’re entitled to it), don’t pull up a series of tired straw arguments that have already been exhausted upthread.

  363. exholt
    exholt May 16, 2010 at 9:17 pm |

    I think many individuals can’t determine the difference between a happy baby noise and a cranky baby noise. The first is easier to tolerate. You smile, then ignore. The second goes on for a long long time, and disrupts everyone.

    If one examines the subtext behind many of these “screaming children” stories, most who harbor such anti-child prejudices tend to feel put upon in any and all public spaces unless:

    1. Children are seen and not heard* or

    2. Children are NEVER in their highly majestic exalted highly esteemed presence.

    * Sad to see so many people…even some here subscribe to such a concept…..one that seems to be favored by many petty authoritarian assholes I’ve had to deal with in my life as an adolescent and young teen…including some teachers. :roll:

  364. Seraph
    Seraph May 16, 2010 at 9:25 pm |

    I don’t have the patience to read this whole thread–over three hundred comments! geez–but I have to say:

    I was a horrible, difficult child when I was small. I was the second child, five years younger than child #1, so my parents had experience with young children. I was disciplined, I knew the meaning of the word no, and I probably knew to some extent what times and places were quiet adult times and places–and then I ignored that knowledge. My parents removed me from the situation over and over and over, and got really tired of it. I was also occasionally spanked–and I disagree that spanking = abuse. It was sometimes frightening, but never actually painful, and it was done quickly (unlike my dad’s painfully interminable lectures) and then I was able to go back and be a more well-behaved child. Being yelled at was, in my memory, far scarier and it hurt me more deeply when it happened. Anyway, I stopped this gross misbehavior by the time I was around five or so, due to my parent’s constant intervention. I’m a reasonably well-adjusted college graduate now.

    On the other hand, my cousin was a horrible difficult child, who was an only child to slightly older parents (they were in their mid-thirties, I think) who had really wanted a baby. He was catered to, rarely told no, allowed to throw tantrums wherever he was without intervention. When he hit me over the head as a very young child when I wanted to play with one of his toys for a moment (we’re close to the same age, btw) his mother’s response to my parents’ upset was “oh, he doesn’t share.” He never grew out of these behaviors, and has remained an entitled jackass up to the current day, complete with criminal record.

    So you see, I can’t help but wonder–I mean, this cousin and I, we share a good portion of our genes, we’re close to the same age and the same economic bracket–if his parents had encouraged his behavior in a different direction, would he have turned out differently?

    Also, I decided never to have kids, -because- I know how stressful and hard it is, often for little reward. So please, don’t tell me I am annoyed with a screaming or misbehaving child because I don’t know how hard parenting is, and especially don’t tell me I’ll learn otherwise “when” I have kids, because it’s not going to happen.

    Also, “childfree” peeps can pipe down about how oppressed they are. You’re not oppressed, you’re just offended.

  365. Politicalguineapig
    Politicalguineapig May 16, 2010 at 9:37 pm |

    My two cents: I think at the heart of the matter is the fact, that until this century, women could either be nuns or mothers. Most of the first feminists in the U.S were single, childless women (Lucy Stone, Sojourner Truth and Elizabeth Stanton being exceptions.). Women gained more options in the 20th century, but up until the 1950s, middle-class women could have a career or be mothers. With the advent of the pill, more women could reject motherhood entirely, and I suspect some came to resent mothers as ‘sell-outs.’
    Now children are viewed as an indication of wealth, as their parents are assumed to have passed a certain set of milestones before having them. (And if the parent haven’t passed those milestones, they shouldn’t be parenting anyway, says the Greek chorus of society.)
    I suspect that is the root behind men’s judgement of parents in public: they resent the parents for showing off their acheivements. ‘Course most men get off on judging women anyway, and will use almost any excuse to be assholes.
    If the economy recovers, there’ll be more children around, and people may be less assholish about them. If it doesn’t, children may be resented even more and we might see incidents like in China, where lone men occasionally attack kindergarten classes and preschool classes.
    Personally, I don’t mind kids if they’re behaving appropriately or trying to. In large numbers, they give me panic attacks, but one or two around me, I can deal with. But I’m not reproducing for a variety of reasons, including the fact that I don’t currently have the assets to support a child now.

  366. scrumby
    scrumby May 16, 2010 at 9:43 pm |

    Can I say that I’ve met the screaming baby myth and she was my cousin? She had a phase for about 3-4 months where she was constantly crying if she was away from momma. No one else could hold her not even her father or siblings. When my aunt needed a day off, as all mothers do, us cousins got to babysit and were left some cash for food. Never send an opposite gendered pair of young teens to the grocery store with a screaming infant. Nothing warms a 13 year old girl’s heart like overhearing “that little harlot needs to shut her damn brat up.”

    Having or not having a kid doesn’t make you less of a jerk when you act poorly. I will have faith that a parent is doing what they think is best to keep their kids peaceful and happy if parents will have faith that outsiders are not all trying to criticize or drive them off if they intervene, and not let jerks ruin civility for the rest of us.

  367. April
    April May 16, 2010 at 9:44 pm |

    The “screaming infant” is being used a lot here because the screaming infant experience is one that most people experience often enough to be pissed off about it. Don’t act like we’re actually all lying about it.

    “Happy” baby noises are not more annoying than “happy” adult noises at sports bars or a comparable environment. Depending on what I’m in the mood for, I either like, am ambivalent toward, or don’t like that noise level. But that’s not what anyone is complaining about.

    People are complaining about loud, unexpected noises, and unexpectedly boisterous behavior in public. Most people who exhibit this behavior are young children. As young children cannot be expected to completely know what is and is not appropriate, we leave it up to the parents or caretakers of the child(ren) to keep their children’s behavior at a reasonably socially-acceptable level.

    No one is actually complaining about kids being in public. They’re complaining about being told that they don’t have the right to an enjoyable public experience. I really don’t think that anyone here is of the belief that anyone other than themselves on this thread is capable of using reason, so I think I’m done trying to comment on this thread in a serious manner.

  368. Marksman2000
    Marksman2000 May 16, 2010 at 9:51 pm |

    A lot of the comments posted here are geared towards very young children, infants and toddlers and so forth.

    However, you’ll notice that these parents who think that we should be forced to tolerate their kid’s poor behavior never seem to surrender this opinion over time. Whether their child is eight or eighteen (or 38), the blame-game parents believe we should be stuck with them.

    I know a public school teacher who decided on a career change after many years in service. I thought this was odd and when I asked why, she gave the most succinct of answers: “I’m tired of putting up with the parents and the administration.”

    See, a child will act like a child. I mean, what do you expect? But to sit by and watch their pathetic excuses for parents simply look the other way makes me grate my teeth. Yes, parenting is hard, but YOU DECIDED to do it. Gawd didn’t waggle a magic fertility wand and make your ass pregnant; YOU made a series of decisions which lead to that child coming into the world.

    Thus, you decided to be a parent. Now please act like one so I can listen to what my dinner partner is saying.

  369. Jackie
    Jackie May 16, 2010 at 9:52 pm |

    I also wasn’t fond of DiSnazzio’s remark about people acting like special snowflake syndrome having children, conditions on the Autism Spectrum are real, they’re not made up diagnoses just to comfort people and convince them they’re somehow better than others, or I don’t know, whatever crazy notion people have against people who have invisible disabilities.

    I have a condition aggravated by the sudden loud noises children sometimes make, that does not mean I should stay home and because my discomfort with children, may be a burden to parents. I try my best to keep this from being an issue, but when a baby screaming at a high pitched feels like an earwig drilling into your eardrum, it’s very difficult not to want to react to that.

    I do spend a lot of time at home, because of the occasional hostile attitude I get from parents when they’re confronted with someone who isn’t able to be pleasant and ignore their child’s behavior to make life easier for them.

    I manage to order out, which it seems for many parents just isn’t an option. Heaven forbid, a parent should order out their food from the restaurant, and enjoy it at home while their children are having fun instead of being told to sit still at a boring restaurant! Is it really about having the atmosphere, is that what’s so important? You’re getting the exact same food as you would at the restaurant, you’re just eating it at home where your kids are free to behave however they want. Compromise makes things easier for everyone.

    So what I’m getting from this, is because I have a condition that may interfere with a parent’s hurried day, I should stay home because it provides an inconvenience. I wonder if this is why there is less understanding or knowledge about Hyperacusis, we can’t let people know there are people out there who experience pain if a child should cry, because then the parents might be expected to do something about it!

    Also children should learn to have tolerance for all people in society, including those disabled or mentally disabled. Not pity, hopefully understanding, but at least tolerance. How can a child learn that, when their parent is glaring down someone on the Autism Spectrum for covering their ears, or having an anxiety attack because their child yelled? I can be as considerate of other parents as I want, but that won’t make this aspect of mine go away.

    Maybe I wouldn’t be so anxious or defensive around parents, if they didn’t behave so defensive around me. It doesn’t take many times of being accused of being a child hater by parents, when you begin to explain your situation to them, before that person stops worrying about what parents think of them and comes to expect them to be harsh and uncompassionate. Maybe they had a bad morning, maybe they didn’t get enough sleep, maybe this, maybe that. All I know is that the proper response to, “I’m sorry to bother you, but I have Autism and I’d really appreciate if you would sit somewhere else” isn’t, “YOU MUST HATE KIDS!!” or “IF IT’S SUCH A PROBLEM, WHY DON’T YOU EAT AT HOME!!” Those responses, alienate people who may have been willing to be helpful or to compromise previously.

