My husband and I were recently flying home from a weekend trip with friends when we caught a classic moment in the parenting genre. It was about watching someone else’s kids misbehaving and feeling relieved that you’re not currently wrestling your own kids through the airport.
he airport offers a fundamentally hostile environment for children. Big crowds, long queues and lots of waiting. It’s the perfect formula for boredom, which I believe is almost always at the root of sibling conflict, and the brothers and sisters before us showed superior skill at tormenting one another.
My husband was impressed with the sister. “She really bonded with him there.”
When the children were separated from their parents, the brother began to cry in frustration at not being allowed to take revenge. He turned and hissed at her, which I thought was an impressive way of showing your dislike when you can’t physically access the object of your disapproval.
This display of sibling rivalry lasted a solid half hour while we queued for security. Soon our attention turned to her parents.
They hadn’t raised their voice once. They looked cool and collected as they casually stepped between their children, separating them with a comforting arm whenever they got too close. “We need to be more like that,” I said to my husband, who nodded wearily.
I immediately began to wonder how these parents managed to keep their cool when their children got into conflict in a public place where other people could see.
If it had been me, I would have apologized to people, concerned if they would judge me for my lack of parenting skills. I would have feared that my children’s behavior would have somehow negatively impacted the others in the queue.
My stress levels would have skyrocketed to the point of snapping—with my kids and probably my poor husband, who is inevitably the target of my frustration when I can’t blame anyone else. All because my kids had committed the cardinal sin of acting like kids in public. I suddenly felt really sorry for my children.
I started thinking about it when I got home and saw a Twitter thread of Irish parents comparing horror stories of glares and tut-tuts they’d received when out in public with their kids. Story after story of rudeness encountered when children simply existed in public. I suddenly wondered if the difference between my parenting and the parents in front of me in the queue was cultural.
When my younger son was a baby, I remember leaving for a friend’s house for the afternoon. She also had two children about the same age as me. We didn’t do anything special, just sat between the kids.
We are like-minded when it comes to how we approach our children. “It’s so much easier when you’re with someone else, isn’t it?” my friend remarked. I agreed. Being a home alone parent can feel deeply lonely, but the reality is that it can be even harder when you’re out in the world.
There is so much pressure and expectation on parents these days. You must educate the right way. My mom friends and I call it “Show Parenting||”. Not too strict, but not in a way that allows for any kind of misconduct. Misconduct begins with the evil looks or comments from strangers.
Yes, strangers will tell you that your child is cold/hungry/needs a good chat. You must be fun and patient and always engaging (I’ve heard many unkind comments about parents on the playground daring to take a moment on the phone). Your children must be well-behaved and kind, but never precocious. Every single moment as a parent in public feels like it’s being judged. No wonder we’re stressed.
That’s not to say there never is kindness or compassion. Another mom might catch your eye and roll hers in solidarity while your toddler ricochets off to another planet in a fit of rage for getting the snack he asked for but somehow getting the wrong one at the same time.
An older person might say, “I was there, you’re doing great.” However, for the most part, the environment feels hostile. Maybe it’s the environment is hostile. Aside from those designed specifically for families (playgrounds, play centers), public spaces feel like they’re made just for adults.
Many people seem to see children as a kind of luxury lifestyle that parents should deal with on their own and privately. Most of the time I apologetically accept this attitude. It was ultimately my decision.
Then I visit a country with a culture that adores children and welcomes them with open arms, and I can’t help but wonder what it would be like to live in a society that doesn’t see children as a nuisance.
How about being a parent in a country that values children? Even appreciated?
Look, I know like the next person that kids are annoying sometimes. I live with two of them, for God’s sake. But we are working on it.
They learn to be people and we learn to be parents. Maybe the dirty look brigade could work on being a little more compassionate and we’d all be better off.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/forget-about-bad-parenting-those-who-cast-judgment-are-a-bigger-problem-41908847.html Forget bad parenting—those making judgments are a bigger problem