Children can be disruptive and chaotic, but perhaps the target of our societal disapproval should be the parents who fail to teach them necessary behavioral boundaries.
Julie Bindel doesn’t like rambunctious kids. Bindel, who writes a column for The Guardian and self-identifies as a “bad-tempered middle-aged lesbian who wants to kill anyone eating crisps or apples” while riding in the family-friendly train compartment, is a strong supporter of segregated transportation. She’d like to see children banned from certain areas of airplanes, buses, and trains, so that childless travelers like herself wouldn’t have to be irritated by their presence:
“I love to spend time on long-haul flights boozing, cursing and crying at films such as My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2. Clearly, some of you will be disgusted at this, but I can’t say I am keen on kids slamming me in the back, screaming in my ears, and sticking their jammy paws all over me when they escape the clutches of their guardians and look for someone to play with.”
There is a part of me that’s revolted by Bindel’s dislike of children and their inherent chaos. Her desire to segregate them – to remove from certain public spaces an entire group of humans that she perceives to be annoying – is disturbingly reminiscent of past historical experiments – and those turned out to be disastrous.
There's a lot wrong with this suggestion.
When society becomes less child-friendly, it also becomes less mother-friendly, limiting access for women who already find it challenging to get out and participate in society in a meaningful way while raising the next generation. I know from personal experience that, without having extended family nearby, I’m forced to pay expensive babysitting fees whenever I attend a child-free event, which would be a major barrier to access for women who cannot afford to do so.
And yet, I get it.
I hate to admit this, as a mother to three young children, but I understand where Bindel’s coming from. I can relate to her frustration at the ridiculous, uncontrolled way in which kids behave in public because I’ve seen in myself and it drives me crazy, too.
The problem is with parents, not kids, and the culture of permissiveness that permeates Western society. When did it become acceptable for kids to behave like wild little animals, with no respect for the people around them? When did parenting lose its boundaries, its expectations, the emphasis on basic etiquette? Bringing kids into public has, sadly, turned into a crazy, circus-like free-for-all, where entitled children get away with everything and spineless parents weakly admonish, while mostly sitting back and letting their children ruin everyone else’s day.
Please note: I'm talking about a widespread, ingrained problem that's far more serious than the occasional emotional melt-down that every child, even well-behaved ones, have when they're tired or hungry. Those are normal; but permissive parents allowing their children simply to act wild has become so commonplace that it's no wonder other people are getting irritated.
The very sad reality is that too many kids these days are undisciplined and uncontrolled, unused to having anything expected of them. This is part of the reason why I’m not a big fan of play dates. Call me a curmudgeon, but I find it irritating when a child comes into my home and refuses to answer a basic greeting, won’t eat my food or engage in conversation, and doesn’t express gratitude. It happens over and over again, to the point that I’m convinced ‘un-raised’ children are indeed an epidemic of modern times.
Segregation of travel modes is not the answer. New, higher expectations of parents are needed – expectations that frown upon children running wild and affecting other people’s enjoyment of a particular space.
Imagine if airlines explicitly welcomed “well-behaved” children. Parents (who know perfectly well whether or not their child can be relied upon for good behavior in public) might possibly think twice before putting their kids on a long-haul flight, just as they would reconsider flying with an untrained pet, if they knew such behavior were not socially appropriate. Parents should not be taking kids on airplanes that don’t know how to behave themselves; it just isn’t fair to other passengers.
I feel the same way about art galleries, classical music concerts, and elegant restaurants. By all means, bring your children, but only if they can be trusted to act appropriately under the circumstances – a fundamental life-lesson that is applicable at all ages. If your child does not possess that ability (because you, the parent, have failed to teach it), then please forgo the tropical vacation and go the park instead, where your little hooligan can shriek and thrash to his heart’s content.