    I used to get upset when people said I hated kids, I used to bring up that if I hated kids, I wouldn’t care how my behavior affected them. I wouldn’t care that if I yelled ow, if they should yell that they might get upset. Then, I realized after enough crying and feeling something was wrong with me, that it wasn’t that something was wrong with me. It was that those parents wouldn’t even think outside of themselves for even a few minutes, to consider that if they just sat a few seats down they could avoid a conflict or a situation. Instead they actively initated the conflict.

    I do know good parents, there are plenty of them out there, who are considerate of others, and understand how their behavior affects their children. The reason people bring up the parents who may behave not so well, is because those parents make a scene of themselves. They also always deflect advice or help aimed at them, as being an attack on their children. It doesn’t take much for “Could you please try to keep your child quiet” to turn into “You’re telling me something is wrong with my baby!!!” If they make it about the child, well nobody can say anything about their child without looking like a fool, so it’s a sure fire way of avoiding having to face that they should change their behavior.

    I don’t go out of my way to make trouble for parents, it’s just that I feel a sense of having to walk on eggshells around them, that’s what bothers me. It feels like if I make one wrong look, don’t immedately tell them what wonderful children they have, I’m in for it.

    So if the last 5 times you’ve tried to tell a parent to keep their kid from running around, and you’ve been yelled at about how you’re saying their child is a hellion, you’re going to build a sense of defensiveness towards the people who have treated you that way. If there just would be some calm discussion, rather then immediately assuming the person is claiming they’re a bad parent, or their child is a brat, there would be less of a issue between parents and people without kids.

  370. just sayin'
    just sayin' May 16, 2010 at 10:21 pm |

    “Yeah, this appalls me.

    Recently there was an incident where my husband and I had a dumpster on the street, where we had thrown lots and lots of moldy, rotten wood from our garage, and a bunch of local boys, approximately 8-11 or so, one of whom we know and the rest of whom we don’t, kept trying to get into the dumpster.”

    In my neighborhood and in my last 3 neighborhoods, I could pick the kids that live there out of a lineup. They don’t all look alike, you grasping real-estate-loving child-hating bigot. Because I talked to them, like they were actually, you know, people.

    I cannot believe the level of hate for people who are children.

  371. shah8
    shah8 May 16, 2010 at 10:32 pm |

    Wow, when I saw that comments were over 300, I though it was a flame war, and it sorta was, in the beginning, but by about comment 250 it started getting really awesome, and I learned a bit more about how my feelings are shaped…

    I mean, heck, when I started, I agreed with Jill. By the time I read comment 382 and far too much time spent (gotta go lift weights), I disagreed. I think Renee‘s comments earlier on, as well as some of the other people were really unhelpful, and disguised the flaws in Jill‘s way of thinking.

    I think there is one central flaw and it’s the notion of policing, by an individual or by a community, as a one time procedure and experience. The “regulars” police a certain public space all the time, and there is constant interchange of norms validation as people move into and out of spaces. For instance, the last time *I* went to a fancy restaurant, it was an occasion and there was a serious jazz band on stage. Everyone knows that this is not really a child-friendly space, and the vast majority of parents respects that. And I bet the majority of parents who still brings a child, has an expectation that he or she will be behaved/enjoying while the performance happens. Same with classical quartet performances, kayaking, or any other group activity that cannot easily accomodate children.

    The problems have always been with a) jerk parents or b)overwhelmed parents. And there’s nothing you really can do about either and the evening’s toast. Shit happens. SoooOOOOoooO, to argue about “boundaries” when it comes to children in public spaces is very much a distraction, because there is far more of a problem with people overpolicing public spaces, and using the behavior of atrocious people, parents and children, to give themselves the justification to coerce your behavior, lightly or heavily, for the pleasure of their own power-tripping. Ultimately, there are many explicitly noxious comparable sentiments that maps pretty similarly. It seems reasonable, but it tries to fix a problem that is not especially widespread, because the problem most advocates (hypocrite or no) of that position *wants* to fix, in actuality, is considered a good thing by most people. One illegal immigrant commits a crime–all illegal immigrants should go home scenario, for instance.

  372. Kelly
    Kelly May 16, 2010 at 10:44 pm |

    @ eli
    “Is it a cute game or an insidious way of this child being taught how powerful she is and how powerless others have to be, because her parents have money”

    It’s called object permanence.

  373. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers May 16, 2010 at 10:56 pm |

    It’s called object permanence.

    Either that, or a scientific experiment conducted on the existence of gravity. There’s actually a theory that the reason humans are able to do science is that babies are wired to perform experiments to determine how reality works, such as dropping various objects multiple times to observe the fact that things fall down.

    Also, in most circumstances it’s Mom picking it up, not the waitress. If the parents are assholes, they may make the waitress pick it up every time; if the parents are exhausted and sluggish, and the waitress is sympathetic and/or wants a good tip, she may act to pick it up before they do; unless you’re the waitress, or observing the interaction very closely, you cannot tell the difference between the two well enough to judge the parents.

  374. Lasciel
    Lasciel May 16, 2010 at 11:22 pm |

    Where do teens get paid $4 & $5 an hour to babysit? The suburbs? I wouldn’t know know about that. All the teenage girls where I lived got paid $2, or $1 an hour if they were younger. I took $1 an hour when I babysat.

    I apologize for my reverse-classism, PrettyAmiable. I don’t know how all you nice middle-class folks can deal with my ignorance of your budgeting theories.

    If you can tolerate this piece of trash’s ignorant curiosity, maybe you could explain to me how it cost over $7.50 per child to feed them with food from a grocery store. You’re not feeding them crackers and caviar are you?

  375. Ouyang Dan
    Ouyang Dan May 16, 2010 at 11:29 pm |

    I know those people! The people with the constantly screaming baby and the very ill behaved child! They are very busy, constantly going from place to place, forcing their screaming, never consoled child on everyone while their kid runs amok, throwing silverware at everyone!

    I never actually see them, because I mean, they are like, everywhere at once, forcing their way into all those nice, posh restaurants and wreaking havoc with all their crayons and jam-hands, but apparently countless other people do. The mum, I heard, was pitching a fit the other day because she couldn’t get her stroller on the subway. The next person who sees them, please get their autograph for me, because anyone who can travel that quickly across the globe deserves to disrupt my $100 dinner.

  376. Politicalguineapig
    Politicalguineapig May 16, 2010 at 11:41 pm |

    Off-topic: some animals knock down stuff just to make sure the gravity’s still on. Not in resturants though.

  377. piny
    piny May 17, 2010 at 12:04 am |

    If one examines the subtext behind many of these “screaming children” stories, most who harbor such anti-child prejudices tend to feel put upon in any and all public spaces unless:

    …There’s a tin-whistle infant going off a few feet away. It happens. It happens. If you have ever taken care of a kid, especially an infant, you know perfectly well that they scream and cry all the time. They make loud unpleasant noises. There’s no perfect solution to that, and therefore no reasonable expectation of being shielded from it–at least, all the time–but it happens and it can be fucking unbearable. Parents often feel the same way. It’s normal to be irritated, just as it’s normal to be irritated by a jackhammer outside your window.

    I love children. I love playing with them, talking to them, caring for them, teaching them, and hanging out with them. I don’t mind them running around in public, or making noise, and I think I’m pretty tolerant of screaming and crying. It doesn’t get to me, the way nails on a blackboard don’t get to other people.

    But I’d be a jerk if I expected other people to feel that way just because I do. Public space is necessary to all kinds of people for all kinds of reasons–that coffee shop is an office for plenty of workers, many of them without other options. So I don’t think rules and restrictions are bad per se, and I don’t think this issue is all about hating on mothers. If we’re going to manage this communal responsibility effectively, then we have to be realistic about what it involves. It involves screaming.

    I really don’t think most people are lying, or being unreasonable, about their bad reactions to badly-behaved children. I’ve seen plenty of bratty kids in my time, and plenty of parents who let them walk all over other adults. That dynamic can involve a lot of racism and classism, too. Bystander complaints are frequently selfish and self-righteous, but that doesn’t make them inaccurate.

    I agree that children are an oppressed class, but I’m also not sure I agree that it’s wrong or bigoted to say you just don’t like kids. We do generalize–and have generalized in this thread–about the way kids behave. They’re loud, rambunctious, self-absorbed, impulsive, volatile: immature. Some people aren’t temperamentally suited to taking care of them or being around them, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

  378. William
    William May 17, 2010 at 12:07 am |

    Now children are viewed as an indication of wealth, as their parents are assumed to have passed a certain set of milestones before having them…If the economy recovers, there’ll be more children around,

    Its been awhile since I’ve heard someone invoke Thomas Malthus.

