I used to say I didn’t like children, but I’ve softened my stance a bit of late. I don’t dislike them; it would be more accurate to say that I have no interest in them. Babies leave me cold. It’s much easier for me to admire the outfit the baby sports than the baby itself. (There’s a reason people make jokes about how all babies look like Winston Churchill.) I rarely ask to hold them, and never volunteer to babysit for friends. When I was pregnant, my sister said, “You’ll see, when you have your own, you’ll like kids.” She was wrong (not something I get to say with such authority very often). I love my own child, but that’s part of the grand design. If we didn’t love our own babies, the race would cease to exist, but other people’s babies continue to leave me cold.
A baby at rest in its bucket is relatively easy to ignore. A toddler is a horse of a different color. There is nothing remotely charming about a child with a runny nose, or sticky fingers, or a stinky diaper. I see no reason to cut them any slack when they kick the back of my seat in a plane or a movie theater.
Over time I’ve come to realize that my nemesis is not the child, but the parent. Why is it that parents assume that everyone will be as taken with their child as they are? If an adult was running around a café screaming and throwing things they’d probably be arrested. When a child does that, the parent smiles and shrugs. I don’t smile. I look stern and may even harrumph. Am I being unfair?
Many years ago, before I had my daughter, I got up in the wee hours of the morning to secure a spot as close to the action as I could get for the annual re-enactment of the start of the American Revolution. After standing in the freezing, pre-dawn darkness for almost an hour, a woman shoved her child in front of me and said, “You don’t mind do you?” Well, yes, I did. I honestly don’t remember what I said to the woman, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you told me that I asked her to remove him. I recount this with some shame, which is probably why I can’t remember my response, because I expect you to think I was being unreasonable. But was I, really?
Do you not cringe when parents put their children on the counter at Dunkin’ Donuts while they’re waiting for their coffee? Is it just me?
If it does take a village to raise a child, I can see why there are communities where no children are allowed.
Next week I may rant about people who treat their dogs like children. Those poor animals are trapped forever in a toddler-like existence. At least little kids grow up. And when they hit middle school, I find them very entertaining. I’ll tell you about that some other time.