Thursday, September 22, 2005

Baby Wars

My biological clock is not ticking. Well, it gave a bit of a burp the other day while I was walking by April Showers in the mall -- I have a soft spot for adorably cheesily-themed baby clothing, and that day's fetish item was a tuque with floppy rabbit ears on it, a matching sweatshirt with a white bunny, and little socks with bunny faces. I swear I wanted to take the mannequin home with me. But, overall, I'm strongly in the non-parent camp. I'm far too young, too unruly, too financially impoverished, and too physically unprepared to have children. Emotionally, my cat is responsibility enough, and I can leave the kitten home alone for most hours of the day. I read a fascinating article on just now about the stroller wars. The article was ostensibly about "SUV"-style super strollers. We all know what the columnist is talking about -- who hasn't fallen victim to those massive asshole-mobile strollers that seem to be larger than the sidewalk? And lately, supermarkets have taken to catering to the five-and-under-crowd by making these enormous shopping carts, 1.5 times the width of a normal shopping cart, shaped like a gigantic, beet-red VW bug. I'm not terribly sure where the groceries go but eight bouncing children could vroom-vroom all through the canned vegetable aisle to their heart's content. Personally, I think it might be part of a vast, right-wing SUV conspiracy to hook them into over-sized gas guzzlers at an early age. The article highlights what I agree is an extremely tense and tangible divide between parents and non-parents. As a non-parent, I'm often frustrated by what seems to be society's incessant over-emphasis on procreation. Not only is it insulting to those of us who have chosen to devote our early and mid-twenties and live our lives by our own timeframe, but it's remarkably heteronormative. Moreover, I'm 22, so I know in three years, something in my brain is going to short-circuit and nothing will be more attractive to me than a snot-nosed little rugrat, but why is it that while I still have a few precious months left to myself, my life choices must be looked down upon as selfish, less-than, or misguided? The breast-feeding issue, for example, is one that I simply can't understand. I know that a hungry baby needs to be fed, and God knows, no one wants to force a mother to starve their child, but why must I, the non-parent be constantly told that my concerns, however less tangible than a whining baby, should be put second to someone else's offspring? Somehow, if I walk around with my shirt off because it's hot, that's a public disturbance, but when a new mother pulls her breast out to stuff a nipple into her baby's mouth, it's totally fine? I didn't choose to have a child, so why am I the asshole for rolling my eyes when a parent chooses to bring a screaming infant into a Friday night premiere of Steven Speilberg's War of the Worlds? To me, it's like the second hand smoking issue -- what people choose to do with their lives, whether it's the harmful addiction of nicotine or the admittedly wonderful act of creating life, what one chooses to do with their lives is fine and dandy, but we should draw a line at forcing everyone around you to be compromised based on your life choices. Parenting is difficult -- but the parent chose to be the parent. To paraphrase, I use condoms for a reason. I'm not anti-child, per se, I'm anti-asshole parents who really do think it takes a village, and I somehow just got drafted. What we need between parents and non-parents might be communication, but, frankly, I don't think the parents are listening to us. They've got the children to deal with.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know what you mean. Be glad you don't live with rugrats right now (little half bros/sis for me). You then truly know what it is when they mean "little kids needs trump your need for quiet/personal space."

9/22/2005 09:31:00 AM  
Blogger drublood said...

I think you answered your own questions in this post.

You need to be "put second to" someone "stuffing a nipple" into a crying babies mouth because at that point, your concerns DON'T matter. It's really as simple as that. Mamas have enough shit to deal with without having to worry about whether or not you think our "choice" to have children inconveniences you in any way.

And, no, it's not at all the same as second hand smoke. Don't even go there. I'm not squirting breast milk on you. I'm simply feeding a child.

I can't help but compare your attitude in this post to the attitude of those who blame people who live in poverty for their "choices." Yes, choices were made that resulted in this tiny human. However, a civil society requires all of its members to make reasonable accommodations for others, regardless of the "choices" they make.

Whether you know it/like it or not, children are part of our civil society. Their presence requires all of us to make reasonable accommodations for them as well as for those who are tasked with caring for them.

I like you, and I don't want to alienate you, but I'm tempted to end this post by adding "Get over it."

9/22/2005 01:05:00 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

DruBlood, I respect your position and appreciate the points you've raised. You're certainly well within your rights to tell me to "get over it" -- (and maybe I will when my biological clock goes off) but I do have to suggest that the general unwillingness by both parties to hear the other side of the argument is what fuels this divide.

I think you must also understand that as much shit as one gets for being a mother, mothers also tend to expect non-parents to deal with the shit, as well, excepting that we have made the conscious or unconscious choice not to have a child. Like I said, I think having a child is great, and being a great parent is also great, but as a non-parent, I've dealt with many attitudes that seem to suggest that being reluctant to have children is somehow not contributing to the 'civlized society' you mention.

I am not ready for children. I recognize that I am not a parent and have no idea how difficult it is to be a parent. But at the same time, why should that mean that I am in the wrong for being annoyed at the mother who brings their infant to a late-night showing of a movie and who refuses to leave the theatre when the child, understandably cranky, starts to wail? Why should I be wrong for getting upset at the child who sits behind me on the airplane and incessantly kicks the back of my seat throughout a 14-hour flight? What about the five-year-old who is allowed to run rampant through the church aisles during sermons, disrupting everyone else's prayer time? (This happened recently when I was invited to church service) Why am I told to just shut up if I consider there to be a double standard for parents and non-parents in which the parent is given a pass when they or their families are inconsiderate nuisances?

I liken it to secondhand smoke only in the sense that as a society, we have pretty much unilaterally agreed that one's life choices should be acceptable only so long as they don't adversely affect anyone who has not chosen to make the same choices. Obviously, I don't intend it to go so far as to suggest having children is carcinogenic and causes lung cancer. If you smoke, go ahead and smoke but if I don't smoke, do you have the right to demand that I be subjected to the second hand effects of your choices?

Certainly, I take the extreme in the non-parent position and I realize that in this idealized compromise I'm spouting, I will have to be more understanding of the needs of the child, but I think you have to realize the frustration non-parents feel for having to sacrifice for the sake of a stranger's child -- we are the pedestrian constantly being pushed aside fro the Hummer strollers. And it's not the baby's fault but the parent who doesn't care about who she runs over so long as her baby is comfortable. (This isn't every parent, btw, but I don't think we can deny that those parents are out there...)

My only question is -- is it fair? Should parents take as much blame for being as inconsiderate of us and our needs as they are expecting us to be considerate of them and their children? Most non-parents I've met, including myself, are willing to tolerate most public disturbances -- the article doesn't tell of non-parents chastising a parent for having children, and if a baby is hungry, by all means, breast-feed.

The bottom line is that there should be a compromise made -- but one in which both sides are heard as having equal gripes. If you're going to go to a restaurant with your two-year-old baby, perhaps leaving the restaurant when the child starts to throw a tantrum might be more considerate of others than letting the child scream at the top of his lungs or terrorizing the other patrons. By suggesting that I, as a current non-parent, should always step aside for a parent's stroller, or let it pass when a parent rams into my shins with it, is to suggest that I and my life choices are still fundamentally inferior to those who have children.

