Haley wrote a really good post yesterday, and like most good posts it got a lot of traffic on both sides. I knew this post was coming and I knew that I already agreed with what she was getting at, and still do, but I find myself between a rock and a hard place. I often will admit to not “liking” certain ages of children; I love babies, I love the challenge of pre-teens (at least in my educational experience) and even teenagers, but between pre-school and middle-school, I just clam up. I don’t know what to do with them and generally they tend to tire me out quickly. And that is, in a nut shell, why I’m not an elementary school teacher, why I don’t run a daycare and was never a camp counselor or even much of a babysitter.
Part of this is semantics, I think most of us, when we say “I don’t like kids or old people or ___ fill in the blank”, are not saying I do not the like the person, but rather something about their needs or abilities makes us uncomfortable and therefore we do not enjoy being around them. Here’s the thing, it’s okay to understand your own comfort levels and I don’t think you need to like everyone. And neither does Haley. It’s okay if we’re uncomfortable or grossed out by an action done by blanket statement age group, that’s part of our own neurosis. It’s also okay if we just generally don’t enjoy the company of a kid down the street, a relative or a co-worker. And it’s okay not to be a “kid person”. In general, it’s an incomplete way for us to describe discomfort, and most people when saying “I don’t like babies” or similar are not calling into judgement the worth of an entire section of our population. We’re not called to like everyone and we’re not expected to be comfortable around everyone, but we are called to charitable love.
The thing is, and Haley’s post brought out this community in spades, there are those the relate their personal discomfort to a persons worth. Not the people who admit to being uncomfortable around people of certain ages personal, but are compassionate about charitably allow children and families some leeway in public spaces. Rather the people who are so offended by the mere existence of children or parents that it turns to hate. To use derogatory terms about a person is not charitable; whether that person is a two year old or a grown man in a wheelchair. To disrespect a person who cares for a child, the elderly, the disabled, etc. is not charitable. To wish a person harm because they happen to be under the age of eighteen. To presume that your space, your needs and your comfort always trump the rest of the world is not charitable.
There are many perfectly sound and licit reasons for opting out of parenthood, in fact I wish more people really challenged themselves before creating life; there are so many good reasons to realize that it’s not your calling in life. But our comfort and our personal calling does not determine another persons worth to the world or their rights, or lack there of, to experience the world and it is not right for us to ask that everything that makes us uncomfortable be stricken from our sight.
I’m not trying to defend poor parenting choices or lack of judgement and I’m not saying you can’t annoyed when bad parenting gets in the way of your first night out in months. These things happen in spades and I do believe we need to use common sense when determining if a restaurant is child-friendly, apologize when our children invade their space, bump into or touch a stranger, not let our children make scenes in public spaces and use good judgement to decide when it’s time to go. We, as parents, do have a responsibility to raise our children to consider others in their behaviors and this starts by not letting them get away with outrageous and generally bad behavior in public. However, it is uncharitable to use one instance to damn an entire group of people, and yes I need to break it to the world : Children are people. They might not have reason, they might not have fine motor control or complex language skills, but neither do a good percentage of our adult population. An adult who fits those descriptions is still a person and so is a child.
It is not about how many children you have or the reasons you have none. Being childfree does not automatically equate selfishness and having chlidren doesn’t make you a selfless person over night. However, in the end we are called to charity. We are called to be selfless no matter what our individual lives lead us too, to understand that we can’t always have things our way and that our time and resources are not meant to be our own.
*** Just incase this is not clear, I’m not offended or put-off by what Haley wrote. Far from it, I fully support and agree with her. Just want to voice how I approach the issue as somone who is admittedly “not a kid person”. Thanks all. ****