Tuesday 25 February 2014

Valuing Children in an Impatient World.

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.


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  2. I just took a quick look at that article. You are right, we shouldn't have read it. ;)

    But then, there will always be people who are unkind to mothers. I think it would be easier on us moms if we tell ourselves that 'it takes all kinds of people to make this world'. There will be those who agree with us and those who disagree. Pretty much on everything, not just on motherhood. I know this is easier said than done, but we got to try. :)


  3. Wouldn't it be lovely if people had more empathy for others, especially for mothers of small children. Some negativity can be so bad that we start to become our own thought police and become impatient with our own children!

  4. "Daily Fail!" Spreading hate and misinformation! Ignore them and all the rude people you meet in the street. From reading your blog I think you are doing a really good job. X

  5. I read the article and I totally agree with the author. Today's children are more spoiled and self-centered than ever before and I am truly disturbed by these mothers' behavior. I have a 6-month old and I live in New York city and I have no problem raising my child to be mindful of others. As Muslims, we don't have a choice...our children are a trust from Allah and we are required to raise them with the best of manners. Otherwise, parents and their children suffer greatly in this world and the next.

    It's a problem I see with Muslim mothers as well. When you take child rearing advice from western literature, you end up with obnoxious, rude children who become worthless adults (who can't hold a job, a marriage or relationships with others). I totally agree that people should also have more patience with children, but mothers should also remember that they are training thier children to be adults and should be teaching them how to behave when out in public, not expecting others to be incredibly tolerant when your child is screaming at the top of thier lungs in an adult setting. There's a time and a place for everything.

  6. Anonymous29 June, 2014

    I am so full of admiration for you. I have children exactly the same ages: a girl of 11, then a boy of 10, a crazy boy of 7 and a toddler (princess). I am so put off by unhelpful and unkind reactions that I very rarely take my children out, preferring to leave one or two with various family members so I can go and come back quickly without negative incidents, which put such a dampener on what should be nice day out. I am even fearful of trips further afield, because I am afraid of racism. Now I have seen all the places you have managed to visit it has inspired me to do the same. My children are well behaved but they are children and we shouldn't have to apologise for that.