And if we are really about a "civil society" in which the ultimate goal is to have children, what does that say to homosexual couples who can't reproduce and don't have the right to adopt? Or barren couples? Or people who are too financially constrained to take on the extra responsibility? Or people who don't feel emotionally ready? Are we therefore morally suspect?

In my mind, having children is a perfectly valid and totally commendable, empowered and worthy life choice. But so, too, is not having children. I simply dislike the idea that having kids is considered 'better'.

9/22/2005 03:47:00 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

re-reading your comment, I'd also like to add that it's more than secondhand smoke. Patrons are asked to be quiet in libraries. If you decide to walk around listening to music, it's considered inconsiderate to do so by listening to a boom-box, and most public transportation systems suggest using personal music devices and keeping the volume low.

We have ordinances against loud parties late at night in residential areas. You can go to jail for driving intoxicated, not because you're in danger, but you're endangering others. Movies ask that all moviegoers silence their cell phones and pagers so as not to disturb other patrons...

As a society, we tend to have the attitude that "your right to punch me ends when your fist touches my face". While obviously no one is squirting breast milk on me, but as a member of this "civilized society" I've had numerous outings ruined by a parent who has been inconsiderate of those around them. I've sat through the 14-hour flight with the child kicking my back the entire time, and gotten the dirty look when I kindly asked the parent to stop the child.

We chastize the annoying cell phone guys or the people who come in late during lecture and try to take a middle seat in a crowded classroom. Again... why the double standard? Obviously we all have to tolerate a child to some extent, but at what point are we forcing someone who's made the choice not to have a child to deal with the consequences anyways?

9/22/2005 03:57:00 PM  
Blogger drublood said...

All I can say in response, Jenn, is that children are little human beings. Babies have no self-control. Toddlers are loud, unruly critters. And parents are HUMANS.

Your insistance on attempting to equate the presence of children as a given in a civil society with some sort of insistence that everyone HAVE children is ridiculous. It's just not implied or directly stated in my response, nor is it something I would even consider. However, it is a fact of life that children exist, and that it is extremely challenging to raise them. Whether or not someone else makes the choice to have children...or whether or not someone has the ability to have children does not make this fact any less true.

I don't know what to say about your examples of so-called inconsiderate parents. I do know that even as the mother of ONE very mellow child (as opposed to the mother of TWO children, one of whom is far from mellow) I frequently said and thought things about other parents that I now dreadfully regret. I've learned that regardless of how irritated *I* feel about the obnoxious child in a public place, I cannot assume or place myself in the position of the parent in that situation.

For crying out loud, I got griped at in Carlsbad Caverns because I was unable to adequately SHOOSH & control my 4 year old in the middle of a freaking cave that I could not possibly escape from! My 8 year old and I were doing our best to enjoy our tour. What was I supposed to do there, Jenn? As the single mother of two children, I just have to plow forth and hope for the best. I can't leave one behind to fulfill the needs of the other.

And regardless of what you say to cover up for it, you are addressing all parents in this post. You are not saying "That one time there was a screaming child in the movie theater" or "That child who kicked my seat on the airplane" - because I have been that parent with the screaming/unruly child in a place where someone felt it was "inappropriate" - you...YOU are creating a division between parents and non-parents that need not be created. We live in a civil society. There will always be children, whether you like it or not. In a civil society, we can either welcome children and attempt to show sympathy/empathy for the difficult challenge that parents face in raising them...or we can spout off like you have in this post, and then try to say that I need to "hear you out." I DON'T need to hear you out. I don't bring my children places for the sole purpose of annoying anyone. I bring my children places because they are people who are reliant on me for almost all of their needs, and I usually have no choice.

Dealing with the sounds of children in a restaurant is not the consequence of someone's choice to have children. It's the consequence of LIVING ON EARTH where PEOPLE REPRODUCE. You have no more right to insist on a child-free (or even child-restrained) environment in public places than I have to insist upon a blue-eyed free environment in public places. And, worse, your griping about it is oppressive, because many women choose to stay home with their children rather than getting out there in public because of these kinds of attitudes.

Do you get that? I mean, this is a bit rambly (ironically, because there is a 4-year old in the room who is distracting me a great deal) but I think this is really important.

And, by the way, I *AM* communicating with you as respectfully as I possibly feel able to. I just really, passionately feel like this sort of thing that you are saying is on a spectrum of oppression, and way more harmful than you give yourself credit for.

And you really show your refusal to understand the point when you equate parenting with inappropriate cell-phone use and late seat-taking. There's a variable in parenting that doesn't exist in those other activities. It's called a willful and often difficult to manage HUMAN BEING. Trust me, if I could put my child on mute, or shove him in a backpack so I could get to school on time, I would!

9/22/2005 05:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Kaede said...

As a parent, I feel I understand both sides of the issue. I too take offence at those with big-ass strollers that take up more space than they should, all just for one (or more) brats who are fully capable of walking. (for the majority of the ones I've seen, anyway...I do recognise there are those out there for those who can't walk and that's not who I am aiming at) I am also not keen on those with brats that run up and down the aisles on aircraft, creating a potential hazard, or those who kick the backs of the seats, put their seat backs so far back you can't actually sit comfortably (I actually had to ask one to put their chair back up because I couldn't physically stand it on our last trip!) and other activities. I don't see why we should have to put up with stuff like that just because they are children and lack manners. The whole idea of being a parent is to teach your children right from wrong, manners etc. and that is what I do, which frustrates me no end when I see the endless stream of ill-mannered brats wandering around. THIS is what Jenn is annoyed at, if I read correctly, rather than someone who is going about their business not getting in anyone else's face.

There's also the other issue of 'when are you going to have kids' for those who don't have them, or if you don't want them, you get the third degree and derided for being anti-child. Some ppl just aren't cut out for being a parent, and some parents aren't even cut out for it and shouldn't have been parents to start with. At least some ppl recognise that and that's fine. Some ppl want to wait. That's cool too, but who are we to judge just because we've got kids? Who are we to judge when our ill-mannered brats annoy someone? It's then OUR fault for not teaching them better, not the kid's and certainly not the person who they're annoying!

I also object to those who take their children to inappropriate events. I mean like certain movies, loud concerts etc. I was appalled once to see a tiny baby, not more than a few months old, if that, at a rock concert. Great parenting there, guys and now your kid's gonna be deaf. Way to go. It's just wrong. You wouldn't take your older kids to something like that, so why your younger ones? If a movie I like is not rated for my son, he doesn't see it, even if he wants to. Not until I've seen and vetted it, at any rate.

It's all about respect for children and for others and something that I find is seriously lacking in today's society. Everyone seems so intent on getting what they want out of things that they forget it's not all about them at all.....

9/22/2005 05:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Kaede said...