  379. Mina
    Mina May 17, 2010 at 12:10 am |

    “And it trivializes feminist, childfree women like me who do dislike children, but are not monstrous, baby-eating bigots as alleged by Sybil Vane & Co. I’ve already felt antagonized by the attitudes of child-related entitlement these women swing around. This demonization of people who dislike children just drives home the point that these women don’t want to engage in a dialogue; they want to judge others for not having the same values, beliefs, and interests.” -Leah
    Allow me to help you out there, Leah. Consider the fact that children, like women, or any other group for that matter. Are human. As human, they deserve 1)rights and 2) freedom from discrimination. By announcing that one “hates kids” one makes a statement similar to that of a person who claims to hate women, or a racial group, etc.
    Remember, Feminism is about combating privilege: Gender privilege, race privilege, hetero privilege, -and YES, even age-privilege. Adults have privilege, and traditionally, children suffer from oppression at the hands of adults. As a feminist, I realize that feminism doesn’t stop with gender issues, it extends to all groups.
    Allow me also to remind you that you, yes, were a child once. One of the common failings of the “I hate kids” types is the failure to remember that you came into the world as a child. For those expressing discriminatory views towards children, I invite you to question if you stepped out of your mother’s womb fully-developed and ready to behave in the world around you. Which is not to say children shouldn’t behave in public, those who care for them should ensure that they understand good manners and consequences. I threw a tantrum ONCE in public at age 3. My mother responded by taking me straight home. It never happened again.
    Remember people, children are humans too. Respect them as such. That doesn’t mean you should tolerate inconsideration and misbehavior, but set an example as mature, respectful adults.

    “You don’t get to step in because you are annoyed when on a daily basis society does next to nothing to support children or their parents. I’m sorry, but are you f**king KIDDING me? Society revolves around parents. I have NEVER received tax breaks for not having kids even though I certainly use fewer resources than the childed. I’ve never seen “Adults Eat/Stay Free” advertised anywhere. I’ve never seen people without kids get any kind of preference for social services like health care, food stamps, or housing; in fact, some agencies REFUSE to help you if you don’t have children.”
    Ah, yes. Wat about teh adultz??!!!!

  380. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable May 17, 2010 at 12:20 am |

    Lasciel, you’re classist comments are not “reverse” classism. You do not get a bye from all classist comments if you happen to be economically disadvantaged; see my Ann Coulter analysis above. And, as it happens, poor people also need sitters if they are to go out without their children.

    MY kids aren’t getting shit because I don’t have kids. First, look upthread at all the people who called bullshit on your $2 babysitters. No one thinks a babysitter today costs $2 except you. Even my low-end figured babysitters were shat on. So no, assuming you’re lucky enough to get a babysitter for $5 and are only planning on being out an hour for your dinner, then the meal your child would eat would have to cost less than $2.50 for it to be less than the $7.50 they would cost at Denny’s. Have you been in a grocery store and taken a look around? How many food groups do you think you can hit for $2.50?

    Sorry. I can’t tell if you’re being intellectually dishonest or if you honestly can’t handle the simple arithmetic involved – in which case, I apologize for my tone.

  381. exholt
    exholt May 17, 2010 at 12:58 am |

    People are complaining about loud, unexpected noises, and unexpectedly boisterous behavior in public. Most people who exhibit this behavior are young children.

    Most who exhibit this behavior are young children? Really?? Where is this vast multitude of young children who make loud, unexpected noises and are unexpectedly boisterous?? I’ve yet to see a multitude of such kids sufficient to warrant this level of outrage in my decades of growing up and living in NYC

    The vast majority of those who exhibit the behaviors you describe in public are overwhelmingly “adults”….whether they are undergrads/young professionals, adult jerks who throw tantrums/objects because their meal wasn’t made to their liking/server refused further drinks because they were too drunk, or middle-aged adults/seniors who feel their age/status exempts them from having to observe basic common courtesies…especially towards those who are younger and/or having lower status.

    In short, why scornfully single out kids and their parents for behaviors that are at least just as, if not more commonplace among adults??

    Especially when IME, I’ve seen far more instances of people scornfully criticizing kids and/or their parents merely for being present in public places than people actually calling out noisy jerky assholish adults.

    Personally, I’d think it be more rational and productive to scornfully call out adults who behave this way as they tend to be far more commonplace in the urban public spaces I’ve seen in my lifetime, especially NYC…..and could potentially cause far more damage/harm if left unchecked.

  382. Kite
    Kite May 17, 2010 at 1:00 am |

    Oh, a nice restaurant! A fancy restaurant. Even a $100 restaurant! Well of course you deserve to be left alone. Rich people are more concerned with liberal “freedom from”, having gained their “freedom to” rights with class privilege. How nice for you. Where do the people with kids go to eat then? Or should they just all employ a nanny?

  383. exholt
    exholt May 17, 2010 at 1:15 am |

    We do generalize–and have generalized in this thread–about the way kids behave. They’re loud, rambunctious, self-absorbed, impulsive, volatile: immature.

    If one wants to be fair and maintain a semblance of intellectual honesty, all of those traits are just as applicable to human beings…regardless of age.

    Those traits are part and parcel of the human condition, as unfortunate as that is.

  384. Napalmnacey
    Napalmnacey May 17, 2010 at 1:38 am |

    You know, most of the time I felt welcome in this space, and I felt Feministe was a space that shared my views but to see so much horrible anti-children vitriol in this thread just makes me sick to my stomach.

    Children need grown-ups. They are little people that need help to survive into adulthood. If a child exhibits annoying behaviour, it is because they’ve not been appropriately socialised to a certain situation – that comes with time. Hating an entire group of people because of a trait they cannot at that point help is bigotry, pure and simple. If you don’t like it, bully for you. There’s no way around that fact.

    And yes, hating children is not feminist. And not because women are mothers. Because feminism is about the rights of *all people*, and all people, male or female, start out as babies, and then children, and then tweens and then teens. They are struggling to make it through and they have their own challenges and problems and dreams. And to say to an entire group of people, “We don’t want you in our space because you inconvenience us” is the height of callousness and it dehumanises them.

    So, Jill – a baby kept dropping a fork? Really? You’re upset about that? It’s a FORK. You were annoyed – big deal! Ignore the child – you’re the grown up. That’s what you do. So little babies aren’t allowed to have gourmet meals? They aren’t allowed to go with their parents to a special night out? I agree that they probably should have told the waiter, “Don’t worry about the fork” and then the game would have been over. But that’s not a reason to bar an entire group of humans out of a social situation.

    Seriously, though, this thread is freakin’ shameful.

  385. Yonmei
    Yonmei May 17, 2010 at 2:10 am |

    Faith: Don’t address me. Just don’t. Ever. I can’t respond to your comments in any reasonable way without getting infuriated at your utter and complete arrogance. I have explained myself. If you still don’t get it, just leave me the hell alone and I’ll do the same to you.

    The thing that struck me particularly about Sailorman’s contributions to this thread: He claimed parental experience, than admitted multiple comments on that he’s not actually his kids primary carer: he frequently only sees his kids while they’re asleep. His interactions with awake kids in public places are likely to be as a non-parent glaring at the “screaming kids” – and yet he presumes to mansplain to people who actually do have to look after small children what he thinks they should do in a situation of which he has small to no experience.

    I’m not arguing as Hannah did far upthread that no one not-a-parent should contribute to a discussion. I’m just noting that Sailorman’s claims that he doesn’t allow his children to impose on anyone but him, when he isn’t anywhere close to being their 24/7 primary carer, are ludicrous nonsense.

    Rebecca: I’ve been reading it since the beginning, and I’m not sure how you’d interpret this exchange (paraphrased):

    I interpret your paraphrasing of the exchange as your attempt to make the exchange mean what you want it to mean – rather like asking a loaded question.

    Your wish to believe that people are arguing on this thread that parents don’t have to teach their children to respect others, will not make it so no matter how many “paraphrases” you come up with or how many “loaded questions” you ask in order to convince yourself.

  386. Dana
    Dana May 17, 2010 at 3:07 am |

    Wow, this thread is spectacular. Reminds me of why my opinions on children/child rearing are the one topic I avoid unless I know the person very well.

    I have read a vast majority of the comments on the thread, and I would venture less than 5% of the comments have even attempted to be reasonable, and half of those have failed to avoid stooping to point-scoring.

    My opinion? That it’s an incredibly grey area that can only be judged by individual circumstance, but of course there are times and places where children (or your child/ren at that specific time) are not appropriate.

    I do not mean children should be banned from anywhere. I do not in any way deny that when you venture into public with children you very often do get glares simply for being there. And I certainly am not saying that children are consistently the (only/worst) ones who infringe unavoidably on everyone around them.

    But it is not unreasonable to say there are times when sorry, since your child is your responsibility and the situation is becoming untenable, you’re just going to have to get the short end of the stick.

    I understand that reading the above in the now-very-charged conversation we’re having will sound a lot harsher than I mean it to be. But I have to throw my 2c in there, if only to attempt to add to the total posts not calling anyone an arsehole. :/

    *Yup. I’ll discuss with virtual strangers religion, politics, sex in great detail, but not children if I can avoid it.

  387. ACG
    ACG May 17, 2010 at 3:57 am |

    I used to be of the “I hate kids” variety, but then I thought about it and realized that no, it isn’t fair. And it isn’t accurate. I don’t hate kids. Kids are human beings. They’re people. The thing is, they’re really new at being people, so they aren’t good at it yet. And that’s why they have parents and/or other caretakers to help them learn to be good at being people.

    One thing that makes it very tough is that a kid just can’t learn how to behave properly in an adult environment without being out in it. Chuck E. Cheese doesn’t teach a kid how to behave at Ruby Tuesday. But going to Ruby Tuesday and acting like it’s a Chuck E. Cheese also doesn’t teach a kid how to behave at Ruby Tuesday. And there’s a big difference between “he’s kind of fussy today; we’re still learning how to behave in a restaurant without a jungle gym” and “you need to get over my unsupervised child, because I paid for this salad and I’m damn well going to eat it.”

