22 November, 2005

War On Brats: Kinda Childfree Me

Lileks has a daughter. On his website she's Gnat, in his Star-Tribune columns she is Child(TM). I know he's biased, but from his anecdotes, she sounds like my dream child. Today, he linked to this story about a Chicago eatery that has committed a grievous wrong. They have posted a sign on their front door asking that children behave while eating there.

There is a war ongoing in our culture, so the article says, between the childless and the parents. I know, because I've been a reluctant combatent for the last 10 years. I want children but don't have any. This means that I'm not technically Childfree, which is fine with me. I don't see the need to refer to pregnancy as "Baby Rabies" or disparage every infant born as a "fleshloaf". Those terms bespeak a deep-seated hatred springing from somewhere beyond the now.

Yet I do have scars inflicted by the "other side". People tell me that it's a shame I don't have a family. As though a lack of offspring renders my marriage somehow lesser. I've been asked to work overtime to fill in for coworkers who have children, as though evenings spent doing adult things are more easily tabled than Gymboree classes. I've filled two posts while "the other girl" is out on paid maternity leave--without any extra pay for myself. And of course there's health insurance. My spouse and I pay the same "family" coverage premium as do folks with 2,3,4 kids. That message is clear. We aren't a family unless we need to be for subsidies' sake. (I, however, do my best to make the insurance thing come out even, as I have a chronic illness.) Worse, though, than any of these was sitting in my old church last Christmas Eve and being told by the "pastor" that the reason we are alive is to have children, that Christmas is for and about children and that the only purpose of celebrating is to bring joy to children. My unmarried sister, gay brother, husband and I were all kinda crushed. "Merry Christmas, you sad and selfish bastards!"

These are the messages that the childless endure at every level of society. I can only truly speak for myself, but I do think that a lot of the impatience we register with other people's children is an extension of that. We're repeatedly reminded by society that we're inadequate. Yet we're expected to play by the rules. We pay property taxes to fund schools and are the first hit up for fundraisers since we have all the extra money not spent on braces and BuildABear. Miraculously, there also seems to be another set of rules. Children are both sacred and hard to manage. Forgetting that we childless didn't spring whole from the head of Zeus, we are asked to excuse behaviour our parents never excused in us.

I never wanted to be in a war. I never wanted to be the enemy. When I was a kid I just wanted to grow up so that people would treat me with more dignity. This greener grass hasn't been working out so well. Now I'd just like to eat my dinner and watch my movie in peace.


At 10:59 AM, November 22, 2005, Blogger Exador said...

You are preaching to the choir, sister. I am childless BY CHOICE.

The other thing that gets me is the fact that everyone says screaming, misbehaved children don't belong in a nice restaurant, they should be taken to McDonald's.

Hey, I sometimes eat in fast food joints. Why is it that my not having a waitress means that my money (for the food) and my environment are suddenly worthless? Why should it be ok for you to let your spawn run amok just because I paid less for my food. If they're not outside on the playground, shut 'em up.

At 11:19 AM, November 22, 2005, Blogger Ivy, the Great and Powerful said...

First of all, I hate that you want kids but can't have them. One of the great mysteries of life, to me, is why the biggest white trash ho can pop out 10 kids, but people that want them- and would make great parents- often have trouble conceiving.

I, too, think it's unfair that people without children have to pay to subsidize their education. On one hand, it's great to have an educated society, and I suppose that's the theory behind making everyone pay for school, but I don't think our society is all that well educated, anymore. I always thought your property taxes should be proportionate to the amount of people living in your house, or something like that. I loved the idea you had about making people pay an extra few bucks to send your kids to school. Let the burden of the people who use the service, pay for the service.

My kids are NEVER allowed to run around in a restaurant. I don't take them to movies, ever. My parents sometimes do, but only when they're old enough to sit there and keep their mouths shut. Anyway, I can totally see where it might seem like an "us vs. them" kinda thing. You and your husband are a family, to me, anyway. Send me the address of that minister, and I will send my kids to kick his shins for you. ;)

At 11:22 AM, November 22, 2005, Anonymous Hubby said...

As another chior member, I'd like to add the following to the list of places in which I (gasp!) believe that chidren should be supervised and well-behaved:

Grocery stores
Waiting rooms
Family gatherings
Everywhere else!!!

Basically, if you're not going to take responsibility for teaching (and demonstrating) proper, polite public behaviour skills to your children, then DON'T HAVE THEM IN THE FIRST PLACE! There aren't enough wolves around to raise the children you've already relinquished to them. Don't be makin' the situation any worse.

At 11:23 AM, November 22, 2005, Blogger Exador said...


5 simple rules

At 12:00 PM, November 22, 2005, Blogger Kat Coble said...

Ivy, that's a mystery to me, too. But I guess God does continue to work in mysterious ways.

I really really don't mind children in toto, and from everything you've written I gather that I would just love your kids. I feel bad that whenever I talk about being bothered by kids it's usually the good parents who think I'm talking about their kids. I guess the bad parents probably are so used to turning a deaf ear to other people (starting with their own kids) that they don't even notice.

Even with the school thing, it doesn't always bother me that much, and I guess now I have written about it twice. It really only bothers me in the larger context, where I keep feeling punished by society for being barren.

At 12:10 PM, November 22, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, to society as a whole, you still rank above those of us who are spouseless. You may be unfullfilled since you don't have children, but you weren't so loathsome that you couldn't attract a partner.


At 12:10 PM, November 22, 2005, Blogger Kat Coble said...

The other thing that gets me is the fact that everyone says screaming, misbehaved children don't belong in a nice restaurant, they should be taken to McDonald's.