In your example of the caverns, you mentioned not being able to get out. Was there not any option of staying where you were with someone like a guide or whatever to help until the child calmed down? I don't know how it works there, but here in the UK, for the most part anyway, where there are attractions like that, they have radios to call if someone needs help like that and I can tell you from experience, it does help.

I took my son to the Mary King's Close attraction and about 3/4 of the way thru (it's underground) he freaked out in a big way. Rather than risk annoying everyone, the tour guide called for someone to come and guide us out because there just was NO way he was gonna stop down there. (he's very sensitive and jumpy at the best of times *sighs*) If this is not available there, you might want to suggest it.

I have had times when I have had to leave doing something I enjoy because my son was acting up. I have no choice in that either, cuz it's called respect. I don't care that I'm missing out on something for me. I don't like pissing ppl off and it's worth the inconvenience later on, to me. I have no alternative either, because I am my child's principal caregiver, and have no other to help out most of the time so I just take it how it is. It sucks, but that's life. I'd rather do that than alienate others and create hard feelings. Again, it's all about respect.

9/22/2005 05:47:00 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

Drublood, first of all I am trying to approach this as giving you my side of the situation as well.

I don't have time to read or comment on everything here -- but one question has to be asked right away: how, in any way, are non-parents oppressing parents?

Perhaps we don't see eye-to-eye, perhaps we both feel strongly and we both disagree, and granted I am not a parent so I don't know exactly how difficult it is. But this is not an oppression level event. I don't think that word should be thrown around lightly.

I will comment more when I have a chance to read this all more thoroughly.

9/22/2005 09:42:00 PM  
Blogger drublood said...

Jenn, it's on the spectrum of oppression, because the inability or unwillingness of non-parents (and also some parents) to deal with the fact that children are children and will often do unpredictable and frequently undesirable things in public places (in spite of the best intentions or efforts of parents) ends up limiting my choices as a parent and, actually, as a woman.

One of the most obvious places this is manifested is the workplace. I'm probably going to write about that more later.

9/22/2005 09:48:00 PM  
Blogger drublood said...

Kaede, you are making the same mistake that the woman in the cave made, and that *I* have made when judging the actions of a parent whose child I am deeming "unruly" or disruptive. That is, you are assuming I was not doing my absolute best to minimize the disruption.

What the shoosher in the cave did not consider, and what you are not considering, is that my children and I had been traveling in a car for 4 days. That the cave was at least a 12 hour drive from home. That I am a single parent with an older child who desired to explore the cave, and it was an opportunity that took a great deal of time and expense to facilitate. That my younger child was merely shouting to hear his voice echo in the cave (which is actually developmentally appropriate for a four-year old) and that we were in the middle of a 1 hour walk from which there was no short cut. My 4 year old was not freaking out. He was not hurting anyone. He was just making noise.

But I'm personalizing this where I should be generalizing. And I think the difference between your attitude and mine...and it's a difference I have learned through my own judgmental tendencies, so I'm really not saying I'm "better" than that I try to assume that anyone in any given situation is honestly DOING THE BEST THEY CAN. And if a child or an adult is causing a disruption in a situation, they are doing the best they know how to minimize the disruption. No amount of me acting frustrated, annoyed, irritated, or entitled is going to help that person through that situation.

And, honestly, there are some situations (like the middle of a cave on the last day of a 5 day road trip) where I personally don't give a shit if someone else is irritated by my four year old making goofy-ass joyous noises and being a brat. Because, frankly, I'm doing the best that I can. Which is exactly what I told my shoosher. I said "Lady...he's four. And I'm doing the best that I can."

9/22/2005 09:57:00 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

Drublood, it's interesting that you cite your experience in the cavern because I think you misunderstand what I'm saying. The issue I'm raising is not that you're not trying or that I'm presupposing that you're going out just to annoy people -- from what you've written, I'm sure you are an excellent parent and frankly, I'm impressed with your dedication to your children to try and expose them to learning experiences like the caves.

In the cavern situation, I can say that I personally would not have been upset by a child who was playing, and that it seems you were aware that their behaviour might've been difficult for others. It sounds to me like you were trying to shoosh your child but it wasn't working. You had no out -- and you were doing your best. That I respect.

But Kaede nailed my point on the head. My problem is with parents who don't try, and frankly, Dru, as a non-parent, I've encountered more parents who aren't as good as you. Parents who obviously aren't putting in the effort. A few months ago, my bf was at the cheesecake factory where he watched a three couples chat animatedly amongst themselves, while a masse of five children were milling about around them. At least one child was getting loudly unruly, darting in front of waiters and nearly tripping them, and even growling like a dog and acting like he was going to "attack" incoming patrons (as a child would do as he were pretending to be a dog). His parents did not do anything but keep one hand on the back of his overalls and hold him as he literally threw himself at people, growling. They didn't say anything to him but continued to chat about whatever it was they were talking about.

My point is that as much as I appreciate your desire to trust that parents are doing their best, as a non-parent, that has not been my experience. My experience, as a non-parent, is that some parents tend to run over those around them, and are inconsiderate as to how their children, little unruly beasts that they can be, might be causing a fuss that disturbs others.

It is intolerant of the non-parent to have chastized you when you were doing your best. But I find it just as disturbing that some parents are as inconsiderate of others as they expect us to be considerate of their children. I'm not saying parents can or should lock themselves at home, but non-parents should not feel terrorized by children and then not be made to feel like total assholes when they express some understandable frustration. You may feel like you need to stay at home with your child -- imagine how I feel when I feel like I'm being chased out of public places by other people's children and then be told I am in the wrong for reacting. Parents may be powerless to stop their children -- so imagine how we, as the non-parents, feel.

Ultimately, though, my point is the double standard. Non-parents shouldn't get the better deal. Parents shouldn't get the better deal. If a woman can take her breast out to breast-feed her child, I should be allowed to take my shirt off because I'm hot. I cite the cell phone stuff because fundamentally, I feel the problem is that people aren't being considerate. More importantly, there's a double standard in which we have no problem with chastizing the guy who honsetly forgot to turn his cell phone off and got an unexpected phone call, but we feel uncomfortable being frustrated with the parent who lets their child throw a tantrum in the grocery store and even do stuff like kick other customers, and not even take the second to apologize to the non-parent who just took a foot to their shin.

Again, I think Kaede hit the nail on the head -- non-parents should be more tolerant of a parent who is doing their best, and parents should realize that non-parents have just as much a right to express frustration by your child.

As far as society telling us to have children, it absolutely is a pressure. I'm a semi-successful twenty-something with a steady boyfriend, earning my degree and trying to work towards a better future. Despite all this, there is a large part of society that feels that women in particular are not truly successful until they have kids. I don't think you can argue against this -- after all, this is what the role of women were defined as for generations. We're only now getting more choices... but there is still so much about our culture that says we should be having kids. I feel part of this is the high emphasis society places on the needs of children -- to the point where those of us who choose not to have children for whatever reason are considered less than those who have them.

