Yesterday, Teddy and I went to Target to pick up a few things we needed. While I was perusing down an aisle, a little girl, maybe about 2 or so, started crying – wailing, really. She was throwing some kind of temper tantrum. It was not a pleasant sound. Despite her mother’s attempts to console her, she had lost her mind in the middle of the housewares section. 

Now, I am not a big fan of loud noises. And no one likes to hear a child cry, particularly the whiny clamor of a toddler’s fit. But I was appalled when I saw a woman in her mid-50s emerge from another aisle and make a loud aside: 

“God, just kill the thing already.” 

Okay, lady. You just crossed a line. You may not realize it, but you are talking about a person. Would you publicly exclaim that someone talking too loudly on their cell phone should be executed? I didn’t think so. 

I didn’t know if I was just overreacting to this lady’s comment because I have a new baby, until I brought it up to Liz, who was equally appalled. She then told me about how a few days earlier, a person having brunch at the table next to their family loudly exclaimed that she was totally disgusted by having to watch Ida eat her french toast with syrup dripping on her chin, and that it, “should not be allowed.”  

The child-free love nothing more than to be smug in public. They love to audibly point out ways in which children are interrupting their world, a world that is only for adults to enjoy. 

Smug singletons, a few notes for you: 

1) Shocking FYI: you were once a child. 

We all started as babies. You did not, as I suppose you imagine, pop onto the earth fully formed with that nonfat vanilla latte molded into your manicured hand. A few decades ago, adults endured your infant cries, your toddler fits, your never-ending preschool “why?”s, your incessant asking for gum at the grocery cash register. They rolled their eyes and bore your pre-teen rambling and your teenage talking-too-loudly in public. This is how you got here. You should be thankful that no Target shopper sought to annihilate you and pass that gratefulness onto the next generation. 

2) I can hear you.

Maybe you think that I pushed this baby out of my ear drum and am now deaf? You are mistaken. Your loud groans, sighs and comments are completely audible and also completely rude. 

It boggles my mind that adults are harping on kids for having less than perfect manners, and yet being incredibly rude to others at the very same moment. It’s the pot calling the kettle black, except the pot has a master’s degree in anthropology and the kettle doesn’t yet realize he has hands. I don’t know how your mother raised you, but mine taught me (and I will thus teach my child) that when someone is rude or disruptive in public, you do your best to overlook it and be gracious. 

3) No one is having a harder time with this than I am. 

A child’s cry produces a biological reaction in his or her mother. Her heart pounds, her blood pressure rises. Her body puts her on high alert that something needs to be taken care of. This is evolution’s way of making sure babies don’t fall out of trees or get gobbled up by tigers. No one wants my kid to stop crying more than I do. Not only does it make me feel crazy inside my head, but I take this person home.

City parents, in particular, are very sensitive to how their child is affecting others. We know that the city is a small, shared space where it’s especially important to be polite. We’re in the process of teaching our kids how to exist in it with grace and poise.  

4) How do you expect kids to learn?

You know those people who chew with their mouths open, talk too loudly at restaurants, cut in line and generally behave as though no one else exists? I am trying to stop that from happening, but it takes practice. In order for my kid to learn, they have to practice. No one reaches 18 and automatically gets manners. It takes time, practice and many, many mistakes.  

5) You need someone to keep having children. 

You don’t want to have kids. No big deal. I agree that no one should pressure you, tell you you’re selfish or make rude comments about how you don’t have children. People who say things like, “Oh, you’ll change your mind,” are dumb, and I’m sorry that you have to deal with that. I did too, before I decided to have a kid.

But here’s the thing. Someone is going to have to be around to wipe your butt when you can’t do it anymore. You need someone to keep working so you can get Social Security when you’re old. Someday, you might like to retire and go on vacation, and there still needs to be someone capable of piloting that plane to Jamaica. Preferably someone who has been out in public before, knows how to communicate properly in his or her native language and knows not to throw a temper tantrum when they don’t get their way. That’s what parents are up to. 

6) Children are people.

This last one should be obvious, but it is not. Why is it okay for you to be rude and nasty to my child? To anyone’s child? You wouldn’t be that rude or nasty to the cashier at Starbucks (or maybe you would… I also hate those people). You wouldn’t be rude to a fellow CTA passenger, even if they did have B.O. and were playing their ipod way too loudly. Children are people. Dear brunch-eater, Ida is an intelligent person, and she can probably understand what you’re saying about her. She’s not an imbecile or even an animal. And even if she couldn’t, she’s still a person, worthy of your kindness. 

Also, a public service announcement to all the feminists out there: treating mothers like shit is misogynistic. Remember how men are always trying to undervalue and dismiss the contributions and qualities of women? You’re doing your work for them every time you treat a mother like a brainless idiot.  

I really understand that sharing space with a child can be trying. I know that there are the few parents out there who act like the world should bend over backward for their kid. Yes, there are jerks in the world, and jerks have babies too. The great majority of us are trying very hard to raise loving, kind, pleasant little beings. But there is a certain pleasure that people take these days in being rude to children and parents. It’s not charming, nor is it thoughtful or polite. 

So the next time you see a wailing toddler at Target, think about giving a little smile to the fatigued mother you see pushing that cart. And then high-tail it out of the home-goods section, grateful that another group of people are willing to ensure that  raising the next generation of garbage men, proctologists and television news anchors for you. No nasty comments needed.

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