    It’s not a matter of “children should be seen and not heard.” It’s a matter of “children who are brought to places with adults should be guided in the art of acting like the adults they will eventually be.” I’ve had many a lovely brunch with friends and their children. I remember one very pleasant conversation with a two-year-old wearing a little tiara; I have no idea what she was saying, but that didn’t seem a barrier to conversation for either of us. No one was ignoring her or shushing her or telling her not to be a kid. But when she started getting antsy, her mom swooped her up and took her out to play on the lawn, because that’s where playing happens and inside the restaurant is where eating happens.

    I am entirely sympathetic to parents and guardians – while I have no kids myself, it’s not hard to see the frustration sometimes in others. But by having child-aged people, you’ve taken on the responsibility of teaching them to eventually be adult-aged people. And letting a kid “cry out” a temper tantrum at a movie theatre doesn’t teach them anything about appropriate movie-theatre behavior. And removing a squalling child from a movie theatre doesn’t teach that child that children deserve to be segregated from adults; it teaches that child that they don’t get to hang out with adults when they stop behaving and that when they start behaving again, they do get to hang out with adults. Positive reinforcement.

    I don’t think it’s necessary to designate some spaces as family-only, full-stop, and others as adults-only, full-stop. But I think we all have to be respectful of the choices that other people make. I tend to choose restaurants based on atmosphere – I don’t really enjoy a lot of noise, stickiness, or wild activity, so I tend to avoid Chick-Fil-A and Hooters (and when I do find myself there, I suck it up, because those are places that tend to be noisy, sticky, and kind of wild). I do like to eat at restaurants that are fairly quiet and relaxing. I’ll be glad for you and your well-behaved child to sit and eat with me as long as I’m allowed to continue appreciating the atmosphere. When your kid starts getting unruly, I object not because kids don’t belong here or because parents don’t deserve nice meals but because there’s a place for unruliness, this ain’t it, and your kid isn’t learning the difference tearing around the room and running into things.

  388. piny
    piny May 17, 2010 at 4:08 am |

    If one wants to be fair and maintain a semblance of intellectual honesty, all of those traits are just as applicable to human beings…regardless of age.

    If you want to maintain a semblance of intellectual honesty–and if you’ve been listening to the parents and caretakers all over this thread–you need to acknowledge that children are very different from adults.

    Adults do exhibit these behaviors, especially when they’re drunk or high. In general, however, children are more likely to act in childlike ways. They have a harder time sitting still, staying quiet, focusing for long periods of time, waiting for things they want or need, balancing checkbooks, and so on and so forth. They usually can’t enjoy Breaking the Waves. They usually can’t hold their liquor. They usually don’t need to devote an afternoon to finalizing a business plan. They usually don’t want a quiet espresso after dinner.

    That’s because they’re children. This is why a toddler who thinks it’s super fun to drop a fork on the floor over and over again for the waiter to pick up is a normal toddler playing a toddler game, but an adult who did the same thing would be really unusual. Or really drunk.

    There’s nothing wrong with this! It doesn’t make them bad or their company objectively objectionable. It doesn’t mean that children need to be controlled or punished or kept away from adults. It doesn’t mean that children are being raised wrong. It doesn’t mean they need to change. It just means that they’re different.

    And there’s nothing wrong with saying so. It’s pro-child to acknowledge that children have different needs and desires. It’s pro-parent to acknowledge that caretakers need help accommodating those different needs and desires.

  389. Natalia
    Natalia May 17, 2010 at 4:42 am |

    Maybe some of this, is that if people without children behaved in the manner people with children sometimes do, they would be criticized for it. Like if I had a meltdown, and was a parent, I’d get some understanding. If I have a meltdown without having a child people will think something is wrong with me.

    Well, as I mentioned – chronic post-traumatic stress. It means I cry in public, probably more than the average person. I don’t do it loudly, but that doesn’t stop people from glaring at me – hey, I’m spoiling their view with my unhappiness. Can’t I just be upset at home? Having also been out with my kid brother plenty of times, I’d also hear the snide little comments about how I should have thought about it before spreading my legs – you know, the difference between us being so great that I was routinely mistaken for a teenage mom, and got all of the usual scorn that people heap on teenage moms, whether their kids are behaving or not.

    But hey, I guess all of that is cool, since women are more “emotional” and more prone to inflicting their emotions in sinister ways on an unsuspecting public, or whatever.

    Honestly. This thread. Wow.

  390. Jackie
    Jackie May 17, 2010 at 4:55 am |

    Exholt, you so easily forget, adults tend not to have extremely high pitched voices like young children tend to do. Therfore it’s different then a loud adult who does not have that kind of voice.

    Maybe there should be a section for people who aren’t childfree, then parents can keep their sense of not feeling dehumanized, and the people who want a pleasant childfree space to eat in can have one. Does that work for you?

  391. Jemima Aslana
    Jemima Aslana May 17, 2010 at 5:34 am |

    Someone upthread made the point that in the case of restaurants people PAY for the service there.

    That reminded me of my mum’s work. She teaches music. Parents pay to send their kiddies to music school after the normal school-day has ended. My mum has solo pupils as well as classes of 4-6 kids. Most are 6-7 years old when they start, some a little older, and many stay on till aged 18 or more even. The classes with 4-6 pupils are a frequent source of both amusement, grief, worry etc.

    For instance, in one of her 6-pupil classes there’s a girl who never, ever brings her instrument and music book. The girl is 6-7 so it’s hardly her sole responsibility to remember it. Her mother (whom I think is single) absolutely refuses to follow instructions and make sure her daughter brings what she’s supposed to. This results in the poor child never having practiced, and never being able to fully participate in classes. One would think this only harmed the child’s own education, and one could therefore just not care, because hey, they paid for it, it’s their choice if they want to waste it. However, the non-participating child becomes a disturbance for the other children who have ALSO paid for these classes. So who should we cater to? The mother who’s having a totally hard life and is pretty much in the process of ruining her daughter’s music classes and we should absolutely understand that it’s so hard. Or should we also take into account that there are 5 other kids, whose parents have ALSO paid, and who DO make sure that the kids bring their instruments, books and have practiced their stuff at home?

    Everybody has paid the exact same amount. Why should the girl be allowed to ruin the classes for 5 other students who paid just as much? Answer: She shouldn’t. By now the season’s almost over, but if she’s signed up for next year, my mother will refuse to have her in a group-class. She will be offered solo-classes, because then she can’t ruin it for anyone else.

    Is this a good solution? No. But since no one can force her mother to start taking an interest in the child, it is the only solution that doesn’t piss all over the 5 other sets of parents who also paid for the classes.

    This seems fair, because everyone paid for being there. At a restaurant people also pay for being there, and if you think it is okay to ruin the paid-for activities of other people it’s only fair that you reimburse them. No, a few minutes of crying won’t ruin anything. I’ve seen/heard that often enough. I’ve never actually heard a baby scream their lungs out for 30 minutes in a restaurant. Other places? Oh yes. But never restaurants. Why? Maybe because the parents are aware that other people PAY to be there as well. But that’s just me taking a wild guess.

    I *have* seen children fight and wrestle on the floor, bumping into tables as well as customers. Several times. That’s not okay either.

    I have seen a child during the evening mass at Christmas Eve run around annoying several people. Touching them, hitting other children, pulling at the altar cloth and nearly toppling over a candlestick with lit candles and the parents did NOTHING.

    If people want to think I’m a liar and this is a strawchild as has been suggested up above, then that’s fine.

    The incidents thankfully do not happen often, but that does not change the fact that they do happen. And yes, if people pay for a service and that service is seriously devalued due to uncomfortable noise levels, they’re allowed to be cranky and annoyed. If people go to church, albeit that it’s free, they’re allowed to be cranky if a child is hitting their children, or is at risk of setting fire to things.

    This is no different than me being allowed to be cranky if drunk men decide that it’s totally okay to touch me and call me a bitch when I object to their touch.

    If in family restaurants, if in parks, if in public, free-access places children are being children: No biggie. I can leave. In the first case, children are to be expected and in the latter two I didn’t pay to be there, but if I pay for something, I have as much right to have a good time as everyone else, be they children or adults. That is why loud drunks are frequently removed from restaurants, that’s why I have been asked to speak more quietly at a restaurant (I have a tendency to get a little loud, due to my disability), that’s why you don’t bring your pets to restaurants (and I specifically mean pets, service animals are NOT pets), it is because the other patrons have also paid to be there. Why should parents with their children present be exempt from this? So far no one has been able to explain that.

    Yes, children are human. So are the rest of us. It’s not fair to demand that children stop being children, just like it’s rather pointless to order a drunk person to stop being drunk, or to order a PWD to stop being disabled, just because you don’t want to be faced with other people’s troubles.

    Total segregation is not cool, of course. But if you’ve sat down in the Quiet Lounge on the train (yes, we have those. They’re utter bliss), you can reasonably expect quiet. Anyone making noise in there will be asked to leave – and that includes noisy children. So if a restaurant advertises with a quiet atmosphere, it’s not unreasonable to expect quiet, and to expect that people who are not quiet are asked to leave – once again including children.

    And let me just emphasize that whether the venue is quiet or not has nothing to do with the price tags on the menu. We have fine dining restaurants here that also cater to children – as it should be. We actually have very few cheap eateries that don’t. As it is, there are more places where children are welcome than not. That means my choice of dining venue is limited – and even more so on sports nights.

