Kids in Public

Betty

When I’m over three posts on twitter, it’s time to write things out in a blog.

Here’s the truth, and it’s a truth I know. The world is not made for kids. The children are our future, some say. Think of the children, say others. The fact is, and I totally get it, that in many situations in our world the presence of a child is an annoyance that is barely tolerated.

With good reason, I might add. They’re loud, they’re constantly moving, and there’s some sort of societal pressure that makes YOU the bad one if you scream at or kick them in public.

As with many things, I have now been conscripted into the pro-child camp, having been blessed with a tiny angel so cute she’ll make you want to vomit Care Bears. That’s not just parental pride, either. This kid gets away with murder.

Still, I understand. I *know* that as cute as she is, I’m often inflicting her on people rather than granting them a moment in her presence. That being said, I need to say a few things that perhaps those with children do not understand.

When a three-year-old needs to shut up, expecting the parents to do it isn’t always the best of gambits. Why? Because the parents usually LOVE their children, and sometimes for everyone involved it seems like smothering will be the only way to silence them. A parent usually isn’t up for that.

In some ways, however, they should be.

You see, every time you take a child into public, it’s a gamble. As an example:

1) Ice Age 3D is a children’s movie. It’s reasonable to assume that if Betty stayed quite and watched all of Up, that she’d watch all of this movie.

2) We’re going at 3:10pm on a Saturday, which means, hopefully, people will assume there are kids there.

Now here’s the thing: I do *not* feel entitled to having you sit through Betty asking all sorts of questions at the movie. It’s the same way that I don’t feel entitled to you sitting through Betty kicking your seat on an airplane, or crying when we have to leave your store. I’m hoping she won’t do these things, or (if she does) I’m hoping that you’ll be a good sport and not care.

Basically, every outing with a child is based on hope and best wishes for humanity.

Still, you hedge your bets sometimes.

1) Pick your battles. Don’t take a 3-year-old into a very fancy restaurant, first class on an airplane, or any enclosed area where good behavior is sometimes hard to achieve for adults.

2) Plan ahead and make sure that the child is not bored. Books, DVDs, art supplies, etc., are your friend.

3) Have as cute of a kid as possible. Make sure they’re seen as precocious and adorable, rather than rabid and feral. This will save your ass if things go down.

4) Be as sympathetic as possible. Often, if your kid has a meltdown, it’s easy to get defensive when others make comments about their behavior. No matter how good a parent you feel you are, the evidence to support their argument is rolling on the floor screaming. A long suffering sigh, a shrug, and a brief “Sorry, folks,” goes a long way.

In today’s case, we were doing pretty well until Betty decided it was time to leave. She was shushed a couple times for asking questions about what sort of animal different things were, but finally (with about twenty minutes to go) she announced:

“I gotta get home!”

She said this several more times, while climbing over me to get into the aisle. When someone shushed her, I made the mistake of lifting her up to take her out. That’s when the screaming started.

Here’s the one thing I’ll explain in case you don’t have a kid. It’s like having a tiny blind-drunk frat dude handcuffed to you at all times. You are responsible for them, there are things you don’t want them to do, but you can’t discipline a child out of screaming and/or crying. It’s the thing you’re trying to avoid. Once that happens, you have to remove them.

It works for the movies, but not so much on a bus or an airplane.

I should mention that I have seen people on the bus who swat their children when they’re hollering, and it seems that eventually it makes them cry softly instead of screaming. Still, it’s not a great solution. I honestly think it may be tactic that says, “Here’s how I get my kids to shut up. Wanna tell me to make ’em be quiet? Be my guest!” Or it may simply be frustration demonstrated in a physical manner. It’s not something I’m prepared to do, not matter how much people may secretly wish to see it done.

Still, and I will continue to stress this. I know that Betty is an interloper into your world. I want to let you know that while you may feel like kids get away with murder, there are consequences.

As an example, today, Betty didn’t get to see the rest of the movie and didn’t get to to swing in the park today. I know it may not make up for the fact that you missed some dialog in your animated feature, but perhaps it will provide some cold comfort.

I’m not being sarcastic when I say this, either. I know my child and I have ruined some of your bus rides, plane rides, meals, and days at the park. To you, I apologize. I sincerely do. Dang, there’s no way for this to sound genuine. I am though. I am very sorry.

I also know that Betty’s presence has made some of you happy. I’m really glad. It was a wonderful accident.

I’m not going to keep her home until she’s seven, or what have you, however. Therefore, you’ll have to get used to her little piping voice in the darkness every now and again, of her tiny face staring at you while she asks if you’re eating chicken. Some of you will find it endearing, but others will view it as a living hell.

I do apologize for the inconvenience.

Now I have to go. She’s shoving a cucumber in my face.

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About paulgude

Paul Gude writes small books, makes stupid music, draws silly pictures, and does weird things on stage.
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One Response to Kids in Public

  1. Tonya Goth Simmons says:

    I’m with you on No. 3 – it definitely helps. Even when I’m exasperated with his behavior the people around us still think it’s cute.

    It’s gotta be the curls!

    Thanks for applying your unique senses of humor to the art of parenting.

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