This article about mothers caught my attention recently. It is about parents who feel that they and their children who can behave in any way they want because they have priority over anyone else:
“The inconvenience of others, it appears, is now a small price to pay for empowering one’s toddler.”
The article upset me a little and the comments even more. Firstly it serves me right for ever even reading anything in a “newspaper” like the Daily Mail. Secondly, I should have known better than to even think of looking at the comments, having previously seen the vitriolic response anytime the word Muslim or Islam is mentioned in an article.
This article seems to think parents and their small children have turned into some kind of public enemy: barging over old ladies, stealing disabled parking spaces, queue jumping, using their prams as battering rams and changing nappies on restaurant tables.
To be fair the article doesn't say that every parent is like this, just that there are a new breed of parents who are emerging who are very entitled and expect the world to revolve around their child. The commenter’s seem to agree with numerous anecdotes and comments about horrible children, horrible mothers, parenting being a lifestyle choice and not anyone else’s problem.
I have to say I have only witnessed this behaviour once or twice. Once on holiday in the Lake District, where my mum-in-law stepped in front of a lady whilst getting onto a boat and she huffed and barged past with her children, probably thinking we were going to jump the queue. The other example I can think of is a relative whose kids we were always careful not to tell off in front of her because she would take offence. I think most people probably know someone who is like that.
The article came at an opportune time for me. Last weekend the children were on school half-term holidays and on one day I decided to take them into town to pick up a few things. As usual with four children, including one very rowdy one (Gorgeous), I spend a lot of time asking them to watch where they are going and to be careful lest they bump into someone. Sometimes I got cross looks and rude comments from people about “controlling your children” or “these people”. Often on this kind of trip out I spend time apologising to people whose way we have gotten in, waiting for people to go past so that my pram doesn’t slow them down and getting my kids to hold doors open for me and for other people, because usually no one else will and because I believe as Muslims we have to set a good example.
Last week was something else though. Darling is usually good and falls asleep in her pram, but on this occasion she got excited and let out a few screeches. An elderly couple passing by yelled at us to “shut up!” I was a bit shocked and replied “but she’s only one”, only to be told to shut up loudly by the lady again.
I decided to ignore them and walked off. In the next shop we went into, I set my pram to one side and asked the kids to stand there, so they were not blocking the sale rack. Darling decided to let off a few more shrieks. I tried to distract her and a middle-aged lady smiled at me sympathetically, a moment later I looked up to see her rolling her eyes at someone else.
Part of me thinks I am too sensitive to other people’s reactions and should just develop a thicker skin. Part of me is just sick of what feels like people’s impatience, rudeness, mean spiritedness, and frankly I think racism (“these people?”). I have come to believe that people love dogs better than children in this country. Children are an inconvenience, an embarrassment and a problem that parents are supposed to keep in approved child-friendly spaces.
I feel that children are not allowed to be themselves, that they are not allowed to make a noise or play without being told to be careful and that certainly many places I have had to stop going to because they are so unfriendly to children. Children can’t play outside on the street or go and explore the neighbourhood, they have lost so many of the freedoms of past generations and every time they are outside they have to be tightly controlled by wary parents.
It’s a shame that mothers are often made to feel this way and that the future of this country is so undervalued in this way. I completely believe it takes more than just the mother and father in isolation to raise a child:
“It take a village to raise a child” ~ African Proverb
It takes a host of interactions, experiences and environments for the child to become a whole person. Every kindness, every good word and every ounce of patience that we show children, I believe will yield some good at some time in the future.
Certainly most elderly people are split into two camps for me now when I go out – there are the ones that look at you angrily or make nasty comments and there are the numerous lovely elderly ladies who coo over your baby or say something sweet to her (usually about her thumb-sucking). For every kind person who smiles, says something nice or interacts gently with my children, I am grateful each and every time.