I've heard that a lot and it bugs the heck out of me. It's like child-rearing has turned into this bizarre anti-Skinner Box thing where it is not permissible to do any correction or guidance of any sort. My [insert name of anon friend/relative here] has used this philosophy to turn two of the brightest and healthiest children ever born into complete monsters. The sad thing is it's not even like she has a hemp-scented philosophy behind it all. It's just pure, unrepentant laziness. It's easier and more fun to let Lucrezia and Cesare run free-range while she chats with her buddies about trendy kindergartens.

At 12:27 PM, November 22, 2005, Blogger jag said...

That minister is delusional. I thought Christmas was about celebrating the birth of Christ and goodness and peace on earth and all that delicious, feel good stuff.

I don't have kids now, but I do borrow my godchildren often, and there are some things about the holidays that I prefer to do with kids...go see Santa, watch Rudolph on tv, blah blah. Some of the best times, though, are when the man and I are home acting like kids ourselves, putting up decorations or whatever.

As for kids behaving, I will NEVER be that person that calls the state when I see someone smack their child's butt in full view at Kroger. If you want to let your kid run around like a midget on speed, take them to Chucky Cheese. See if you can take the annoying loud cell phone talkers in restaurants with you too.

At 1:45 PM, November 22, 2005, Blogger Ivy, the Great and Powerful said...

Naw, Katherine, I didn't think you were aiming that at me, don't feel bad. I just like to go around extolling the virtues of my parenting which is, of course, perfect. ;)

Badly behaved children irritate the HELL out of me. Well, strike that, it's not so much the kids, as it is the parents who don't do a damn thing to discipline them. I don't spank my children. I *have* spanked them, but it doesn't really work, for my children. At one point I was rabidly against spankings for children, but now that I'm older and more experienced, I think it might work for some children- it didn't work for mine, though.

The biggest thing I see with most parents is, they don't say something and mean it. Don't tell your kids you're going to rip their head off and shove it down their throats unless you're actually planning on it. Kids can smell an idle threat a mile away and will pounce on you and tear you to bits.

I must admit, though, waiting rooms are my achilles' heel. Even if I bring them something to do, they find ways to be loud and irritating. So to everyone that has ever had to sit in a waiting room with my loud kids, I am truly sorry. :D

And, Sarcastro, I'm totally down with the shock collar and leash theory, but let's put them on the parents, that way if one of their kids are acting up, we can shock THEM into maybe controlling their brats, for once. ;)

At 9:50 PM, November 22, 2005, Blogger TheKnithead said...

That's highly unusual for you to pay the same premium for employee+spouse coverage as family/4 children coverage. Most employers have added more tiers to their coverage levels.

It also kills me that you want kids and are not able to have them. I know a 14-year-old who just had twins. Its not fair.

At 7:13 AM, November 23, 2005, Blogger Exador said...

You're right on the money, Oz.
Consistency is the key. I know this from watching my lazyass sister completely screw up my niece.

At 11:54 AM, November 23, 2005, Anonymous Muffy said...

I'm not saying I was a well behaved child, but when out in social situations, my parents had no qualms scolding me for misbehaving!

Why don't some parents do that now? Why show the world you've lost control of your kids?

I'm so sorry to hear that you can't have children, that's something I admit I take for granted.

But I agree, too, that kids should not be limited to McDonald's. Considering how bad the food is for you, that's just plain abuse ;) but no, the world should be open to children. Sure, that cafe in Chicago's rather offensive but at the same time, I understand why it had to be done! It's not like all children aren't allowed in there, it's just a tactless way of saying "please make sure your children aren't screaming or driving the other paying customers crazy!"

Kids are great. Well behaved kids are even better. But it's never their fault if they're bratty. It's the parents' fault. It's too bad that there are some people who refuse to be accountable.

At 2:18 PM, November 23, 2005, Blogger Sonia said...

i'VE Never understood why people have to be so hateful toward child less/free people. Wether it's childfree by choice, or circumstances, it's not anyone's business. It doesn't make you any better or worse of a person.

At 5:59 PM, November 23, 2005, Anonymous tom said...

I agree that your insurance is messed up. I pay a lot less than my kid-bearing coworkers.

I also would like to point out that Per Household versus Per Capita taxation is essentially more democratic because it doesn't DISCOURAGE having children. When you get into that area, it really makes me think of China and the whole one child per family deal. That would NOT be the right thing to do.

At 1:15 AM, November 24, 2005, Blogger Work in Progress said...

Great post. I have to say being expected to shoulder a larger work burden while co-workers go home to their children has always been a pet peeve. I did not refrain from having children so I could spend more time at work! (Of course, I've solved that problem by now working for myself.) I also don't understand why I should subsidize other people's life choices by giving them tax breaks. I don't mind helping pay for schools however - an educated population benefits us all. Although I still have not figured out the logic of tying property taxes to schools.

At 10:43 AM, November 24, 2005, Blogger Peggasus said...

Some of these Northside $700-stroller Mommies got all indignant and tried to organize a boycott of the place.

Follow-up stories in the Tribune report, however, that the business there has tripled since the sign went up.

When my boys were small and noisy and hyper (as toddlers are wont to be), you know what we did? Stayed home with them, or got a sitter. Because, frankly, it wasn't much fun for me either.

Some people are just stupid and always will be. And so will their kids grow up to be, too.

At 3:27 PM, November 26, 2005, Anonymous Beth said...

Speaking as the teacher who has to try to educate 20 or more of these undisciplined children, it's almost unbearable for me to see these ignorant, lazy parents ruining their children. Children are a gift from God, but they are also a responsibility. Parenthood is a job to be taken seriously, not a badge of honor to wear in order to make others feel bad.


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