To Whom It May Concern:
I am aware that we leave a goldfish cracker remnant, sticky handed, sometimes poop scented trail behind us. I know that one of my children is spilling a juice box while another is pulling down its pants and yet another is screaming for fruit snacks. I know it’s annoying to wait in line behind us, it’s dirtier to eat after us and unpleasant to be in a bathroom alongside us. I will even concede that some museums or concert halls or restaurants or airplane flights may be better off without our presence at all.
I know it is annoying to have children in what are typically ‘adult’ spaces. You would prefer if I stayed confined with them to ‘kid friendly’ atmospheres with their e.coli-ridden mall play structures and soul sucking Applebees. Or worse yet, perhaps you’d prefer that I stay home and park my kids in front of Dora the Explorer. That might be better for you, heck it would be better for me. I might actually make a dent in the hoarders sized pile of laundry or have a coherent phone conversation. And maybe you’d argue that it would be better for them to not have a frizzy haired mom in (slightly) mismatched shoes carrying an infant with poop up it’s back wielding a stroller with 14 bags hanging off it, hissing at her other children to please for the love of Pete use their inside voices.
Maybe you’re right.
But maybe, just maybe, what is ‘better’ for everyone in the short term is detrimental to everyone in the long term. I don’t know for sure yet, since I’m still in the hypothesis stage of things. But maybe when we are at the Natural History Museum and they’re ignoring my lesson on Latin names for dinosaurs they’re covertly learning all kinds of other lessons. Like learning to use self-control and to hold doors open for old ladies. Maybe while they marvel at the colors of tropical fish at the Aquarium, they’re learning to share space with those around them without being obnoxious. Maybe when we eat at a restaurant without (gasp) kids menu’s, they’re learning that not every facet of every corner of existence is tailored specifically for them.
But never during dinner hours. That is a line no one should cross.
There are important life lessons my kids cannot learn at ‘kid only’ places. They cannot absorb my words of ‘we don’t shove’ when 14 other kids are shoving around them to get a turn on the jumbo slide. They can’t learn to hold open doors for old ladies if they just watched a mosh pit of kids cram through a single opening. They cannot learn to be selfless, caring, dynamic adults if at every childhood juncture they are exposed only to other natural, yet inherently narcissistic, kid-like behavior and environments that feed it. They cannot engage this world in a meaningful and productive way unless they get some practice doing it first.
I want my children to look adults in the eye. I want them to have good strong handshakes. I want them to be able to sit through a symphony, and perhaps enjoy it.
I want them to be explorers and creators and imaginers and most of all learners. I want them to value the arts. I want them to thank their waiter without my prompting.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I can raise my children in a bubble that is specifically tailored to their every whim and desire and they’ll turn out just fine. Maybe I won’t find myself staring at the back of their balding heads 25 years from now as they play video games in my basement. Maybe all my sweating and schlepping and picnic-making is for naught.
But I’m taking my chances on this hypothesis and I’d appreciate your patience as I do so. Know that we are doing our best. In the meantime, keep your clucking and your tsk’ing to yourself, it is ineffectual. And rude. Step over me or go around. Politely avert your eyes if I’ve left a breast hanging out. Don’t mention the shoes. And don’t mind the trail of goldfish crumbs I’ve left behind.