    I have ordered take-out for more often than I’ve eaten at the venue itself. And I seldom pick things up myself, because the noise-level in certain places can be too much even for the 8 minutes it takes to rush in, pay and pick up.

    But I suppose I should just stay at home, and never go out if I can’t handle what society entails. If y’all childed folks wanna share my meltdowns, be my guest. I’m quite used to not being seen as fully human, because I’m unable to live with the noise-level at McDonald’s. If I need hangover-munch, I use the drive-in.

  392. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan May 17, 2010 at 5:39 am |

    In all fairness to the misbehaving kids out there, if their parents are anything like a lot of the parents on here (getting into a giant fussy huff about some spaces being public and therefore needing to be shared with people who are not children, whining about how horrifying and literally nauseating other people’s very-slightly-different opinions are, “Not-my-Nigel!”ing until they’re blue in the face, vacillating wildly between insisting that children are exactly like adults and complaining that children are so different that those unfulfilled childless women could never understand, and making extremely tasteless suggestions like “try substituting Koreans!” and basically just acting like a huge pile of immature selfish assholes) I would probably have messy public meltdowns all the time, too.

    Seriously, I know plenty of parents who seem to keep their shit together. And most children seem to keep their shit together pretty well, too. So why is everyone on this thread so damn bent on losing their shit all over the damn page the second a really-very-mild middle ground of removing dramatically upset children from certain inappropriate situations is suggested? If you and your kids do not regularly act like raging assholes in public then props to you, Jill probably was not criticizing your parenting!

  393. Jemima Aslana
    Jemima Aslana May 17, 2010 at 5:39 am |

    @ ACG

    “One thing that makes it very tough is that a kid just can’t learn how to behave properly in an adult environment without being out in it. Chuck E. Cheese doesn’t teach a kid how to behave at Ruby Tuesday. But going to Ruby Tuesday and acting like it’s a Chuck E. Cheese also doesn’t teach a kid how to behave at Ruby Tuesday. And there’s a big difference between “he’s kind of fussy today; we’re still learning how to behave in a restaurant without a jungle gym” and “you need to get over my unsupervised child, because I paid for this salad and I’m damn well going to eat it.””

    Yes, this!

  394. Yonmei
    Yonmei May 17, 2010 at 6:25 am |

    One of the ways in which you can tell children are an oppressed group:

    A noisy white man, behaving like a jerk, is just an individual jerk. No one suggests that because some white men are noisy and behave like jerks, all white men should be banned from anywhere people want to spend quality time. “People”, in this understanding, obviously not including white men.

    But: it’s not so long since it would have been quite acceptable to offer examples of black people behaving loutishly as evidence that nice restaurants shouldn’t have to cater to black people. It is absolutely true – this thread stands witness! – that many people will argue that because they can offer for real examples of children and parents behaving loutishly, that this is sufficient evidence that nice restaurants shouldn’t have to cater to children.

    And those of us who have consistently and sanely pointed out that doing so is actively discriminatory towards those who are primary providers of care to young children (who are, for the most part, women, making this a feminist issue) are getting our views dismissed and decried because obviously, we’re just “getting into a giant fussy huff”.

    Well, yes. I’m a feminist. I object to women being discriminated against. It is discriminatory against women for public spaces, like restaurants, to be unwelcoming to children, because banning children either directly or indirectly is a most effective way of ensuring that most of the adults banned will be women.

  395. Anji
    Anji May 17, 2010 at 7:24 am |

    I just read this whole thread and frankly felt a bit sick at the number of non-parents who simply will not believe that children are an oppressed group. May I suggest the Adult Privilege Checklist as starter reading?

    I agree with Lauredhel that the number of people here advocating physical violence towards children is disturbing, and with Miriam Heddy about the ‘children as a choice’ argument being a straw argument. Not to mention, not all parents do choose to be parents and to assume so is privileged indeed.

  396. Faith
    Faith May 17, 2010 at 7:36 am |

    “At a restaurant people also pay for being there, and if you think it is okay to ruin the paid-for activities of other people it’s only fair that you reimburse them.”

    I’m sorry. I just don’t get this mentality. I appreciate it in theory, of course. But in practice the idea that people have some sort of right to not have to deal with any intrusion upon their paid experience just isn’t realistic while living in the real world. I suppose part of why I’m more tolerant of these things isn’t just that I have children so I appreciate the parent’s POV, but I also have the mentality that “shit happen”. It does. It’s a fact. Not only does shit happen, but if I’m in a public space I have to appreciate that other people aren’t going to always be able to accommodate my desire to have a nice, quiet evening out. Sometimes people – not just children – get upset; sometimes stuff gets knocked over; sometimes cell phones will ring; sometimes some kid sitting behind me in a movie theater might kick my seat. There’s no getting around that fact of life without completely removing yourself from humanity.

  397. chava
    chava May 17, 2010 at 7:47 am |

    @ Anji:
    No one here “advocated” spanking. A few of us said we didn’t want to lump it in with child abuse and other forms of serious assault and battery (for various reasons). We didn’t even all say we thought it was OKAY. I don’t even think any of us said we, personally, spank our children.

    But no one is posting with a “spare the rod, spoil the child” attitude.

    @ Bagelsan–
    Finally, someone points out the problems with the “try substituting KOREANS!” remarks. Bitch PhD carefully explained why she was subbing in the metaphor even once, and why she thought it was effective, so it didn’t bother me. But throwing it around rather does.

    And while I 100% percent agree that children are a vunerable, often abused and exploited group, I have a lot of issues with that “checklist.”

  398. Still learning
    Still learning May 17, 2010 at 8:01 am |

    I wish commenters here would pay more attention to the very insightful comments above that talk about this issue as one of conflicting access needs. I know for myself, I have found after extensive trial-and-error that coffee shops and similar public spaces are really the ONLY places I can expect to get a decent amount of work done (libraries freak me out and give me panic attacks, staying at home fuels my depression). I can’t afford to go to places like coffee shops all that often, meaning I expect to get a whole ton of work done when I do go. I also get terrible migraines, and am thus incredibly sensitive to loud noises. This is usually not a problem, because coffee shops in my area are usually pretty quiet and peaceful places – but when there are screaming kids around (which there sometimes are, this is NOT a strawman argument by any means), I won’t be able to stay there. Sometimes the same thing happens with loud groups of adolescents or even adults, but I have had many more problems with children.

    I recognise that parents and kids have a right to be there making whatever noise they want, but that doesn’t mean you can expect me to be all cheerful and good-natured about it as I head home for yet another unproductive, depressing day in my house.

  399. Ledasmom
    Ledasmom May 17, 2010 at 8:16 am |

    You know, some of us have seen, many times, wailing kids in restaurants. Our own. It does make one think about how often one may have been rude without intending to; the level of child-noise that’s annoying to a parent is generally higher than that that’s to a non-parent.
    The problem with happy baby noises vs. upset baby noises is that they’re equally irritating to the person who just wants a nice quiet dinner. Babies and children are generally less able than adults to moderate their tone (not every child, possibly not your child, but in general). It’s a skill that they develop, the appropriate tone, but they shouldn’t be in places that require quiet while they develop it.
    I am surprised, again, by the disregard for quiet as a necessity. There aren’t many things more stressful for me, and I assume for others as well, than constant noise. It’s not just being picky.

  400. tinfoil hattie
    tinfoil hattie May 17, 2010 at 8:22 am |

    I don’t think “hating children” is a problem as long as those who hate children agree to forego all services of any kind in 25-30 years. Because those children you “hate” today will be performing your surgeries, pushing your wheelchair, serving your $100 dinner in a restaurant, collecting your trash, running the cash register for your purchases, teaching the next generation of hate-ables, registering your auto, repairing the escalators you ride, driving buses, flying planes, etc.

  401. Yonmei
    Yonmei May 17, 2010 at 8:22 am |

    Curiously enough, I just spent half an hour at an outside table at a local cafe (it’s a beautiful day, I wanted a break). There was a cluster of children with at least one supervisory adult. The children were running up and down the decking between the tables, talking to each other about the ships they could see in the harbour. I enjoyed my book, the sun, and my coffee.

  402. WestEndGirl
    WestEndGirl May 17, 2010 at 8:25 am |

    Now here’s the rub. I absolutely adore children. I am that silly woman who makes silly faces at children getting a bit fractious at the supermarket to cheer them up. I am that person helping a mum up/down some stairs with a buggy. I am that friend who walked my mates’ screaming (and I mean screaming!) baby up and down the airplane aisle for four hours because he was teething and the air pressure was hurting him so that my mates could get a break. I don’t glare at children or their parents/caregivers if they are not being absolutely silent and unobtrusive in my presence in a public place. Their energy and innocence and enthusiam for life is a delight. I look forward to maybe having a few of my own if I can find a nice partner to make them with!

    However and but and but and but…..I am clearly also the evil kid hater that some parents here seem to paint, because I also very much feel that there are now more parents than ever before who don’t actually parent appropriately and allow their children to impinge negatively on people around them with minimal consideration for others. And I don’t see the two as mutually exclusive, despite the hyperbole in this thread.

