From time to time there is tension between the haves and the have-nots (i.e. children). Last week the Cold War really seemed to be heating up.
The first message that caught my attention was from Vogue Williams, requesting that a solo traveler swap seats with her because she wanted to be near her children. All very understandable if you’ve ever traveled as a parent with children, but the moment seemed to strike a collective nerve and sparked a heated debate over whether travelers with children should expect any sort of special treatment from childless travellers.
Next, another “fight” erupted at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, when comedian Matt Forde sparked a debate over whether children should be allowed into comedy events by noting that a crying toddler “derailed” his show. Again, opinions were divided, and the line drawn in the sand showed a predictable demarcation: parents and non-parents, each faction defending its own side.
Over on Mumsnet, a user sparked another heated moment when she complained that her adult evening at a restaurant was ruined by a family with three children sitting next to her. Questions soon arose. Should kids be allowed this late into restaurants that are supposedly an “adult” place? Should those without kids just suck it up, knowing how difficult it can be for parents to find either childcare or kid-friendly spaces?
Full and Honest Disclosure: Before I had kids, I was the one who groaned inside when I saw a small, hyperactive child trudge up the aisle and land in the seat next to me. I would get annoyed if a child was too loud or boisterous in a café. I think I felt that everyone, big or small, should at least abide by a basic social contract when sharing public spaces. Then I had my daughter and realized that the little ones don’t care about social contracts at all.
The kicker is that I still feel like I used to with kids and public spaces. First of all, my child and I rarely go to cafes or restaurants after bedtime as I assume most people out at this time are hoping to relax and unwind. If my child throws a tantrum at a restaurant and I feel the weight of other people’s eyes on us, I will not be the person who will defend my daughter’s God-given right to be there. People pay good money to eat out and a soundtrack of either high-pitched screaming or Peppa Pig on an iPad was never part of the bargain. Still, I understand better the conundrum of a parent finding themselves in public and throwing tantrums. It’s nobody’s fault, not really. What should these parents do? Stay in their homes forever, or at least until their kids turn into monosyllabic teenagers?
These are ongoing “talks” where both sides reach a stalemate, but it leaves you wondering. Why such a gap between parents and non-parents at all? Parenting is a profound, life-changing experience, but does the divide seem so profound that one type of person can’t relate or empathize with the other?
And you know what’s worse than judging childless people about parents? Vice versa.
Last week, “Reformed Christian” Shane Morris broke the internet with a sharply worded take on Twitter: “Millennials, who are very unconcerned about not having children, will be in for a shock when they hit 40 and realize that life is only half over,” he posted. “What are you doing at the moment? Are you still trying to be sexy and have fun? I anticipate much sadness and confusion as to what to do at this point.” You can only imagine a few of the 14,000 or so responses to that one “hot take”. Most childless people agreed that being sexy and having fun is still very likely, and that people shouldn’t have children just so adults can avoid boredom and sadness.
The important things first. Later years, or even the years before, can be cold and lonely, whether children are in the picture or not. But it’s also worth asking what does it mean for parents when someone else decides not to have children? Why such a vocal, adamant objection to how someone else wants to live their life? If you spend a lot of time trying to convince others that your life choices are better or more valid than others, I’ll give this a try and suggest that you aren’t particularly happy in your life. Those who are relatively content, children or otherwise, get on with the business of either (a) loving and caring for their children or (b) living their lives on their own terms as they choose.
There is only one worthy snack from last week’s deluge of kid-related news. Worry about your own decisions. What others do has relatively little to do with you. Unless of course Peppa Pig can be heard nearby on an iPad. Then it’s quite personal.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/the-cold-war-between-parents-and-those-who-are-child-free-shows-no-signs-of-thawing-why-cant-they-just-get-along-41951701.html The Cold War between parents and the childless shows no signs of thawing. Why can’t they just get along?