1) Could you shut that kid up? No, actually. I can't. Don't you think I would love to?
2) That child is upset! Really? Omigod. You must have majored in childhood development.
3) Get that kid out of here. He's bothering all of us. All right, I'll just get off the bus five miles from home, that's no problem at all. So sorry I didn't think of that.
4) If you can't handle kids you shouldn't have them. Oh, shall I just give them to you then? Or do I drop them off at the nearest orphanage? What, exactly, is the protocol here, seeing as how there is NO WAY OF KNOWING whether or not I am going to be able to handle motherhood WITHOUT BECOMING A MOTHER?
That said, there are of course the truly lovely people who go out of their way to help carry strollers, return fallen toys, and share snacks. Probably twenty of them for every one of the nasties. Somehow, though, it takes just one of the remarks above to throw me into a tailspin that thirty or more kind gestures may not be able to undo.
Here's the thing: it's Xir's birthday today. And for whatever reason, Anainn chose today to have one loooong....as in 23 hours looooong....meltdown. As in screaming, crying, throwing things, rubbing snotty paws over face and everything else. Incessantly. Meltdown.
So my options were: nix all the carefully laid birthday plans so as not to expose child-in-meltdown to world at large ( and therefore deal with TWO children-in-meltdown, one of whom is quite scathing in his ability to express resentment) or go ahead and proceed with the birthday and keep my fingers crossed that exhaustion would kick in at some point and knock Anainn out. Or wait, there's a third one which at least three people over the course of the day kindly suggested: get a nanny. By the third time I just held my hand out and said "YOU pay for it, and it's a deal." Guess what? I still don't have a nanny. But I didn't have to deal with any more snide remarks from that particular individual, at least.
Do people not realize that they can go home? They can walk away? They can bury their face in a newspaper or turn up their iPod? This is MY LIFE. What do they want from me?
Prejudice is definitely at work here; it is insidious but it is there. I just can't decide whether it is blatant societal prejudice against small children or blatant societal prejudice against mothers of small children. Or maybe it is blatant societal prejudice against just the mothers and small children that don't act like the mothers and small children in Johnson & Johnson ads.
Why on earth does this culture design public places that are supposed to be entirely quiet when we all KNOW that developmentally there is no child under 4 that can be expected to do this? CHILDREN EXIST. EVERY ONE OF YOU WAS A CHILD ONCE. THEREFORE JUST FUCKING DEAL WITH THE FACT THAT EVERYWHERE YOU GO, THERE WILL BE CHILDREN.
Sorry. I'm done now.
When I first wrote this, I was too worn down to suggest any solutions, so I'm adding them now. AND I intend to write letters including them to all of the major entities mentioned here, including the editorial section of the LA times.
1) Big Blue Bus: Include a storage section near the front where strollers can be stowed. Wall off a part of the bus with plexiglas; this will be the "children's area" and will have, at the very least, seatbelts. Soundproofing would be good too. But I'm not holding my breath.
2) Movie theaters: Have a room back amongst the theaters, with a door that closes, filled with cheap toys and books. This can be the waiting area for younger siblings of moviegoing children so that the mothers (or fathers) of said children do not have to pace the halls braving the glares of other moviegoers. Better yet, staff it with another of those bored teenagers they always have at movie theaters so that the mother or father can actually watch the movie they paid for.
3) Libraries: This should be obvious. DON'T put the "Quiet Study" section DIRECTLY ADJACENT to the "Kids" section. Are you listening, Julian Dixon Library? Also, some kind of low gate closing off the kids section from the rest of library would save a lot of baby-chasing and its accompanying noise.
4) Restaurants: This might be playing into the hands of prejudice, but how about a little segregation? Every restaurant from the mightiest French spot to the lowliest Denny's should have a Kids Section. In this section, there are no little trays of sugars on the table. No one hands silverware to the baby. High chairs are de rigueur and don't have to be requested multiple times. (Also their restraints aren't broken. ) The moment you sit down in the Kids Section, little cups with lids and straws are brought to everyone along with trays of finger food. There is no dessert menu. If the children go into meltdown mode the staff are authorized to bring the mother a complimentary stiff shot of something. Any adult who so much as glares at any other adult in the Kids Section is ejected from the premises forthwith. (Unless they're in the same party: that's just marriage.)
5) Museums: On Free Days, offer family-centric tours of the museum that emphasize points of interest for all ages and are a little more tolerant of general rambunctiousness than most. Although, I have to say, most museums are FAR more on-the-ball regarding children than other places.
6) Universities: C'mon. EVERY extension course should have childcare on the premises. This is not a hard one, folks.
I would like to state, too, that I am not suggesting all of these things simply to make my life easier. I think that all of society would benefit from a more thoughtful inclusion of children: study after study has proven that children who are exposed to varying and stimulating environments grow into more intelligent and responsible adults. And, lest this evidence be interpreted as a call for children to be secreted away in stimulating day care from day one, studies have also proven that in cultures where all generations are integrated into daily life, general happiness is higher. Now doesn't that sound good?