    Off the top of my head in the last week:
    - The parent who at rush hour on the Tube let their four small children take up four seats – despite the fact that children go free -rather than making them easily share two to a seat or sit on a parent’s lap, forcing several elderly people to stand.
    - The child who was ramming its scooter forcibly into people’s legs in a queue at a department store and not being told to stop doing so at all, in any way whatsoever.
    - The four sets of parents enjoying brunch and several bottles of wine at a Carluccios on Sunday where their children ran literal havoc – throwing food, running around, screaming – around the table, with just one poor mum trying to keep to keep an eye on them all and the rest ignoring their responsibilities entirely.
    - The little girl who came up to me at a family event on Saturday and said you have a fat stomach and a fat bum, and when I told her that everyone is different and it wasn’t nice to comment personally on people, her mum remonstrated with me for criticising her daughter and she was just expressing herself and that I did, in fact, have a fat stomach and bum.

    Can any of the parents on here *really* say that any of the above is acceptable? That the reason I didn’t like this is because I am an evil childless kid hater? Or is it, in fact, because I don’t like this because children need to be taught appropriate behaviour where possible and how to interact with people and when. Because if they are not, they will almost necesssarily behave rudely, inappropriately and negatively impact on people. And that is what is unacceptable. Not those people objecting to being kicked, or insulted or screamed at.

    But while I have worked with and looked after many children, I reflected that, as I am not a parent, perhaps I was not qualified to judge the level of responsibility that is in fact possible. So before I decided to comment, I asked my Mum who, raised my sister and I, but also until December looked after my 5-year old niece for four days per week, while my sister worked. And my Mum’s response was that she is *shocked* at some people’s parenting, abrogating all responsibility for poor behaviour because they want to be their children’s friend and don’t know who or can’t be bothered to teach their children appropriate behaviour.

    So, on reflection, I felt that yes, I am right. That you can love children like I do, but still think they can behave like little g*ts some time and they should be told not to do so. It is not oppression, it is not unreasonable, it is not hate, of the children or their parents, it is basic common courtesy.

    There are adult-only spaces (bars, clubs and such like) and childrens-only spaces (jungle gyms and such like) and mixed spaces. And where there are mixed spaces, in the same way that I moderate my remarkable swearing habit in front of small children, the parents of small children should do their best to moderate the children’s behaviour where it is inconsiderate. Basic common courtesy. Not enough of it around these days for sure.

  403. Sailorman
    Sailorman May 17, 2010 at 9:20 am |

    Yonmei 5.17.2010 at 2:10 am
    The thing that struck me particularly about Sailorman’s contributions to this thread: He claimed parental experience, than admitted multiple comments on that he’s not actually his kids primary carer: he frequently only sees his kids while they’re asleep.

    Hey, are you sure you’re a feminist? Because those things aren’t dichotomous, and that’s a pretty nasty assumption. See, men work AND women work. Sometimes I don’t see the kids for ages because I’m too busy working; sometimes my wife doesn’t see the kids for ages because she’s too busy working. Sometimes she works school vacations; sometimes I work school vacations. She does dentists, I do doctors. And so on. We strive for balance. It’s not that complicated, really.

    His interactions with awake kids in public places are likely to be as a non-parent glaring at the “screaming kids” – and yet he presumes to mansplain to people who actually do have to look after small children what he thinks they should do in a situation of which he has small to no experience.

    Oh, fuck you both. Mansplaining? I’ve probably spent a hell of a lot more time taking care of kids then plenty of females in this thread. I just don’t think that my offspring entitle me to shit all over everyone else’s fun. You–and Faith–are just trying to demonize anyone who doesn’t agree with your concept that you’re somehow more fucking important than everyone else, ever, so you can do what you want without explaining, considering, or worrying about anyone. And you blame it on everyone else when they get pissed at your entitlement. Nice.

    Seems to me like you’re desperately trying to duck the arguments: that’s why you’ve all resorted to insults like “mansplaining” and “not really helping,” and all that shit. It’s a lot easier to blame my workload than to admit you’re an entitled asshole, apparently.

    Fact is, you and Faith can’t deal with the fact that I’m just not as fucking unsociable as you are. Or perhaps I’m just a better parent. Don’t like hearing that argument from a man? Try thinking of me as a parent, and wrap your minds around that one.

    And, I might add, you’re consistently setting up a straw man, every time.

    Take Dennys. That’s a family restaurant. It’s in the same class as McDs, Friendly’s, etc. Everyone here has pretty much agreed that there are kid-appropriate spaces like Denny’s (or G movie matinees, etc.) and while it may not mean that we especially like screaming kids, we’re intelligent enough to understand that if we don’t like kids and can’t deal with screaming, we probably shouldn’t go to Denny’s or Waffle House at 9:30 on a Sunday morning.

    See, the “we can’t go to Denny’s, ever!” argument is about as stupid as the “We can’t leave the house, ever!” argument. But oddly enough, people like Faith keep making them, because it’s perhaps too difficult to admit that there are in fact some places where loud kids really don’t belong.

    Enough of the whining.

  404. Yonmei
    Yonmei May 17, 2010 at 9:35 am |

    You–and Faith–are just trying to demonize anyone who doesn’t agree with your concept that you’re somehow more fucking important than everyone else, ever, so you can do what you want without explaining, considering, or worrying about anyone.

    Wait: you want to prove that a childfree woman – that’s me – who thinks that women who take care of children fulltime shouldn’t be confined to the house or denied access to the kind of pricy restaurants that a man like you gets to eat in, is arguing this because I think that I am “somehow more fucking important than everyone else, ever”?

    Fact is, you and Faith can’t deal with the fact that I’m just not as fucking unsociable as you are. Or perhaps I’m just a better parent.

    I’m not a parent. I’ve worked as a childminder.

    I’m sure you are “not as fucking unsociable” as someone working as a childminder. That’s because looking after children, while they’re awake, full time, is fucking hard work. You complain about how your workload means you don’t get to see your children except when they’re asleep, and this makes you “more sociable” than someone caring for them while they’re awake, who’d like to be able to take them places and not get confronted by the glares of self-important men like you?

  405. Robin
    Robin May 17, 2010 at 9:44 am |

    There is a trend in towns around me to advertise apartments/condos with no smoking/no pets, which is pretty common, but many of them are adding no children to the list. How does that work?

  406. La Lubu
    La Lubu May 17, 2010 at 10:07 am |

    Oh, fuck you both. Mansplaining? I’ve probably spent a hell of a lot more time taking care of kids then plenty of females in this thread.

    *blink* *blink*

    Wow, it must really suck to have those uppity females making assumptions about you. Who do they think they are, anyway? I’ve noticed a pattern here and elsewhere of you managing to be civil in the midst of disagreement when arguing with a man, but completely losing your shit when those you disagree with happen to be women. Don’t take my word for it; go back and read some of your own comments on various threads. It’s a pattern.

    With that said, I agree that it is a parent’s responsibility to calm and/or take a screaming or misbehaving child away so that others in an establishment can be in peace. (within reason, of course. See Jesse’s comment at #372 if you don’t know what I’m talking about. One peep from a child that lasted a few seconds gets the passive-aggressive snotty comment from another diner).

    But that isn’t what I deal with as a parent. My daughter is an older child, and we visit real restaurants, not the ones with playgrounds in them. And while you and anyone else has the right to expect that we will be respectful and considerate of others, it is NOT your, or anyone else’s right to:
    1. ask your server why I am drinking a glass of wine; isn’t that inappropriate?
    2. make loud, passive-aggressive commentary about Kids These Days and Proper Bedtimes and how children should be in bed by 8PM, and that’s why so many young girls are getting Pregnant These Days (unsupported by the objective record as teen pregnancy is down. Folks, if ten-year olds are getting pregnant in your area, it’s because of RAPE, not because their mom took them out to dinner).
    3. comment directly to me (while we are waiting for our table), “uhhh, they don’t serve hamburgers here.” “I know. We came for steak.” It’s not your business to police our plates.
    4. Sigh loudly, clear your throat repeatedly, and use other mannerisms in an attempt to make us leave. We’re not leaving. If we aren’t behaving in a manner that the management feels is inappropriate, then apparently YOU are the problem. Act accordingly.

    And yes, Sailorman, you actually DON’T get a lot of the micromanagement on child-raising that women get, because you’re a man. People don’t accost men for fear of a beatdown. And frankly, if your in-person temper is anywhere near as uncontrolled as your online temper, folks are probably on to something. I get criticized for my daughter not being feminine enough. For her interest in animals and insects, and nongirly subjects like science. For her total disinterest in makeup and hair. For her reading all the time (doesn’t she know it’s rude to sit in a corner and read?). For all kinds of nonharmful crap that doesn’t amount to anything, but for some reason people feel compelled to assert that shit out loud because Maude Forbid my daughter and I not spend one blessed moment not feeling like we’re doing femaleness wrong or something. Trust me, we’re well aware of our place in the status hierarchy. We just have no intention of accepting it, is all.

  407. La Lubu
    La Lubu May 17, 2010 at 10:15 am |

    Robin, housing that is intended for people 55 years and over can bar children. Otherwise, that’s a violation of the Fair Housing Act.

  408. Miriam Heddy
    Miriam Heddy May 17, 2010 at 10:43 am |

    @WestEndGirl,

    You’re totally right. In fact, why stop at denying children their own seats? If they’re not paying, we should probably just stack them up like Legos!

    Or–even better–let’s make them stand! Of course, if we stop short of stacking them up and just, as you suggest, make them share a seat, there’s a very good chance that they will get in an elbow fight (because children lack impulse control, which you might remember if you ever shared a backseat with another child on a long trip).

    So giving kids under five, with their admittedly small bodies, their own seat is actually a measure many parents take in order to minimize the inconvenience the children might cause by loudly shouting, “MO-OM, she elbowed me FIRST and THEN I pinched her arm!”