As far as the oppression thing, I object to the use of the word oppression in this case because, regardless of the diversity of oppressions introducecd by the matrix of oppression model (which I do subscribe to), oppression is fundamentally an act of restriction by those who have power to limit the opportunities of those who don't. I don't think there's any way that you could convince me that non-parents have more societal and cultural power than parents such that they could actually forcibly oppress parents and prevent them from exercising their freedoms.

I'm really sorry to nitpick... I guess it's just one of my pet peeves that the distinction is rarely made between oppression and intolerance.

(PS... so sorry this comment was so long...)

9/22/2005 11:28:00 PM  
Blogger drublood said...

Hey Jenn. Thanks for going there with me. I appreciate the thought you've forced me to put into this. However...

No. It's not intolerance, it's oppression. I appreciate your trying to clarify with me, but I disagree wholeheartedly. Here's why.

First, the easy win. It's oppressive for anyone to tell me that I can't feed my baby when he or she is hungry. It's also oppressive for someone to tell me that I need to relegate the feeding of my child to restrooms. I don't see how anyone could argue that the anti-breastfeeding line is anything BUT oppressive.

And, here's the deal. Here's where you make your mistake. The oppression doesn't come from YOU, it comes from the patriarchy. Because it's the patriarchal worldview that enables the line of argument that children do not belong in public spaces. That line contributes directly to women being "forced" through public opinion to stay at home, isolated, out of sight, not bothering anyone with their loud, unruly children.

It's not you, the childless woman, who oppresses mamas. It's the patriarchal idea that children (and therefore, their mothers) should be either seen and not heard or just not seen at all.

That's where the power comes from. So, yeah, in my mind it "counts" as oppression.

And that oppression leads to even greater inconveniences for me as a single working mama. Inconveniences such as absolutely HAVING to have childcare for every second I am at work, lest the people I work with have to deal with the fact that at one point in my life, small creatures dropped out of my uterus and turned into larger, sometimes obstreperous creatures, for one thing.

You know, I wasn't actually looking for your approval about the cave incident. I knew that the person (who actually did have a child with her, by the way) who shooshed me was being a jerk. But, um, would you be less likely to grant me your approval if I told you that half of the time my 4-year old was shouting, he was actually shouting the words "THAT ONE LOOKS LIKE A PENIS!"

I guess it's all relative. But I really think there's a tie-in to sexism here more than parentism. I think this idea that parents (mostly least that's who I see blamed more often than not) need to somehow exert more "control" over their children (ah, the fabled and oft-wished for control!) is really an excuse to allow society an opportunity to exert more control over its women.

Maybe chew on that a bit before you answer.

Oh, and...I made a long comment on my blog about this mythical "screaming child in the movie theater" and what I think are the classist implications of that.

9/23/2005 12:38:00 AM  
Blogger Jenn said...

Dru, you may want to share your blog link if you'd like to forward us to the classist implications of the screaming child in the movie theatre... I think I know what you're getting at (i've been accused of this before, after all), but it's hard to jump into that discussion without knowing what you're trying to say.

I think we should be clear about this: if you are going to talk about oppression of parents, i think you should be clear who you're talking about. your earlier comments suggested that it was nonparents oppressing parents, not the patriarchy, which prompted my line of questioning. i absolutely agree that the patriarchy has expended a lot of energy trying to oppress women and force us into predefined gender roles as mothers and caregivers. but public opinion is not oppression -- you may feel discouraged from leaving the house with a loud child, but you have the freedom to leave. oppression would be if you left your house with your child, and got arrested and deported. oppression would be not having the choice to defy public opinion. i really don't mean to be callous, and with all due respect to the difficulty that parents, particularly the stigma that single mothers, face in this society, what you describe is inconvenienced. just because oppression may be modelled as a matrix and not a hierarchy does not mean that every inconvenience a person of a particular identity faces is an "oppression".

moreover, i would argue that while the idea that a child should be seen and not heard has been true for generations, that idea is no longer as relevant in today's culture, what with the 'modern' approaches to child-rearing introduced by people like dr. spock.

the oppression you describe i feel does not correlate to the oppression of muslim americans who are subjected to unlawful searches by the government, of homosexuals who cannot marry, or even of women who do not get equal pay for equal work. as a person of colour and a woman, i have always been uncomfortable with the continuing dilution of the meaning of oppression.

secondly, let's get it straight. i'm not anti-breast-feeding. i'm anti-double standard. if you can remove part of your shirt to breast-feed, i should be able to take off my shirt when it's hot out. is it fair to allow some women to remove their shirts because they fit into the patriarchy's idealized gender role marginally better than the childless woman?

as far as the caves thing, i wasn't looking to ingratiate myself. i was looking to clarify my stance and give you my honest reaction to that scenario. no, it wouldn't have made a difference to me what your child was yelling. it still sounds to me like you were trying and for me, the fact that you showed consideration for those around you is what matters. when i compare your actions to the aforementioned other parents, i can't help but consider you part of the solution, not part of the problem. kids will be kids -- they do not know what is socially appropiate, especially not at that age. as non-parents, i am not so far gone that i can't recognize the need for at least that much tolerance of a child's antics.

the tie-in to sexism i see here is how i think, in the end, it's bizarre that two women, both self-identified feminists are allowing the patriarchy to divide us over their described gender roles. parentism does affect women more than men -- we are the victims on both sides, whether it be mothers blamed for being too lax or women criticized for remaining childless. this is part of why i think there needs to be more communication, and an understanding that we both have equally valid viewpoints that needs compromise, not continuing disdain for one another. i am not the guy who forces you to breastfeed in the restroom. you are not the parent who doesn't care who hears their child scream.

I wrote this post because I've often felt frustrated that the day-to-day struggles of the non-parents are usually ignored in favour of the more obvious and tangible difficulties of the parents. everyday, i turn on the television and am reminded how my concerns are less important than those of society's children. you mention a civil society in which children exist -- but non-parents don't just have to put up with children, we have to fall in line with the belief that other people's children matter more than we do. that's a difficult pill to swallow given that many of us have made the specific choice not to be so tied to a child's needs.

i don't equate our experiences; after all, i have no idea what it's like to have to deal with a screaming child and be embarassed by hateful, obstinant strangers. i simply don't understand why many parents don't give a shit about being considerate of others around them, even when even a simple apology to those whose days have been compromised would suffice. in the end, non-parents feel belittled by a society who doesn't care about us because we have no children of our own and aren't part of that elite club. we just want the common courtesy of recognizing exactly how tolerant we are being asked to be. as much as i feel for your difficulties, i can't help but think that you haven't really given my core arguments much thought.

and so we're back where we started.

lastly, i do appreciate this conversation, but i hope we can avoid the condescension that seems implicit in the statement: "maybe chew on that a bit before you answer". i've given a great deal of thought to my point of view on parenting, and i dislike the suggestion that i'm a moron, mouthing off. this discussion seems to have gotten overly personal for you, and i never intended for it to. if you were offended by anything i've said, i'm truly sorry. but at the same time, i am "chewing" before i answer.

9/23/2005 02:40:00 AM  
Blogger drublood said...

