Monday, February 18th, 2013
When a toddler cries, parents can get worn down and even ornery. People in a restaurant may be annoyed. Passengers on a plane may be especially ruffled.
I get all of that – it’s human nature. But human nature has hit (pun intended) a new low with the report that a man has been accused of slapping a toddler in the face during a flight because he was crying. The toddler was sitting on his mom’s lap. And for good measure, the man is also reported to have made a racial slur as well. And now the child is “scared to death.”
If the accusation is proven to be true (like you, I’m just reading the news reports on it and I wasn’t on the plane), it’s almost easy to dismiss this as the act of a child-hater gone wild. Maybe it’s just one guy who did an unbelievable and reprehensible (you can fill in your own words here – I’m almost at a loss to describe the actions) thing. But there is, I think, a deeper message.
In our culture, we’ve become too tolerant of directing anger at toddlers (and of course, babies and children and teens). It’s become too acceptable to complain and b**** about a toddler who won’t stop crying, or who is too clingy, or too demanding. People who don’t currently have a toddler do that. And some parents do as well. I get that parents need to vent – and sometimes it’s very helpful to do that. I understand that parents might find a bit of solace writing in exaggerated tones online as a form of release. I don’t have a problem with “Go the F**k to Sleep.” But I worry that this trend is going too far. Are we breeding and encouraging a parenting culture that hates parenting? Are we too accepting of some of the inevitable negative feelings that we have about kids and going overboard in being “honest” about everything we dislike about kids? I’d like our parenting culture to model acceptance and understanding and tolerance of our how our babies and toddlers and kids and teens act. And then I’d hope our broader culture would follow suit.
Let’s face some facts. Kids are dependents. They cry and scream and get upset because they are supposed to do this. It’s a signal to adults that they need comforting, guidance, and soothing – not angry looks and nasty tones. Yes, it’s frustrating – but we are, after all, the adults.
So as understanding as I am about the idea of banning kids from some restaurants and banning them from some flights, part of me wants to dismiss all of this. Part of me wants to remind adults that they were toddlers once. Part of me wants to say that, guess what, not all adults in restaurants or on airplanes are especially delightful to be around in public. Maybe it’s time we stop indulging all of the negatives about being around kids and start embracing all the wonderful things about it. So when we find ourselves on a long flight, and there is a baby crying and parents are trying hard to calm and soothe them, maybe it’s time we start practicing empathy rather than anger – and maybe even see if we can help. Let’s save the anger for adults who don’t treat kids right.