Sometimes we meet people we just don’t like. Sometimes those people are kids. It happens. Some kids just rub us the wrong way, whether it be their attitude or whiney voices or whatever else. I once nannied a five-year-old girl whom I loathed. But what about those people who make the broad, sweeping claim that they “just don’t like kids/babies”? What’s their deal?
When my daughter was still a baby she caused a few people uncomfortable anger simply by being. The first instance occurred in a museum while she nestled comfortably and softly cooing in my arms as we surveyed the artwork. An older woman visibly recoiled when we drew near, threw a disgusted glare, and darted off. Each time we drew near again she repeated this scenario, her anger increasingly palpable. Another time a middle-aged man in a hurry at the supermarket grew enraged when my now-toddler ambled in front of him for a moment, tragically slowing him down in his race to the produce section. He looked down at her tiny grinning body, glowered, and began sputtering expletives under his breath.
After speaking with other moms about my experiences I learned that this type of scenario is not uncommon. No matter how cute or quiet or non-disruptive your little one acts, there is an atypical breed of person who will be somehow unsettled by his/her presence. As one friend put it, “some people just don’t like children.”
The saying stuck with me. I’d heard it before from various acquaintances. They certainly had their reasons. To name a few: Children are so emotionally fragile. They require too much attention. They spiral out of control at a moment’s notice. I’d always just accepted their statements at face value. Oh, okay. You don’t like kids. That’s certainly understandable.
Then, after my unfortunate run-ins with disgruntled baby-haters I began to more deeply consider the nature of their dislike. I started to wonder: was the general dislike of this select group of small people a subtle form of discrimination? After all, it wouldn’t be socially acceptable to make such a broad statement about any other group of persons. Anyone proclaiming “I just don’t like [insert race or sexual preference here]” would largely be received with horror, not passive acceptance. So what exactly is the difference?
Well, to dislike people based on race or sexual preference is to dislike them for an identity outside of their control. At the same time children, due to limited mental and emotional capacities, cannot be held wholly culpable for their way of being either. Up to a certain age or level of development their modes of thinking, even their actions, are outside their total control. When speaking of babies, pretty much everything is outside their control. Viewed this way there’s not much difference at all. In fact the whole “not liking kids” thing starts to seem disturbingly like discrimination.
Such an idea certainly adds a sensitive extra dimension to the “I don’t like kids” phenomena. As parents we often cringe when our children act up in public. We shrink under the irritated gazes of passersby and look in panic for the nearest exit. Sometimes our kids really are being ornery or disruptive, even if it’s just because they’re exhibiting the less fortunate qualities of their essential nature. But I now realize that there’s a vast difference between people who grow exasperated when kids act up and people who just really don’t appreciate their presence, simply because they are children and act accordingly.
I still don’t know exactly how to respond to the latter type of people in awkward situations. Perhaps I shouldn’t have flung ‘the bird’ at the man in the grocery store. Or reported the woman in the museum for harassment. [What can I say, I’m an Aries. In times of conflict I go into full on, shameless ‘revenge mode’.] Regardless I do know that as guardians of our children we ought to be aware that discrimination against kids does exist. It’s not always easy to spot, precisely because kids can be annoying and sometimes irritate otherwise nice people. Nonetheless disliking kids because they act like kids is very real phenomenon that deserves to be recognized as a form of discrimination and called out accordingly.
Any other moms out there dealt with this issue before? How did you handle the situation? Inquiring moms would like to know!