Privilege-Seeking Isn't Limited To Parents, But Parenting Is

In the Washington Post, Annys Shin describes the discord between the child-havers and the child-free that develops when each indulges their own sense of personal privilege about shared spaces. Often, it seems like the adults that need to grow up.

In the first instance, a child-free dog owner who had her dog off the leash in a park described being unhappy that a father chewed her out over letting her unleashed dog jump on his toddler.

Wilson's owner, a journalist who has lived on Capitol Hill for 15 years and identified herself only as Linda because she didn't want to be seen as hostile to children, said later that she wished parents would keep their children inside the park's fenced-in play area. "I find people with children to be tyrants," she said. "As someone who doesn't have children, I think children are fine. I don't think they own everything."

Yeah, well, neither does your dog, and plenty of adults don't like being jumped on. There's a reason parks require leashes.

In another instance, a father taking a public bus with an oversize stroller was asked to either fold his stroller (which was blocking egress) or get off the bus. The father got pissed.

The driver had told Archer that he and his family would have to get off unless he folded up his son's stroller. When Archer wrote that such policies help drive young families out of the District, the response from readers was so fierce that the blog's moderator had to shut down the comment board, a rare event for a site devoted to wonky topics such as bike lanes and inclusionary zoning.

Uh, so, either the city should redesign its buses to accommodate a mega-stroller, or the safety and exit-access of all the other passengers should be compromised, or the dude should fold his stroller up so public transportation is accessible by the rest of the public? I'll take option C, please.

Unsurprisingly, blogger Kriston Capps (who, truth be told, I know and would describe as a bit curmudgeonly), is seen as completely unreasonable for a rant he wrote about having the smoking patio at his favorite bar overrun by children during a mommy happy hour.

In one moment I was grading papers and sipping a Pilsner; in the next I was trying my best to avoid blowing smoke in tiny faces all around me. Kids raced by my feet. Some Heinz-covered goober decided I looked too stationary and took to climbing all over me, beketchuping me in the process. The patio waitress earned her tips by deftly navigating this moving, knee-level obstacle course.

Now, wait up: the moms who were happy-houring away (and probably giving dirty looks to the single guy smoking in the smoking section) while their kids ran around screaming and one of them climbed, covered in a staining substance, all over a perfect stranger. Hyperbolic rant aside, Kriston's in the right on this one.

All of us, child-free or child-having, has been subjected to a poorly-parented kid. That would be the one screaming in the middle of the nice restaurant who isn't being removed, because mom or dad wants to eat their meal hot and has learned to ignore the wailing. That might also be the kid who, after eating all the sugar packets at the table (because it's easier to let him than to tell him not to) goes careening around the restaurant babbling and bumping into things and other diners. Or it's the kid who delights in throwing everything up, down and around: food, silverware, sugar packets, torn-up napkin bits, toys and anything else with which mom or dad supplies him to keep him from screaming while they eat even though the mess is disruptive and thoughtless. Mom and/or Dad, in those cases, is enabling the bad behavior, if not causing it, by their desire to live as close to a child-free life as possible by ignoring the screaming, or the mess, or the child, to the detriment of anyone else that hasn't learned to tune out that child.

At the end of the day, the real issue is the parents, not the kid. I don't hate kids, and I'm more than happy to interact with them in kid-appropriate spaces: parks, family-friendly restaurants, diners, museums, amusement parks and even movie theatres if I happen to subject myself to a showing of a child-friendly movie at a reasonable hour. But if you've brought your kids into a bar at night where I am drinking (and where you used to drink when you were child-free), no, I'm not going to watch my language in front of your kid. If your kid is kicking my seat after the second hour of Grindhouse, yeah, I am going to turn around and ask him to stop and you to make him (and I'm going to think you're a terrible parent for bringing him). If your kid tries to climb up my leg while covered in ketchup while you snarf back wine and tell your friends how adorable he is, I am going to have something to say about that. And if the patron of my local liquor store, say, asks you to leave your 4-foot-wide stroller outside so that other people can get in and out and they can conduct their business, I'm not going to feel sympathy for your potentially stolen stroller that costs more than my car. You had the child, your bought the status-symbol stroller and you're the one now asking the world to change to accommodate you rather than you changing to accommodate the needs of your child and the rest of the world. Life's not fair, man, and kids change it. You might want to do everything you used to do before kids, but that ain't how it works.

On the other hand, if you're a single lady struggling to get a small stroller up or down the subway stairs, I'll totally help. Hell, I'll even hold your (very polite) child by the hand and help her down the stairs while you carry that stroller if you ask me nicely. I don't mind if he wants to stare out the subway car windows by standing on the seats or points at my hair and wants to know if he can touch. I like that you brought her to a museum, and her laughing at this Disney cartoon makes it more fun for me to watch. Running around the park is awesome. I could care less about your mommy happy hours, or the early bird kids specials at the restaurant or even tripping over a stroller that you valiantly folded and tried to get out of the way. But at 8:30, I don't want to see you giving me a nasty look for laughing too loud at a dirty joke told over a $50 steak and a $15 cocktail, and your kid better not be seasoning the carpet with your au jus. I chose my path, you chose yours. You act like a parent, then we'll both act like grown-ups, and everyone will be better off. It seems like a fair compromise — and one that, by becoming a parent, you kind of already signed up for.

New Baby Boom Fosters Culture Clash: Parents vs. Public Spaces [Washington Post]
Moms: We Need To Talk [DCist]

[Photo via Lucas Vieira Moreira on Flickr]