Weekly Writing Challenge: Mind The Gap
This post is written as a response to a specific challenge. The question as I read it is, should children be allowed in adult venues like nice restaurants or shows, or should they be left at home so adults can enjoy some grownup time? As I begin working on this I have the feeling that I too will be hung up in the gray area between “kids” and “no kids”. My life has a BC (Before Children) and an AC (After Children). In my BC life I was very intolerant of other people’s children. It didn’t help that I worked as a babysitter through high school and college. After all, hell is other people’s children. I winced when I saw children on an airplane with me, glared when I saw a family with kids in a fine restaurant, and muttered impolite things about people’s kids behind their back. To me, they were little pains in the butt who should be seen and not heard, and preferably not seen at all. I trumpeted the joys of having no children, and announced to my poor friends and family that children were selfish little savages and I wasn’t having any. So with this foundation in mind, at age 37, I became…
AC: After Children. I gave birth to my only child when I was 37 years old. I had been married for almost two years, to a man whose stated main objective for marriage (short of the marriage itself) was having children. He had divorced his first wife because he wanted children, and she did not. She finally gave in and said she’d have children, but he knew she’d never forgive him for forcing her position and went through the divorce anyway. On our first date, he told me if I didn’t want children I should just move along. By age 35, I was no longer certain that I did not want children. I thought maybe I might want at least one, but figured I was probably too old. After a year of marriage, we decided it was time to start trying. I figured, we’d probably try a year, and then because of our age we’d probably have to see a specialist.
It took one try. The first month off my birth control pills, I got pregnant. I was not quite ready. To say the least. However, those amazing nurturing female hormones kicked in and I was ecstatic. We were going to wait to tell my folks until I was at least through my first trimester, but we convinced ourselves that we should tell them in case something happened to them before they found out they were going to be grandparents. So, armed with this excuse, we went ahead and called them before Thanksgiving. I was due in July.
I had an amazing pregnancy. I never threw up once. I never missed a day of work, until the day before I was induced. Then I had the delivery from hell. I have a blog post just for that. And when the baby arrived, she had a hellish case of colic. I went back to work four weeks out from the delivery because I was so miserable at home. My husband thought he would try keeping the baby and working from home with a sitter. Ha. Those of you with children know what a laughable statement that is. So I was back at work as an Ob/Gyn, on call every third night AND getting up to take care of a newborn.
My daughter is seven now, and although I’ve had my moments, I would never trade her for anything. We never had another baby – we had some events at work that prevented that from being practical. Since I am forty-four now, I pretty much accept that there will be no more children. So does my husband. It just so happens that we have a very good, intelligent and well-behaved child (doesn’t everyone?). Actually, this is not a coincidence. As those of you with children know, having a good child is no accident. We spent years of training and coaching and teaching exactly what we expected of her behavior in every circumstance. And if she misbehaved, we took her out of the situation. It has been that simple.
Now we are caught up. And we will enter that gray area I mentioned at the beginning. We have taken our daughter to many events and restaurants that were definitely fairly formal and might not welcome children. And she has done very well. We have been approached by strangers who said things like, “You know, I was a little apprehensive when I saw a little kid come into this restaurant, but she has just been the best kid ever! I can’t believe how quiet and well-behaved she is!” Now partly, we have earned that. We have worked our butts off to raise a well-behaved and socially acceptable child. But this has also been sheer luck. She is mature for her age, and she has the ability and temperment to do what we ask. Not every child has that, no matter how hard the parents work. And now I will let you in on my little secret: I feel guilty each and every time we bring her to an adult venue. I know she will most likely be very good, but the old me remembers the lurch of disgust and anger I would feel seeing kids coming in to nice places when I was younger. I know that there are people in there feeling that way now, and that I am the cause of that. And I know that our and her every movement are being monitored to be criticized later by the non-child people. Because I used to be one once.
So to sum up, I think that certain children, if they are well-raised and have the capacity to do what is asked of them, may be safely brought to traditionally adult events, like weddings and nice restaurants and plays. You may get lucky that night. Or you may not. But I think just enough parental guilt should be reserved for these occasions; we need to remember what we felt like when we were childless, and try to act accordingly. And if that means taking the child straight home, then so be it.
I would like to make a final word about completely inappropriate destinations for children. Children should not be brought to anything with adult content. By this I mean shows or movies with vulgar language or frightening content or violence, or bars, where drunken people may act in a way frightening to a child or in a threatening or sexually inappropriate manner, or shows with naked showgirls, or any other event which would be, if rated, age inappropriate for children. I believe that should be written in stone. And there is one last place, in my opinion where children have no place: at their mother’s Ob/Gyn office. This is, of course, because I am an Ob/Gyn. When we need to see a patient, there will need to be adult discussions about adult body parts and then those parts are probably going to be looked at. And I think a child staring at their mother with her legs spread, while a stranger does things with pieces of metal equipment, is one of the most inappropriate situations of all. I cannot believe that women bring their children to appointments and expect to discuss sexual matters, and infidelity, and sexually transmitted diseases, and expect to be examined while their child(ren) stare at them in utter bewilderment. I cannot imagine how anyone can justify that. Children should not be taken to places where they may suffer physical, emotional or mental harm, or be forced to comprehend situations with very adult content. Period. And there is no gray area there.