Friday, March 9, 2012

I'm not anti-kid; I'm anti-hands-off parenting

When you are a woman of a certain age without children, some folks assign a label: anti-kid. If you complain about children in public spaces, this especially comes into a play.

I have heard several times in the past month from several different mothers that they feel our society doesn't value family, and that American culture is anti-child. I can't speak for American culture, but in my Mankato culture experience, I couldn't disagree more.

I love kids. I'd like to state that right off the bat for the record. They're funny. They say crazy things. They're uninhibited explorers. They're creative. And all of those wonderful qualities need boundaries in public spaces. Sorry. They do.

Today, I was running the track at the Y at about noon. Four other adults also were using the track. One was a senior. One was a lovely little waddling pregnant woman. And to our dismay (I know this after exchanging certain looks), we were joined by a mother of at least one, but maybe two, children, and another mother of several other children. One of the mothers walked the track while her kid(s) (couldn't tell if the second was hers) ran and weaved around the adults on the track, stopping short, cutting people off, changing directions mid-lap. The other mother stood at the doorway to the track applauding while her kids engaged in similar behaviors, only with the added bonus of falling and throwing themselves down in front of people.

How is this acceptable? It's the Y, I get it. Family-oriented. Kid-centric. But it's for grown-ups, too. When there is a gym full of kids running around and playing ball below, why would you allow your kids to get in the way of the adults on the track upstairs? One poor guy came up to run, did one lap, and immediately left. Last weekend during pee-wee soccer games in the same gym, parents let their kids go completely unsupervised up to the track to do the same thing. And several adults couldn't take it. They left.

Our culture is anti-kid? I would argue its anti-hands-off parenting. From what I can tell -- from the best parking spots for parents of young kids at the mall, to tiny shopping carts for kids to play with at grocery stores, to most products being marketed to the main consumers in our culture, moms -- society is extremely pro-kid, pro-family. What I have a problem with is a lack of respect in public spaces. And I'm blaming the parents here, not the kids. My mom was extremely kind and giving and I, myself, would argue that I was spoiled. But I damn sure was expected to respect adults when I was a child. And when I misbehaved in public, I was reprimanded.

I thought of this one day last year when I was leaving the Y and a father was holding out a coat for his 3-year-old to put on, and she yanked away and ran across the lobby. Instead of saying, "Get over here and put your coat on like I asked you to," he said, "Hey honey, you did a really good job of running over there, but we've really got to get home. Don't you want to go play with your toys?" Essentially, congrats for disobeying me; now let me bribe you to do what I asked in the first place.

It's frustrating. How are children supposed to learn manners and respect for their fellow man when they're applauded for the opposite behaviors? APPLAUDED. I never thought I'd start sounding like my parents ... but I tell ya. Kids today ... Actually, I should say "Parents today ..."


  1. Agreed. One of my favorite moments occurred last summer when my neighbor, Amy (who is childless), told my kid he was playing too close to the street and that she was going to call me if he didn't listen to her. I, too, have no fear or restraint when it comes to supervising/bossing other people's kids. Next time, tell those kids to get out of the way. You live on this planet. And if you see my kids jacka**ing around, feel free to reprimand.

  2. I have to completely agree with this statement and to further is frustrating to be a mom of 2 smaller children who WANTS to disipline (and I am NOT talking about beating them by any means) in public, but gets creepy looks from other people. You know those people that are ready at a moments notice to call you in. I wish society would see that lack of discipline and direction of kids today is part of the problem. Thank you for posting this!

  3. Kudos to you. It's time to talk to the Y's staff about lack of supervision on the upper track. Leave it to them to speak to the parents of the the offending children. Boundaries are a good thing, let them know how far is too far and what the consequences will be if they over step them. Then follow through with rewards or consequences which ever is needed. I know a parent that needs to learn from something like this. Before her child reaches her school age years.