I was going to write a few book reviews, which I might do later… but a tweet from my Twitter stream has got my brain box fuming and there are words on my mind that I would like to let out.
The tweet in question points out that bicycles are no longer allowed on the MBTA during peak hours, so why doesn’t the same apply to strollers as babies don’t have the right to take up more space than an adult.
And lo. I am angry. With rage.
A stroller is not an object the same way that a bicycle is an object. A stroller is an object in the same way that a wheelchair is an object. A person in a wheelchair is not able to walk. A person in a stroller – THAT’S RIGHT. That’s the difference right there. A PERSON. Children are PEOPLE. – a person in a stroller is not able to walk long distances and is quite likely to be trampled upon and physically injured in a crowded subway car.
Think, for one second, what would happen to a very small child on the subway without a stroller. You, yourself, are often jostled and bumped by people who are themselves jostled and bumped in the great crowding and confusion of people flowing on and off the car. You are probably more than three feet tall. You probably weigh more than 22 lbs. My son weighs less than a large bag of dog food. There is no way that it is safe for him to be shoved around by people literally ten times his size. He needs the stroller simply for protection.
Also consider the physical abilities of children. Children can not walk as far as adults can, or as fast. Very young children are not developmentally capable of following specific directions and may not be able to focus on what is being said to them in a chaotic environment such as a subway car. This is just a recipe for disaster if the child is somehow separated from their adult – which is very easy when a lot of people are getting on and off at peak hours. It’s easy enough for two adults to lose track of each other, for the love of Pete.
See also, the constant complaints about children in restaurants. We do our best to keep Paulo’s abilities in mind when we go out – but we still go out every weekend. And when I enter a restaurant with him, I often get THE LOOK from waitstaff and/or fellow diners that they’re just waiting for a tantrum. More than once have I felt just flat out unwelcome, which for an establishment where I’m trying to spend money, is a little counter productive. At least once a week I hear a complaint online or in person about some kid who “ruined” a nice meal out.
Ok, sometimes kid have tantrums and that does suck. But are you really suggesting that parents aren’t allowed to go out with their families? We can only go out for a meal if we get a babysitter? How do you expect our children to learn proper outside behavior if they are kept in their homes all the time? We take Paulo out only to restaurants where he will eat at least *something* and during hours when he’s likely to be most able to cope with crowds and stimulation. Still, he is a kid and sometimes acts like one. We do leave if he gets out of control, but more to teach him about actions and consequences than to appease those who believe children should all be good Milford Academy graduates – neither seen nor heard.
Of course, no one gets more agitated about children than air travelers. Look, yes, kids throwing tantrums on planes is hellishly unpleasant and traveling sucks enough without having to deal with it. But, you know is having a worse time than you? The child. Who can’t understand why they can’t move around, why their ears feel funny, why the air is so dry and weird. They, like you, are bored stiff. They, unlike you, have not developed coping skills. They have no perspective that the flight will end in X amount of time. To them, they will be bored in this small space forever. It’s rough.
Imagine not having a damn clue what is going on in a plane – especially if you’re flying at 3AM after being up all night, the equivalent of which is true for quite a few kids flying during nap/bedtimes. Would you not be cranky as shit? Now imagine that you have been stripped of your abilities to put things in perspective and cope with stress. What do you do? You freak out.
You know who really, really hates the tantrum more than you? The kid’s parents who not only don’t want to listen to this, but who are tasked with caring for this now freaking out individual and have very few tools at their disposal to try and soothe the savage beast. In addition to caring about their child and wanting to end the tantrum for his own sake, they’re also on the receiving end of stares and attitudes from their fellow passengers – which only adds to the bad day they’re already having.
And what’s the alternative? Not traveling? Sometimes it has to be done. I did not enjoy taking my infant son on a trans-Atlantic flight. I hardly enjoy taking myself on a trans-Atlantic flight. But how else is he supposed to visit his Portuguese family? Is he just not supposed to have connections to his father’s family and culture until he’s 18?
Some airlines have developed kid-free zones, and I get that. I totally do. If you want to pay more to be assured that you won’t hear some kid’s tantrum, more power to you. I wish I could join you. I do, however, ask that you realize that this is a choice that you have and *not* that my child is a second class person who doesn’t deserve to fly.
My point in all of this is that children are PEOPLE who have the same rights to inhabit space as anyone else. They have different needs because they have different developmental abilities. They are not miniature adults and they are not acting like they do to annoy you – they are trying to make sense of new environments and new stimuli and yeah, sometimes that fails.
Even if you can’t accept that a child is not a second class citizen, accept that parents have the same rights to inhabit space as any other adult. No, it would not be appropriate for a parent to bring a child into a bar at 2AM – but a parent who has an appointment in the late afternoon has the same right to bring their child in her stroller home on the T as the businessman who is also headed home at 5PM. We’re just going about our lives, just like you, and we are not trying to inconvenience you.
Children are people. You may not have a child yourself, but you once were a child and had to learn how to cope with new environments and new circumstances. You did not appear fully formed as an adult with coping mechanisms. You learned them by experience. The children who are “in your way” are doing the same. You are not required to help them, but it would be nice if you could see them as fellow humans and not as bulky objects simply making noise and taking up space.