Right, Jenn. This conversation is going nowhere largely because I feel you are TOTALLY missing my point, and then accusing me of missing yours.

My advising you to chew on what I was saying a bit was not intended to be condescending, and...ironically, I felt that your "approval" of my parenting was Hella condescending. As is your insistence that I don't know the meaning of the word "oppression." I'm really not going to get into a "More Oppresseder Than Thou" pissing contest with anyone...again, you are missing my point.

And I apologize if I veered one way during the conversation. It's just that I am bothered by your (and, actually not just yours, but the commonly held) insistence that children need to behave a certain way in order for their parents to be allowed to have them out in public...and I put a LOT of thought into why it bothered me. I pretty much thought about it all day, and then I came up with the idea that it's OPPRESSIVE...and the oppression does not come from you but is yet another manifestation of the Patriarchy ultimately trying to keep women down.

What you are not getting is that the choice doesn't end at deciding whether or not to HAVE children. The choice BEGINS there. I believe you that you experience a great deal of annoying (and even oppressive. Yes. OPPRESSIVE.) bullshit around your choice to not have children. I wonder why it is that you can't see how oppressive it is that once a woman makes the choice to have children, she has to live up to the expectations that you espouse in your original post here?

And, not that I actually care if you want to run around with your shirt off (although I doubt that most women do...and I resent the ridiculous analogy) but it's not at all the same thing as breastfeeding a child. Not to be condescending or anything, but it's pretty ignorant of you to make that comparison.

9/23/2005 10:00:00 AM  
Blogger drublood said...

Sorry...the first paragraph sounded extremely rude. I think I was planning on dropping the conversation, but then I got on a roll. I should have added that I probably AM missing your point...not that you are merely accusing me of doing so.

9/23/2005 10:02:00 AM  
Anonymous Kaede said...

Actually, Drublood, you're making the assumption, not me. I actually stated, that most parents don't try, not that you didn't. I assumed you had done, because of what you said, not the other way around. I felt you would catch that, but I guess it's too personal of an issue for all of us...

I fully sympathise with you, I've been there (and yes, having my son do exactly the same thing in a crowd really brings it out there...and some old wench then having a hissy fit on us...*sighs*) and it sucks. I was just offering an idea to you that you could suggest to them. I have never been there, so have no idea what it's like (the caverns) but just offered my similar experience (of many). As with Jenn, unfortunately, not many parents are as dedicated to their children as we are and that's what I have issues with (and what I feel Jenn has issues with), not those who try their damnedest without any outside help.

I think that people need to get off their high horse when it comes to children (both parents and non-parents alike) and realise that hey, kids are gonna do stupid things, but yeah it IS up to the parents to at least try. If you've tried, more power to you, but our experiences haven't shown that. That makes me rather sad, as we're both in different areas of the world. What is going on if people in 2 so-called world powers have such a lack of respect for each other, much less the next generation? (I am currently in the UK, tho both Jenn and I are Canadian)

There's also something Jenn hasn't mentioned, but I will, since it seems to tie in with the arguments here anyway. What about those children who are away from their parents' control? Like at school or in the streets? What does someone do then? I have had the misfortune of witnessing a serious assault on a bus by some children on another child with my own child watching. This to me is simply unacceptable that parents have not taught their children ANYTHING about respect for others. I had to personally intervene in this matter, and had the children in question thrown off the bus after much ridicule to me after the fact. All the other adults on the bus just sat there, ignoring what was going on. A sad testament to the power these unruly children have over everyone. Maybe it wasn't necessarily the best thing to do, as they could have taken it out on the other child again when I wasn't around but someone's gotta stand up and say this is not right, expecially in the company of younger, impressionable children.

As I've repeatedly stated, it's all about respect, or the lack thereof. The person who shushed you in the cavern was totally disrespectful and as a parent herself I'm surprised, because she should have known better. You did the best you could under the circumstances, nobody is arguing you didn't and you have every right to be annoyed, but it's not and never was aimed at parents who do try. Maybe it's a sore point with you because so many people have been rude to you, but it's the same with Jenn, so many parents and children have been rude with her. We're all coloured by our experiences, aren't we?

9/23/2005 10:03:00 AM  
Blogger drublood said... are misunderstanding me so completely that I find it difficult to respond to you. You are trying to tell me that I'm taking it too personall while I am trying to tell you that I have learned through my experience as the parent who has learned that in spite of my efforts to "do my very best" with my children, someone will always think "She's not trying hard enough."

Regardless of what you or Jenn say after the fact, the fact remains that in the cave I was being judged as having been one of those parents who Wasn't Trying Hard Enough to Control My Child. From that experience, I learned to check MYSELF when I am tempted to stand on the outside of what looks to me like a parent who isn't controlling her children, empathize, and NOT JUDGE.

9/23/2005 10:11:00 AM  
Blogger drublood said...

Ugh. I need to come back to this when there are fewer distractions. Sorry for the typos and the unclear language. Please feel free to ask for clarification if something doesn't make sense.

9/23/2005 10:20:00 AM  
Blogger Jenn said...

i'm sorry that you're getting frustrated, dru, and i do hope you'll come back when you feel less distracted. i didn't intend my response to the cave thing to be condescending -- i am not one of those people who assume you're not doing your best if you are. i'm one of those people kaede describes, who is frustrated with parents who are rude to me and don't try. i think you brought up the cave thing because you assumed i was one of the kinds of assholes you desribed in the caves, and i'm really not, although i know lots of non-parents who are.

the shirt thing -- i point that disparity out because i think it shows how parents are placed on a different pedestal than nonparents, and have different social rules that they have to follow. i don't think that's fair -- i think by saying it's okay to take your shirt off as a woman to feed your child, but not if you're very warm, you're basically saying that women have to hide themselves unless they fit into the patriarchal role of motherhood. that bothers me -- if taking your shirt off is going to be acceptable for mothers, it should be acceptable for all women, regardless of the circumstances.

and, just to put it out there: i don't think non-parents are oppressed by parents. this is not about a pissing contest... this is about understanding exactly what my struggle is. i feel inconvenienced and disrespected, as do you. but we both have the choice to disregard public opinion.

that being said, dru, i'd like to understand what your ideal of how society should treat parents would be. should we non-parents just grit our teeth and say nothing when a child becomes loud and unruly? when we see a hummer stroller barreling down on us, is it our duty, as nonparents to step out of the way in every instance? should our interests always be second to that of the parent and their child? if i'm in the cheesecake factory being terrorized by an uncontrolled child while their parent chitchats about desperate housewives and ignores the kid's behaviour, am i being unfair in having my experience so invaded that i feel uncomfortable and have to leave and then being irate about that?

i'm just trying to understand where the disconnect is. i don't think you should feel like you should have to stay at home. but i don't feel like i should have to either. in a civil society, we should be able to coexist with all three parties (parent, nonparent and child) being respected because being considerate of others, itself, should be respected.

9/23/2005 12:16:00 PM  
Anonymous tekanji said...

