Matt Walsh, a blogger and radio personality, wrote a piece about parenthood that is getting some traction among people I know:

[H]er kid bumped into a display and knocked a bunch of stuff onto the ground. I started to help pick it all up, but she said she wanted her son to do it because he’s the one who made the mess. Touché, madam. Nicely played. A lot of people would buckle under the pressure of having sonny going psycho in aisle 7, while, seemingly, the whole world stops to gawk and scrutinize, but this lady stayed cool and composed. It was an inspiring performance, and it’s too bad you missed the point because your feeble mind can only calculate the equation this way: misbehaving child = BAD PARENT.

I’m no math major, but that calculus makes no sense. A kid going berserk at a grocery store doesn’t indicate the quality of his parents, anymore than a guy getting pneumonia after he spends six hours naked in the snow indicates the quality of his doctor. Grocery stores are designed to send children into crying fits. All of the sugary food, the bright packaging, the toys, the candy — it’s a minefield. The occasional meltdown is unavoidable, the real test is how you deal with it. This mother handled it like a pro. She was like mom-ninja; she was calm and poised, but stern and in command.

My views are in-line with Walsh’s here. As long as I cannot readily identify something that the parents are doing wrong, or did wrong, I tend to be pretty forgiving. Thss was true before I had kids, but is especially true now. Lain has been a little darling and we haven’t had any incidents of uncontrolled crying, so it’s not that. Rather, it’s that I am reminded daily how un-malleable they are at a young age. We haven’t had that not because we’re awesome parents, but because we have a remarkably peaceable kid. We may not be so lucky next time.

Due partially to my own background, I would much rather have to deal with a crying kid than have the parents cave in to the crying kid. One is an inconvenience at the moment. The other is Everything That Is Wrong With Contemporary Society (if I may be a tad hyperbolic). I remember an incident many years ago where a father and son had I guess established a protocol that when they refilled the gas tank, they’d go in and he could get a cheap candy. They walked in, the father said to pick something from the cheapest section. The kid – in this case, we’re talking late grade school – blew a gasket. “I don’t want those candies. There’s hardly nuthin’ in’em. There’s hardly nuthin’ in’em! The father tried to explain or negotiate, but the kid took on one of the most irritating whining voices I have ever heard. The father grabbed the kid and marched him out of the store. The sound of that kid still haunts me, but it was worth it just to see what the father did.

Now that story isn’t entirely on-point, because it is an older kid than what we’re talking about, I think. Also, because the father could leave. He didn’t need to be there.

One of the subchapters in What To Expect When No One’s Expecting involved the conflicts between parents and non-parents in areas where there are high concentrations of the childfree. He chose particularly egregious comments and statements that made the childfree seem quite entitled (“I shouldn’t have to put my dog on a leash, you should have to put your child on one” and the like) but these were particularly gross examples of comments I have heard over the years. By way of example, Megan McArdle argued a couple years ago that people with young children shouldn’t fly.

It was not an argument that was well-received among parents. I wasn’t a parent yet, but I objected to it, too. In part because I knew then that we would fly our baby around repeatedly. Theoretically, flying is not something somebody has to do, like shopping. But once-in-a-lifetime opportunities would have been lost if we hadn’t. That, to me, trumps McArdle’s right to a baby-free flight. Clancy was tired and exhausted, but nonetheless played with the baby nonstop on a leg where she was particularly grumpy. I’ve seen parents do less, and parents show a pretty blatant disregard for their crying child.

There are also cases where taking children somewhere is almost entirely optional. Being a parent means, among other things, that you don’t get to do everything that you got to do before. Or if you do them, it’s with the understanding that you may have to stop at any point. Clancy and I have made the point to ourselves, several times, that any time we go out to eat and take the baby with us, we will have to be prepared for an early ejection or to eat in shifts while the other one walks her around.

Outside of that, though, kid will cry. It’s one of the prices we pay for the fact that they will also be chipping in for your retirement.

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10 Responses to Kid Will Cry

  1. As somebody without children who plans never to have any, I must confess that my wife and I are sometimes judgmental, even about kids behaving perfectly well (but being, perhaps, just a little too loud, as kids will be). We do keep our comments to ourselves and don’t utter them until we’re alone or at home.

    Also, I would never argue that parents shouldn’t fly with their children or shouldn’t go out to eat or do a lot of other things. Maybe movie theaters might be an issue, unless it’s not a child-centered movie….but I don’t think I’ve ever encountered that as a problem.

    • trumwill says:

      It’s a problem at dollar theaters when parents drop off their kids for a couple hours of super-cheap babysitting, but that’s really the only time I have run into that.

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