    Seriously, we moms can’t win for losing.

    Of course, maybe we should have kids stand if they’re not paying full price. But if we do, they’re likely to fidget, grab hold of your bag with their jammy hands, and maybe fall on you.

    Really, clearly, the solution is to make all children pay full price, since child-free adults are paying full price for the privilege of a seat or a standing room area unfettered by grasping hands at crotch level.

    And if a parent can’t afford to pay full price for three or four children, she damned well should have used birth control, or at least have the decency to march those children across town (in a quiet, orderly line and being careful not to stop for a drink at a coffee shop when the kids are tired and might fuss). Amirite? Who’s with me?

    My point, with all this sarcasm, is that:
    –the thing any of you see as bad mothering may be the result of a woman making the best decision she can from among a number of difficult choices–choices you likely haven’t considered (and many of which you aren’t privy to).
    –the focus on behavior and individual choice means we’re not looking at the social constraints within which these choices are made, and that’s deeply problematic for a site that declares itself as feminist.

    Rather than focus on picking out a series of examples that exemplify why mothers are clearly doing it wrong (something that the non-feminist mass media actually does a pretty good job of covering!), we might instead look at the options currently available to women (rock, hard place, and that sinkhole over there) and see if some of those options might be improved by system-wide changes that recognize the complexity of the issues involved, the diversity of people they’re affecting (including the intersectional approach that acknowledges that PWD and mothers and PWD and children aren’t mutually exclusive categories), and the ways in which “choosing” to remain child-free doesn’t have can and should mean choosing to work toward improving the lives of mothers and choosing to be a mother can and should mean fighting to make it possible for child-free women who don’t want children to have access to tubal ligation before menopause, to get sick days and personal days not defined by traditional notions of the nuclear, heterosexual family, to have access to birth control and abortion, etc. etc.

    Solidarity–remember that concept?

  409. Faith
    Faith May 17, 2010 at 10:48 am |

    “Oh, fuck you both. Mansplaining? I’ve probably spent a hell of a lot more time taking care of kids then plenty of females in this thread… you and Faith can’t deal with the fact that I’m just not as fucking unsociable as you are. Or perhaps I’m just a better parent.”

    Dude, just keep right on digging your grave. Dig. Dig. Dig. Try not to choke on all that self-righteousness. You might annoy someone with your choking sounds and they might ask you to leave.

  410. Yonmei
    Yonmei May 17, 2010 at 10:54 am |

    WestEndGirl: The parent who at rush hour on the Tube let their four small children take up four seats – despite the fact that children go free -rather than making them easily share two to a seat or sit on a parent’s lap, forcing several elderly people to stand.

    Unless there was no one on the Tube at rush hour BUT these four small children and a whole lot of elderly people, then I’m not entirely sure why you’re blaming those four seat-occupiers for taking up seats that four elderly people otherwise could have occupied. Or did you feel that as the elderly people had probably got a pensioner’s cheap fare, they had no right to a seat that an adult who’d had to pay full fare was occupying?

    (I doubt that it was anything of the kind: I’ve travelled on the Tube at rush hour, and it’s crowded enough that most of the time, making a chivalrous gesture about giving up your seat to someone in more need of it is flat impossible,)

    There are countries where it is customary for notices to remind adults that they should offer small children their seats – because small children can’t reach the bars or straps that standing adults can usually hang on to. But those are countries where, unlike the UK or the US, society as a whole does respect and care for children.

  411. Politicalguineapig
    Politicalguineapig May 17, 2010 at 10:57 am |

    William: I wasn’t intending to invoke Malthus, but since you pointed it out, it’s rather amazing how those ideas tend to stick. Especially during times of economic crisis when people tend to go “OMG, the wrong people are reproducing/coming here/ being visible.” And I do think a lot of the child hating thing is economic resentment mixed with unrealistic expectations of children.

  412. ginmar
    ginmar May 17, 2010 at 10:57 am |

    Oh, for fuck’s sake already.

    A noisy white man, behaving like a jerk, is just an individual jerk. No one suggests that because some white men are noisy and behave like jerks, all white men should be banned from anywhere people want to spend quality time. “People”, in this understanding, obviously not including white men.

    Yeah, let’s see—-do white men, or whatever group you want to try and substitute for kids—go through stages of development or have physical, emotional, and intellectual maturity stages that they go through? No.

    Kids aren’t mature yet. They’re not being discriminated against. They go through stages of development,and it’s pretty obvious that the real problem here are the incredibly entitled parents will resort to lies and bullshit if you don’t suck up to them every which way they want.

    (“You signed up to be a cop! You can’t complain about being sexually harassed, you pussy!”)

    I can’t get over people falling all over themselves to applaud that shitty strawman argument, which accuses childfree people of not only enabling rape, abuse, and violence, but also of blatant sexism—-”You pussy!”—-before going on to mix up valid criticism with the strawwomen. Here’s a clue: criticizing policemen for not liking to make arrests is not anything in the same universe for the bullshit that that comment contained.

    Racism, whatever ism you hate is based on hating somebody for something they can’t change. People who don’t like kids probably dislike the parents more than the kids, and this thread is a good example of why.

  413. ginmar
    ginmar May 17, 2010 at 10:59 am |

    OH, hell, and then I forget the most important part: People who dislike kids dislike what they do. They stop doing it, so does the dislike. And that”s entirely the parents’ fault.

  414. Yonmei
    Yonmei May 17, 2010 at 11:17 am |

    Yeah, let’s see—-do white men, or whatever group you want to try and substitute for kids—go through stages of development or have physical, emotional, and intellectual maturity stages that they go through? No.

    Wow. So, all white men come into being as adults?

    They go through stages of development,and it’s pretty obvious that the real problem here are the incredibly entitled parents will resort to lies and bullshit if you don’t suck up to them every which way they want.

    *waves* NOT A PARENT.

    I’m seeing a lot more lies and bullshit from the incredibly entitled people – parents and non-parents – who have been posting on this thread.

    Racism, whatever ism you hate is based on hating somebody for something they can’t change

    And you think that children can somehow change and stop being children just because they’re around someone who hates kids?

  415. Yonmei
    Yonmei May 17, 2010 at 11:19 am |

    Jill: I think WestEndGirl’s point wasn’t that it’s bad for children to sit, but that to have five children each taking up a seat when there are elderly people standing is rude.

    Yeah, because why should any of the non-elderly full-fare adults on the Tube be expected to give up their seats when there are five small children on the train occupying seats they didn’t even pay for.

  416. exholt
    exholt May 17, 2010 at 11:28 am |

    you need to acknowledge that children are very different from adults.

    I don’t mean to say that they are different from adults, but am trying to point out how much of this apocryphal “screaming kids” in restaurants IME may really be a dogwhistle for someone’s complete intolerance for kids and their parents in mixed public spaces supposed to be accessible by everyone unless they are behaving like perfect saints(a.k.a. Children should be seen and not heard) or they’re completely absent from said space regardless of whether they actually are “screaming loudly”/misbehaving or not.

    I find this bewildering as I never see adults except parents being held to this higher standard in my decades out and about in NYC, especially when I have witnessed countless cases of people glaring or making loud “commentaries” about “damned kids” towards kids and parents for the mere crime of existing and having the temerity to use public access spaces that they are actually entitled to use like everyone else.

    Moreover, I have spent the vast majority of my time in NYC living in neighborhoods with large numbers of families with young children(infants, toddlers, 5 and up kids). Incidentally, I currently happen to live right across the street to a public school/park actively used during school hours and on weekends and a neighborhood full of young children out and about.

    I second and believe we’d all be better off if we remember Shah8′s and Faith’s notion that sometimes “shit happens” and we must deal with it as a part of accessing public spaces/life rather than take excessive umbrage unless those spaces are sanitized to the point that the presence of kids and their parents should only be tolerated when they are held to higher behavioral standards than most adults when their ages/developmental capabilities are accounted for…..if not excluded altogether.

    Personally, I’d rather take my chances with being around kids and their parents in public spaces than rowdy riotous asshole adults…..especially when the latter group are much more commonplace IME and capable of greater levels destructive mayhem.

  417. ACG
    ACG May 17, 2010 at 11:37 am |

    I did want to comment on the assertion that kids have “just as much right to be somewhere” as adults. This is true, in the sense that they have zero right to be there. Unless we’re in a space that’s literally public, we enjoy any given establishment at the pleasure of the owner of that establishment.

    We’re also tacitly agreeing to a social contract that says we’ll do our best to stay within the expected atmosphere of that environment and try not to disturb that atmosphere for others. And that applies to anyone. If I get drunk and start stumbling against tables, or if I pull out one of those horrible little cell phone-walkie talkies that bleeps loudly every time someone talks and dear God it would be just as easy for me to quietly use the phone like a phone, my fellow diners would be within their rights to be annoyed, and the owner would be within his or her rights to ask me to leave. I’m not being removed as a punishment for that behavior – I’m being removed because in going to that restaurant, I tacitly agreed not to disturb the experiences that other diners can reasonably expect at that establishment.

    So your child has a right to join you at a quiet little pizza place when she can be coached to more-or-less adhere to that contract – she doesn’t disturb anyone’s experience, and no one disturbs hers. If your child can’t be thusly coached, his right to go to that restaurant doesn’t apply any more than my right to go there and annoy other diners with my squawky cell phone. At a less-quiet little pizza place with chatter and clanking silverware and maybe football on TV, your child’s behavior (and my cell squawky cell phone) would be less out of place and more in line with the experience customers can reasonably expect at that restaurant.

