Should children be allowed in adult-oriented places?
After raising two sons and being involved with children for a big part of my life, I’m at a point where I’m grateful to not have to think about fixing lunches, wiping noses or bottoms or watching my mouth when I’m really, really upset about something. I can eat cereal for dinner, go to sleep when I like; in other words, my life is my own again.
I’m also not one of those women who gets dewy eyed at the sight of a baby. One of my co-workers sometimes brings her new granddaughter into the newsroom where I work and everyone, except me, swoons. I remember too well sleepless nights, temper tantrums and vomit. I do understand that baby’s trigger some kind of maternal instinct that keeps us from abandoning the little blobs of flesh, and I suppose I do have that instinct, but given the choice, I’ll take a cat.
However, I don’t see the need to ban children from public places. As a society, we can learn to be tolerant. Not only is it necessary for the socialization of children, it’s important that young mothers and fathers aren’t isolated from a social life now that they have children.
Once, when I was flying with my extremely active young son, I spent most of the flight trying to keep him under control. Finally, the woman in front of me turned and commented people had no business traveling with their children until they were old enough to sit still. I felt I did have business. My father had just had a massive heart attack and I was flying back to see him.
In other cultures it’s a given that children are as much a part of society as anyone else. When I lived in Veracruz, Mexico, I once went to a town meeting where children were racing up and down the aisles playing tag with each other while the adults discussed town business. If one fell and broke into tears or was getting too out of hand, any one of the adults might step in and take care of things. In Asia, as well, children are taken to fine restaurants, theater, museums, pretty much anywhere adults go, children go also.
Sometimes they can be a bit disruptive and certainly they should be kept under control, especially in places where valuable objects could be broken or destroyed by a rowdy child, but I don’t have a problem sharing the world with them. As an adult, I should have the skills at this point, to realize life isn’t always going to fit neatly into a box or go exactly as I might like. If a child cries, maybe I can find a way to help entertain him or her. I’m not going to take the kid home with me, but I can act decently if I find myself sharing space with a child and his or her parents. Maybe the parents can’t afford a babysitter. I was a single mother with my first son and I know how tight money can be when you’re trying to support a child on your own.
There probably are some places where you shouldn’t bring a young child. The opera, for instance or a rave party. Sometimes it’s better for the child not to be there. Sometimes it’s out of respect for patrons. But by and large, I enjoy keeping my world open, and that includes having children around to inhabit it, not just adults. We don’t have to exclude large segments of the population because we don’t know how to be patient. Should we also ban elderly people because they might slow us down if we’re behind them? Or ban handicapped people because they might make us feel uncomfortable? There’s a tendency in the U.S. society to homogenize, to want to surround ourselves only with people who fit into our world view. Children need to learn how to be part of society and they learn by participation.
Some day today’s children will be leading the country, caring for us when we’re sick, driving the buses and taxis when we’re no longer able to do it ourselves, educating the next generation. If we show compassion and understanding when children are young, there’s a better chance they’ll grow into compassionate and understanding adults.