A friend recently sent me a link to a blog that started with a mother asking the advice of others about how to travel with her several small children across the country by plane during the holidays— to visit a sick father, as it turned out.
What was fairly shocking was the amount of virulent anti-child feeling that her question elicited.
Readers responded with comments such as she should just stay home, and why didn’t she think of that before she had the children?
Now, granted, I have had my share of annoying experiences with kids kicking the back of my seat and wailing babies. But the idea that parents and their children do not have the right to participate in the world with the rest of us is deplorable.
There is probably not a one of us who has not felt the grip of desperation when our young children just were unable to be reasonable and self-controlled when out in public.
For whatever reason, perhaps fatigue and strangeness made them into persons with whom we would rather not have admitted kinship.
Surely those of us who are not currently in the throes of parenting young children can have a modicum of sympathy for those parents who are trying to get through an experience with their sometimes-out-of-control offspring.
Whatever happened to the notion that we’re all in this together, that those of us who are coping okay can lend a hand to those who need some extra help?
Parents are able to do their best job of being patient when they feel supported, not harassed.
When children feel that their parents are calm and in control, that helps them remember the life lessons they are gradually learning about appropriate behavior.
Why should parents even have to ask for the help and tolerance of onlookers, who have no doubt been in similar positions at some point in their lives?
Surely as a people we have not become so caught up in our own lives and preferences that we cannot help and support parents in doing their most important work -- guiding their young children and getting them through new or difficult situations.
Certainly it is difficult to not turn around and see where all the noise is coming from in a public setting. And it is human nature to wonder why someone is not tending to that child. And yet, a moment’s reflection will bring to mind with a memorable clarity those moments when we were close enough to that situation to see (or be) the parent trying everything possible to soothe a distressed baby or child.
So, whether you are a parent who has found yourself in situations where you desperately feel the need for help and support, or someone who could easily give that help (rather than disapproval), let’s remember that it is in the best interests of us all to help children feel that the world around them supports them and their parents.
Then they will want to become a part of that loving community, and we all are strengthened.
I felt a tremendous sense of relief after reading this. It was as if someone had taken the jumbled, exhausted mess of my thoughts, tended to them with patience and loving care, and now here they were again, clean and freshly pressed after a good long nap, hair combed and everything. "That's my post," I thought. "That's what I wanted to say."
But something was off. It seemed ... so simple. Suspiciously simple. Was it really this simple?
Of course not.
If human beings were regularly as even-keeled, forgiving, unselfish, and kind as Gestwicki invites us to be, things would be verging on world peace. I suppose her vision is possible in the same way that peace is possible - anything is possible, right? - but an honest look at history makes certain idealistic visions seem more than a bit naive.
Which is not to say we shouldn't give voice to such optimism, strive for it ourselves, and urge others to do so as well. I return to Gestwicki's words again and again the way my daughter seeks out her blankie when she's running low on her usual confidence and energy. And as we all know, having a blankie is golden.
Still, blankie or no blankie, we must cope with the real world. Which is to say: here comes the series finale, better known as Part Four.