I've been trying to avoid commenting on this thread because, as a childfree woman, these issues are very personal for me. I've actually made a more in-depth post on the subject on my own blog, as I ended up going on a long tangent. I've tried to do the "quick summary" for the comment, but it may come out sounding terser than the original. If so, my apologies to anyone I offend.

Dru, I don't think Jenn (or anyone) is purposefully trying to marginalize your experiences. Indeed, you make a good point that there's a fine line between parents trying and failing and not trying at all.

However, I don't feel that you acknowledge that non-parents are, by your definition of the word, oppressed as well. In fact, all my studies on the matter as both a feminist and a childfree woman I've found that it is the very same parts of the patriarchy working against both sides: the institutions/social conventions that want to force you into some pre-conceived notion of motherhood (and punish you when you don't fit into them perfectly) also work against childless and childfree women (and, to a lesser extent, they also work against fathers and non-parent men).

Your arguments are valid, and I think it's important for parents to bring some perspective to non-parents in this argument. But, reading the exchange, I cannot help but feel that you've been hostile while Jenn, who has taken a few firm stances that understandably made you feel attacked, has overall been trying to understand while not allowing herself to slide back into the default value of acknowledging parents' experiences as more valuable than her own. And, I guess, that's what I feel you aren't understanding: yes, you get that the experiences of parents and non-parents are equally valuable, but society doesn't. No one is saying parents have it easy, far from it. The patriarchy is about control, it doesn't care if the women are childed or not. But I would argue that the pervading opinion, in the US at least, is that having a child is the only way to become a 100% human being. And those without children are, by proxy, lesser and therefore we have to just suck it up and deal with it if our lives are intruded on by someone's child. All I'm saying is that your valid arguments are not exclusive of the valid arguments that Jenn has made in her post.

Bottom line, for me at least: I want to respect the rights of parents without giving up my own.

But neither sides can respect each other as long as we continue to fight as if we're diametrically opposed. We need, as Jenn has proposed, to communicate with each other. There is common ground and both non-parents and parents alike need to find it. Because otherwise it's just all of us being oppressed, inconvenienced, and just plain getting the short end of the stick.

And, as an aside, Dru said: And, not that I actually care if you want to run around with your shirt off (although I doubt that most women do...and I resent the ridiculous analogy) but it's not at all the same thing as breastfeeding a child. Not to be condescending or anything, but it's pretty ignorant of you to make that comparison.

I disagree. I think it's relevant, especially when it is (as Jenn is using it) arguing for public breastfeeding. I try to avoid breastfeeding talk, as baby bodily functions squick me, but all the controversy I have ever seen (in feminist, childfree, and otf_wank circles) has involved the argument that women shouldn't breastfeed in public because it's tantamount to exposing oneself. Whether or not you agree with the premise, the facts are that if we didn't put so much stress on "OMG BOOBIES!" not only would Jenn or I be able to go walking around topless to our heart's content, but a big argument that the naysayers use against public breastfeeding would be rendered obsolete.

9/23/2005 02:21:00 PM  
Blogger drublood said...

Jenn, it's difficult for me to discuss this with you when it seems like you are absolutely unwilling or unable to understand some very basic realities about parenting.

First, no woman has to REMOVE HER SHIRT to breastfeed. And your insistence that breastfeeding is the same thing as walking around topless is a huge barrier to this discussion. It's not the same thing. Nursing a baby involves lifting a shirt and popping a baby onto a nipple. It also occasionally involves a child lifting the shirt because that's what babies do.

Which brings me to the other barrier to this conversation: your unwillingness or inability to understand that children are not controllable. You keep trying to move forward with this conversation without ackowledging these two realities, and it makes it very frustrating to try to make my points.

Also, even though I am using myself as an example, I am not trying to say this is about me. Like I have said, I have struggled with my own tendencies towards being judgmental about other peoples' parenting. I've learned through my experience with my own, personally "spirited child" that sometimes my very best really doesn't look like my very best, depending on the arbitrary standards of anyone who is witnessing me struggling with a screaming, unruly, LOUD, rude child in public.

Your coexistence utopia is really not factoring the fact that children, for the most part, up until a certain age, are almost entirely incapable of respecting the rules of civil society. It is our job as adults to teach them that respect. How do we do that? By exposing them to civil society, by allowing them to find their place in civil society, and by, age appropriately, enforcing the standards of civil society. It takes a long, long time for it to sink in, but eventually it does. The funny thing is, big mouths like the woman in the cave who feel like they can help me hurry along the process by saying rude things about my parenting within earshot of my children are NOT helping me enforce the rules of civil society.

In a civil society, we accept the limitations of individuals. In reading your posts on this subject (and You have talked about this before, and I have been silent) it is clear to me that you do not understand the basics of child development and the limitations of children.

I don't know what to tell you about how you are supposed to deal with parents whose parenting you disagree with. But what I am saying is that even though you seem convinced that I'm not "one of them." To some people I AM "one of them." If I tried to cater to everyone's arbitrary standard of how my children should behave in public, it would drive me even more insane than simply attempting to raise my children already drives me.

And I do think this is all part of how sexism works, Jenn. You can deny that it's oppression all you want, but I'm living it, and it feels like the same kind of oppression I experience in any other form of sexism. You are even using the same language as any other *ism...specifically "Well, you are not like "those other" mamas."

Yeah. I'm sorry, truly, that you have to deal with children in public spaces. But, the thing is, we all have to deal with lots of different kinds of people who have a limited ability to live up to whatever arbitrary standards our society wants to force people to live up to. On a daily basis, I deal with plenty of situations in public that I wish I didn't have to deal with. Some of them involve children...some of them do not. My premise is that the reason we have a tendency to judge the situations that include children is because the people who are supposed to be keeping control of the children are WOMEN...and women are always the easiest sector to target for our unrealistic expectations and disdain.

I'm out. I'm going to write more about this later on my blog. Thanks for a nice conversation. I'm sorry if I couldn't help you to understand where I am coming from. I'll continue to fight for your right to choose to not have children. I hope one day I won't have to feel so alienated by my feminist sisters who don't understand that choice BEGINS at contraception.

9/23/2005 03:12:00 PM  
Blogger drublood said...

And, Tekanji, I decided a long time ago that it's not worth my while to embroil myself in conversations with anyone who associates with a group of people who refers to children as "crotch droppings" or worse (much, much worse). If you truly are a feminist who is associated with the childfree movement, you have so much work to do within that movement that I don't even want you to bother wasting your time with little old me.

9/23/2005 03:18:00 PM  
Blogger James said...

Yo.... this post is off the chain!!!

I mean, children are annoying to deal with for people without children. That's a given. Parents don't want society to make them feel bad for having and raising children that's also a given.

But oppression? Of parents with obnoxious children? WTF?

I'm sorry, but oppression requires power, historical injustice, self-perpetuating prejudice, etc. Parents are inconvenienced by non-parents who don't appreciate loud children bothering them in public settings, but oppressed?

Sorry, but that's offensive.

