Monday, November 06, 2006
I had heard about the bias that exists against people with small children. But lately I've been feeling it, as have lots of people I know! Don't get me wrong - many people who encounter me and my kids are sweet, kind, lovely, and helpful. In all fairness, there are a good number of people out there who hold doors open, inform you about dropped toys and sippy cups, and smile or ignore it when other people's little ones act up. But . . . this post is not about them.
I always joke that when it was just Ann, taking her places was fun and easy, and generally met with appreciative glances and smiles. One child is almost like a cute accessory or a purse – take it anywhere with you, and people admire your cleverness in bringing along a little extra something. Once you have two (or more, as others can surely attest to), suddenly you are not so cute anymore. You aren’t welcome almost anywhere but at the pediatrician’s office and maybe at the grandparents’. Strangers will say things like, “Wow, you sure have your hands full!” (dude, it’s just two kids, not 11 like my cousins!). Often it is just a look in their eyes that combines annoyance and bewilderment. In their heads, they are likely thinking, “How could she come here with those sticky, vile creatures?”
In all fairness, the double stroller I use is big, and I try to be considerate of the space I’m occupying, and allow other people to pass me or get around me whenever I can. The places to which I shlep my crew are almost without exception suitable environments for little kids (the library, the supermarket, the pharmacy, the pizza shop to name a few). I know that the days of toting one cute, clean child to a clothing store, restaurant, family wedding, etc. are a thing of the past, and I avoid those situations. But the glares, the remarks, the unsolicited ‘advice’ is getting to be a bit much. Personally, I find people’s pets annoying. I have a really hard time sharing air space with smokers. I find the huge cars barreling by my little one on the highway annoying. It seems, however, that the feeling some people have against small children and the parents who love them, is one of the last acceptable biases around.
My suggestion to parents? Err majorly on the side of mentsch-caution. Be as polite and courteous as you can while going about your business. Don’t avoid going places, just plan wisely. And when all else fails, bringing along some Shhhheerios (shhh, honey, have a Cheerio – hence the title of this post.) never hurt anyone.