  418. ACG
    ACG May 17, 2010 at 11:47 am |

    And do allow me to note – I love to see a well-behaved kid at a restaurant. There have been several times that I’ve walked into a more adult-oriented place to see kids at a nearby table and cringed. When those kids sit quietly to eat and participate in conversation, and then one of the parents appeases their eventually restlessness with a walk around the restaurant or a quick trip outside, I marvel, and I always compliment the family as I’m leaving. Ditto when I turn around at a restaurant/movie theatre/etc. to see a toddler sitting there of whom I was completely unaware throughout my meal. Ditto, for that matter, a child who acts up or gets fussy and is promptly addressed by the nearest available parent.

    It’s not a matter of children being neither seen nor heard. It’s a matter of a child being taught early on how to conduct a meal that’s enjoyable for parent(s), child, and fellow diners. That’s better than I can say for a lot of adults.

  419. Yonmei
    Yonmei May 17, 2010 at 11:50 am |

    Unless we’re in a space that’s literally public, we enjoy any given establishment at the pleasure of the owner of that establishment.

    Sure – that’s why it’s totally legal for the white owner of the establishment to ban black people from it. They have zero right to be there except at the pleasure of the owner: if it gives the owner no pleasure to see black people eating his pizzas, he can ban them from it. (I’m being sarcastic, in case you hadn’t noticed.)

    No one is compelled to run an establishment that’s open to the public. Some establishments (bars, movie theatres, sex shops) may in fact be only open to people over a specific age by law. But in general, if you run a public establishment – restaurant, hotel, shop – you are in fact required to accept your customers without discrimination. You can turn away specific customers that you already know will harass your staff or be rude, but you are not allowed to make a sweeping and discriminatory decision such as “No Irish Need Apply”.

    Except, of course, with regard to small children. Never mind that this is de facto discrimination against women.

    The vast majority of states in the US actually have legislation protecting the right of a breastfeeding mother to feed her baby anywhere she has the legal right to be. I’ve brought this up in discussions on public breastfeeding (my own country has equivalent legislation) and been told, flat out, by disbelieving tuptotrephobics, that that can’t be right – it’s got to be legal for a restaurant owner or a flight attendant to be able to tell a breastfeeding mother to feed her baby somewhere out of sight.

    So there’s that. Minimal protection for women. But the rest of the time, for people caring for children as well as for children?

  420. Brett K
    Brett K May 17, 2010 at 11:52 am |

    @ACG – agreed. Kids have a right to be anywhere, just like everyone else does, but everyone in public spaces is expected to follow a certain code of behaviour. Those codes vary, and are not always rigidly enforced, but they exist. I agree that we can’t expect kids to behave like adults, and that’s why we do (or should) tolerate more deviations from those social norms from kids than we do from adults. The question, I think, is just how much “inappropriate” behaviour we can tolerate – and what I take issue with is the notion that we have an obligation to tolerate every single thing that kids do in public, just because they’re kids. I’m sorry, but no. Kids have some responsibility to be polite, just like we all do. When they don’t know how to be polite, it’s their parents’ job to teach them, and putting up with disruptive behaviour in public only teaches them that they don’t have any obligation to be respectful or considerate.

    Having said that, people who glare or make snide remarks at anyone who dares to bring a child in public are jerks. I think we should show parents a bit of compassion and leniency when their kids don’t behave in public, because obviously we have no way of knowing exactly what’s going on in their lives – but parents also do have a responsibility to ensure that their kid behaves somewhat appropriately. Parents deal with a lot of stress, but so do the rest of us – that doesn’t give anyone the right to ruin anyone else’s day.

  421. WestEndGirl
    WestEndGirl May 17, 2010 at 11:54 am |

    @Miriam Heddy, seriously did you actually read *my* post and not one in an alternate universe?

    “Rather than focus on picking out a series of examples that exemplify why mothers are clearly doing it wrong”

    >> No, I referred to PARENTS. In the first example of the Tube it was a Dad. The other two both parents and only the last example where I specifically refer to just a mother. Or maybe you think that Mum who allowed her child to body shame me was actually a GREAT parent and it’s just not actually POSSIBLE to tell a child that commenting on people’s appearance is not acceptable? Mother, father, whatever, that child was rude and the parent did NOTHING about it and in fact enabled it. Parental fail. Nothing to do with it being the mother.

    “Of course, maybe we should have kids stand if they’re not paying full price. But if we do, they’re likely to fidget, grab hold of your bag with their jammy hands, and maybe fall on you.”

    >> No, this is you projecting your frustration at people who do not like children on to me. Elderly people ended up standing as a result of children sitting down when they could have shared, as this was rush hour and seats are at a premium. This is inconsiderate and potentially dangerous as elderly bones are often weaker and more prone to breaking if the owners fall over. I actually prioritise elderly people’s safety over small children sharing. I do not believe that children should be silent or immobile in public. When I take out my two nieces they are not silent or immobile in public. But since I was a child, little ones sit on parents lap on the Tube when there are limited seats as in rush hour or share two to a seat. End of story. It is not about stacking children up like Lego, hyperbole woman, Tube seats are plenty wide to have two little ones per seat. It has only been in the last FIVE years or so that children are sitting down while adults stand, so clearly something in parenting styles has changed. And not for the better.

    “And if a parent can’t afford to pay full price for three or four children, she damned well should have used birth control, or at least have the decency to march those children across town (in a quiet, orderly line and being careful not to stop for a drink at a coffee shop when the kids are tired and might fuss). Amirite? Who’s with me?”

    >> Nope, this is you projecting again. It was a Dad.

    “My point, with all this sarcasm, is that:
    –the thing any of you see as bad mothering may be the result of a woman making the best decision she can from among a number of difficult choices–choices you likely haven’t considered (and many of which you aren’t privy to).
    –the focus on behavior and individual choice means we’re not looking at the social constraints within which these choices are made, and that’s deeply problematic for a site that declares itself as feminist.”

    >> Seriously and again, did you read *my* post? Not mothering. Parenting.

    I am sitting here ready and willing for you to explain to me the difficult choices I might not be aware of that mitigate the examples *I* gave. These are not examples of a child getting grizzly or tired or upset and a parent needing help and having society not provide them with help. When that happens, I help, I don’t glare or tut or make comments, I help. Up to and including having taken a random stranger’s baby away from them at their desperate behest and holding and shushing it while they were struggling with a pram.

    But I will *not* make excuses for parents – not Mothers – but parents who let their children HURT and DAMAGE other people and do nothing about it. Those children are not being served by being allowed to be violent or rude or obnoxious. Quite the opposite. How are they supposed to learn to tolerate and consider others when no-one is showing them the way to behave? If my Mum can do it, my sister can do it, my cousin, my Dad and all the parents that come through the door of my community centre which is in the second most deprived ward in the whole of the United Kingdom can do it, I refuse to believe that it’s not even possible to *try* to mitigate negative behaviour.

    Go on Miriam, what kind of difficult choice did the middle class PARENTS have while they were getting drunk at a Sunday brunch that meant they couldn’t stop their children running riot? Seriously. Go on, explain it to me. Or the child that was trying to hurt people by hitting them with a scooter. What amount of difficult choices were there that I couldn’t have known about or societal pressures that meant that those PARENTS should have told their child to stop assaulting people?

    My cousin is severely autistic and physically disabled as well as now going through puberty and is very large and strong now, but when I take him out and he starts *touching* people (which he sometimes does), I stop him and if I can’t stop him, I take him away from that situation. This has nothing to do with abortion access or nursery provision (day care) or sick days or feminism, it’s got to do with good old fashioned manners and consideration for people’s space.

  422. exholt
    exholt May 17, 2010 at 11:55 am |

    I think WestEndGirl’s point wasn’t that it’s bad for children to sit, but that to have five children each taking up a seat when there are elderly people standing is rude.

    Though I have been raised to give up my seat to elderly passengers on the subway/bus as a part of respecting those older than yourself, I believe expecting young children to do so is not only excessive, but also unreasonable when one accounts for their physical capabilities(i.e. height) and the need for parents to maintain close supervision of their kids in what can be extremely chaotic public spaces.

    In such situations, I’d expect the duty to give up one’s seat on public transit to fall upon older kids who are independent/mature enough to travel on their own and/or are tall enough to stand without being knocked about by oblivious adult passengers* or moreso, teens and young-middle aged adults who don’t have physical capability and other issues associated with young kids.

    I will concede, however, that the kids in that story could have scrunched up to take up less seats…..though if I were on that train, I’d be wondering why no teen or young-middle aged adults are offering to give up their seats….especially during rush hour.

    * On this, I speak from first-hand experience as someone who used the subways and buses as a young’un from the age of 6 onwards during in 1980′s NYC. Bad enough to be a young child of normal height…..try being one who is shorter/smaller than peers of the same age when plenty of oblivious adults around.

  423. Ledasmom
    Ledasmom May 17, 2010 at 11:56 am |

    “I think WestEndGirl’s point wasn’t that it’s bad for children to sit, but that to have five children each taking up a seat when there are elderly people standing is rude”

    Why? How can you tell, based on brief observation, whether the children were more capable of standing for however long they rode than the elderly? The children may have been exhausted. Small children do wear out, unlikely as that seems.
    Also, the