The police aren't going to search and seizure parents without probable cause because a 4 year old can't shut up. Parents are not lampooned in mass media; no one denies parents voting rights. That's oppression.

Frankly, when I read Jenn's post, and the NY Times article, I laughed. I mean, when I'm in a public setting, like a flight or a movie theater, where a young unruly child annoys me, I ask the parents to quiet the child. They made it. They can control it. Often the parents are totally insulted, as if they can't do anything. I don't respect that.

But SUV strollers? I'm a 6'1" African American male - no parent is going to run over me with a damn stroller! If some affluent young mother has enough money to afford a $700 stroller, she has enough sense to protect her investment by moving out of my way.

Parents are not oppressed. The rest of us, non-parents, put up with all kinds of foolishness because of other people's children. The hypocrisy alone: bare breasts at the Superbowl, bad, bare breasts at the mall for a shrieking infant, good?

Feminism is a necessary ideology for all Americans, but I don't see how letting anyone who doesn't practice basic civility in public settings is anti-feminist. To all parents: your children are important, to you. The rest of us shouldn't have to care.

9/23/2005 04:13:00 PM  
Blogger nykol said...

Oh my god! These comments are hard core!. Maybe I'm a little too late in the game but, I'm in the camp with Jenn about the kids deal. I kind of see it as such (and please folks don't take it the wrong way): people with kids seem to outrank everyone else. I certainly felt this way living in Chicago. There was this tendency for people with the trike strollers to NEVER even budge just even moving their stroller to the side - at all!! And would get indignant if I didn't move for them! I would get so infuriated at this behavior. And not just that - Drublood, you might not do this, but a lot of other women do - many women just don't seem to care about other folks when it comes to the immediate needs of their child. And, granted sometimes that happens because you do have to focus all of your attention on your wee one because in their world, that's all that counts.

I kind of think it has a lot to do with an individual's thoughtlessness. I totally don't care whether or not a woman pulls her breast out in public to feed her child. Anyone griping about that fails to realize how society has minimized the importance of child-rearing (and how these activities were necessarily devalued) and the importance of all of us to move activities such as breastfeeding OUT of being in private, hidden spaces back into the public sphere. It is here where I think Dru has made a good point.

Awesome post Jenn. I love rants such as this one. It gets people thinking.

9/23/2005 05:04:00 PM  
Blogger William said...

Wow...y'all never cease to amaze me! I don't even know how this all started, but I've got to hand it to Jenn, Drublood, and even Tekanji; I have never seen a thread go this many rounds on this site before, while still trying to remain civil. Most of our to-do's used to get personal, but maybe y'all don't know enough about each other to take it to that level. In any regard, I LOVED this. It was like an e-Mclaughlin Group. "Child-free"? Y'all better put a better PR spin on that. It evokes the feeling of, "Hi, my name is Will, and I've been child free for 23 years now." *hold for applause from group in folding chairs*
Not to demean anything that went on here today, but I just want to thank you. Even though it just kind of devolved, this truly was an EXCHANGE, and not just a soapbox. I swear I'm not being sarcastic ('cept for the AA reference, but you knew that); I know I swore off commenting, but I just HAD to say I am really awed by the passion and time that went into the defense of both sides.

9/23/2005 05:26:00 PM  
Blogger nykol said...

ok, i admit. i had to post on this one too. it got me thinking about some theory i read in my class a few weeks ago. if you're interested jenn, check out the quotes from frederick engels i posted on my blog.

9/23/2005 06:03:00 PM  
Blogger phillyjay said...

I asked my parents about what they thought of this issue.They said:

For a kid ages 1-4, they can understand how hard it is to control rowdy kids.But if they're crying loudly in a place that needs to be quiet, at least take them out.But 5 and up?No excuses.Either take them out of the movie theatre or whatever, or give them a good smack to make them know when you said shut your mouth and stand still you MEAN it.And they hate SUV strollers.

One thing I never understood is little kids that can definatly walk and even talk, put in a stroller.

9/23/2005 06:38:00 PM  
Blogger nykol said...

@ Everyone:
BTW - if you haven't noticed, the whole issue is about entitlement (who thinks they are more entitled to what space or whatever) and has a great deal to do w/class as well (dammit, my marxist leanings keep popping out). I mean, have you seen the price of those strollers????? I don't know ANYONE who could afford a $600-$800 stroller. That's like my rent for a month, or for some people, two weeks' pay.

How excessive.

9/23/2005 08:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Kaede said...

We had to make do (yep, that phrase) with a £10 second- (or maybe even third-) hand stroller when our son was born because we couldn't afford it, and you know anyway that with those things, your kid isn't going to know either way and isn't going to be in them long enough to care as well. So why bother? It just shoves in someone else's face that you've got money to waste while someone else goes without. (that's how I see it anyway)

We're not that poor now, but we still try to avoid the obnoxious conspicuous consumption issues (hubby's socialist upbringing I suppose and my Canuck politeness ;) ) so that sort of thing really gets me.

Drublood, since you explained in your short little post, I understand a little better where you're coming from, and still feel you've totally misunderstood what I was saying, but that's fine. That's how you how can I argue with that? No hard feelings on this side anyway. (Just to note, I never said you were taking it too personal, I just said we all had our personal feelings on this issue that are perhaps too strong at times....and which I still feel is the case. Not that there's anything wrong with that whatsoever.) I've pretty much said all I can on this issue anyway since it's diverted onto a tangent that's totally off what Jenn posted.

9/23/2005 08:39:00 PM  
Blogger James said...

To me, the problem is this: parents want everyone to regard their bundles of joy with the same love and understanding they display towards the children, and are insulted when that does not occur. Honestly, I don't have children, so I don't see how difficult it is to ensure that children are behaved in public. I'm a regular guy; I don't have to be understanding.

I mean, anyone who can afford a $700 stroller can control their children in public, in my opinion. I mean, if they can't control their children at stroller age, what are they going to be able to do at drug use age, or petty theft age? The plagiarized "it takes a village..." Hilary Clinton rhetoric simply isn't true, and children should learn to respect public spaces at age 3 before a cop forces that lesson at age 23.

Seriously, all that "sometimes it can't be helped" defeatism doesn't make sense. It's not sexism to say that parents should keep their children controlled in public. It's not that deep.

9/23/2005 08:45:00 PM  
Blogger nykol said...

@james: It might not change your mind, but I think you should read my post. It is that deep. And I think that's why Dru was burned by what was said here. The whole issue does have to do with class oppression (it's too long to get into here).

You're right though. It's not sexist to say that parents should keep their kids controlled in public. But for some parents, they might risk taking their kids to the movies, well, for many reasons: cause they want to have some fun, there is no one around babysit gratis, they can't afford the babysitter, they're tired of staying home and watching DVDs, they just want to feel a little saner, perhaps be around other adults....I'm not saying that I haven't gotten irritated by this...but did I die? Well, no.....

With that being said, I think this whole subject is really important, particularly as a corollary to women's issues. Also, we should take note that in other countries, this whole controlling-your-kids-in-public-issue is a real NON-ISSUE. I've lived in SE Asia and by American standards, you would have probably gone nuts over there. I'm not sure if this is an issue in Canada. Is it Kaede? I recall my one of my old advisors exclaiming how integrated children were into public life in Mexico and that we could learn a lesson or two from them.

9/23/2005 09:10:00 PM  
Anonymous tekanji said...

Dru said: And, Tekanji, I decided a long time ago that it's not worth my while to embroil myself in conversations with anyone who associates with a group of people who refers to children as "crotch droppings" or worse (much, much worse).

I find it so incredibly offensive that after I spent so long trying to write a post that acknowledged both sides of the argument that you refuse to address or, I suspect, even read what I wrote.

I find it hypocritical that you pull the same kind of BS that has been pulled on feminists for years: invalidating the entire argument of one person because she identifies as something you have no understanding of outside of a few vocal asshats.

I am childfree because I don't want children and I'm not afraid to admit it. Simple as that.

I do not condone the actions or the rhetoric of certain childfree people. But, guess what? I don't condone the rhetoric of feminists who believe stay-at-home-moms are lazy or that trans men and women are "spies" or "traitors". I don't see you running out and hating on feminists because of people like that, so don't you turn around and make the same ignorant assumptions about the childfree "movement" - which, btw, it isn't. The only thing I have in common by default with other childfree people is that I don’t want kids.

You accuse Jenn of refusing to acknowledge this and that while you are doing the same bloody thing. The only difference is that she is at least trying. You’re just sitting on your holier-than-though horse and judging people.

I’m done with you and your bile.

9/24/2005 12:31:00 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

I read about halfway through these comments and I was thinking to post that you can't control children, when I saw that dru finally had put it that way. I think she was getting frustrated because of everyone's misunderstanding of this basic concept: you just cannot control another human being. Short of tying them up, and still, you can't control their attitudes. Children are people--people with their own personalities and attitudes and take on life. It took me years to finally figure this one out--my mother had taught me that if you just "discipline" the child enough you can control their behaviour. Maybe with me, because I was a docile child, but I paid for that with therapy, and worked hard to be the strong person I am now. But still, you cannot control another human being! Any more than you can control other adults. The sooner we all learn that and accept it, the more we hopefully will be able to grow in community with each other. It was my very strong-willed daughter who taught me this very valuable lesson.

9/24/2005 03:08:00 AM  
Anonymous Kaede said...

For some it is about controlling, for others it's about teaching simple and basic manners. I don't try to control my son. My husband tries and gets absolutely nowhere. He is an only child and was never exposed to children at all until we had G. but I have sibs and have worked with and around children all my life. I know what it's like to have children who don't listen to a word you say. I know what it's like to try and TEACH said children that it's NOT oke to be rude in public. Kids will be kids, yes, but only to the point at which they have been taught. If they've not been taught basic manners and courtesies that we as adults take for granted, then yes, these issues are gonna happen. That is what I believe we are trying to get at here, not those of us like myself and Drublood who are doing our damnedest to teach our kids manners.

I think the whole thing that Jenn was trying to get at is the fact that ultimately, even tho children are people too, the parents have the responsibility to either teach their children to respect others or to take that responsibility themselves when they have obviously made no effort to teach them. There are such people out there. I know, because I worked for one such person and man, I could easily see where she was headed as a person and as a parent.

She was a teacher, yet she point blank refused to teach her children anything, claiming that she taught all day so didn't want to have to do that at home. I kid you not, these are almost the exact words she used when I asked her why she hadn't taught her kids even such basics as PUTTING ON THEIR OWN CLOTHES. Her 5 yr old couldn't even put on her socks, it was that bad, and her 3 yr old. Do NOT get me started on the hell that child was. Yet, thru all this, I was not permitted to discipline the children, nor did she discipline them. At the end of it, I wasn't surprised that she'd lost friends over the way her children behaved and the fact that they'd gone thru 10 nannies in 10 months before me. I lasted 6 months...basically up to the time they almost killed my pet turtle. That was how bad it was. She never once made any effort to repay me for the damage her children did to my belongings and to my pet or even acknowledge that they did so. THIS type of parenting is what we are all objecting to.

I think Jenn's experience of seeing children attacking people pretty much says it all. That type of behaviour should NEVER be tolerated, children or not, and if the parents can't handle it, as far as I am concerned, they need to get help. There are people who specialise in helping parents who can't cope with their child's behaviour and so many FREE parenting classes, there doesn't seem to be much excuse for this type of willful neglect. Because it is neglect, pure and simple, to give up and let your children have free reign to do anything they like without repercussions.

I am not a well person, but I am bound and determined that this is not going to get in the way of my parenting and as far as I can tell, G. is so much better behaved than most other children we see here. He does have his moments, what child doesn't, but it's part of a parent's duty AS a parent to show that for every action there is going to be a punishment if that action merits. Parents also have the responsibility to praise their children when they do things that are praiseworthy and I think that people forget that part of parenting as well. It's as important to praise your child as it is to discipline them....

Anyway, I've run out of things to say now so I'll shut up LOL

9/24/2005 08:16:00 AM  
Blogger nykol said...

@jenn: BTW - Just as an anecdote...This might not work in all situations, but it did work in my own. There was a really obnoxious child that was sitting in the seat directly in front of me (when I was going to Germany) who would not stop moving. I couldn't use my table, therefore, it was difficult for me to read, write, or drink anything. I was infuriated. But then I decided to distract him by playing a peek-a-boo game with him a little. After a few minutes, he totally calmed down and eventually fell asleep. Then I got my peace and quiet.

Sometimes kids are too tired, needs attention (and even the parents give up after a while) whatever that makes them act in seemingly irrational ways. And although I totally agree with the point of child-rearing being the main responsibility of the parents, I also think us non-parents need to be proactive about obtaining our own peace and quiet in creative ways. Now, I don't think this would work in a movie theatre though........ :)

9/24/2005 09:27:00 AM  
Blogger Elayne said...

Thanks Jenn, I enjoyed the post and ensuing discussion, even though it took some rather bizarre turns.

FWIW, I'm 41, don't have kids, never had the slightest desire to have kids and my life is awesome. If the 'I need a baby' hormones hit and you decide to go that route, great, but if not there is life beyond babies despite all the societal and social pressures to have them.

9/24/2005 02:16:00 PM  
Blogger desperateknitwife said...

you're forgetting the whole WORK DISCRIMINATION thing where we don't get the convenient excuse of being absent for children's problems or like in our situation i have to go WITHOUT health insurance because my husband's company wants to make us pay $500 DOLLARS A MONTH for children we don't have under the "family plan" yes, there's lots of discrimination against childfree adults in our society and with the rise of the 4th reich bush chrisitanity insanity group, it's only going to get worse.

12/28/2005 10:07:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem with "dru blood" is that she can't (or won't) accept any other "values" than her own. She obviously wants to society to conform or convert to her child breeding family values, or they're all scum of the earth. They sound a lot like bush supporters, don't they?

2/08/2006 03:37:00 AM  

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