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July 07, 2002: It needed to be said

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Excuse me.

Iíd like to talk to you.

Yes, you. Over there. The ones with the kids. We really need to talk.

No, Iím not talking to you there, the one with the baby whoís teething. We all understand that sometimes kids get cranky, and youíre doing an admirable job of trying to console her. Itís obvious youíre trying, so Iím willing to be tolerant for that.

And Iím not talking to you, the one with the little toddler whoís sitting in the high chair squealing with joy. Itís kind of fun to turn around and watch, even when sheís dropping her crayons and french fries on the floor. Itís fun to watch, see, because youíre interacting with her and thatís why she is so happy.

And Iím not talking to the couple with the little guy whoís jumping on his seat, because I saw that you only let him do it for a few moments before you told him gently to sit down. I don't even mind when you let him wander a bit because you are right behind him, making sure he stays out of people's way and that he doesn't become a nuisance. I can see that you care about him Ė that you understand that he could hurt himself. I appreciate that.

Iím talking to *you*, however. You know who you are.

Youíre the one with the little boy who is running all over the restaurant, getting in peopleís way. Youíre the one with the toddler who leans over the seat to throw food at the people behind him. Youíre the one that is letting your little darling chase his brother around tables on the other side of the restaurant, despite the fact that there are people sitting at those tables. In fact, by your laughter you are actively encouraging him.

Youíre the one who lets your kids sit by themselves at a movie theater so you donít have to actually pay attention to the fact that they are throwing popcorn at each other; that they are kicking the seat of the person in front of them repeatedly; that they are bickering with each other quite loudly, and generally making it impossible for anyone sitting near them to pay attention to the film that they paid to see. Youíre the one who lets your kids run wild through a store, dumping things on the ground, opening packages; breaking things that you never intend to pay for.

Youíre pretending not to see them. Youíre expecting someone else to watch over them. You donít give a damn that someone over there might be trying to eat, or watch a movie, or do anything else where they really have no desire to deal with your kids wreaking havoc.

Iím here to tell you something that might shock you. You want to know why people like me donít like kids? You want to know why it is that people like me curl their lips when they see people walk in with little kids in tow? You want to know why it is that people like me will ask to be seated anywhere but next to a table full of children? Why it is that you hear muttered comments; why you get nasty looks?

Youíre the reason. You. Yes you. Oh, your kids are actually the ones making noise; throwing things; breaking things. Your little brats are the ones that are kicking the seats or running around in the aisles. But I canít blame them. Theyíre not old enough to know better, and even if they might be old enough, no one is teaching them.

I blame you. You, the parent. The one who doesnít understand that being a parent means actually *being* the parent. Us child-free-by-choice people can tolerate a lot of things from kids. We can sympathize with the mom of the baby who cries in the crowded airplane. Heck, on some of those flights, we feel like crying too. We can sympathize with the parent of the toddler whoís simply had enough for the day, and we might even flash you an understanding smile when you walk by looking frazzled. We can tolerate one heck of a lot when it is obvious that the parents involved are at least *trying*. None of us were perfect children and we donít expect yours to be either. But we can expect that at least you will be doing your best to teach them what behavior is and isnít appropriate.

So donít expect any sympathy, or understanding, or tolerance from me when youíre whatís causing the problem. Theyíre your kids. If you donít want to deal with them, leave them at home. Find someone else to watch them. But donít take them out in public and terrorize everyone else because you canít be bothered to actually pay attention to them. Donít let them run wild and expect the waitress or the sales clerk or the flight attendant to look after them. Thatís not their job. And donít even begin to give me or anyone else dirty looks when we stop your child from doing something destructive or from doing something that could get them hurt because you canít be bothered to do it yourself.

And most of all, donít you dare start complaining about how awful people like me are because we donít like children. Because you see, itís not all children we donít like. Itís just yours.

Like it or not, youíre a parent. That means itís your responsibility to teach that kid manners. Itís your responsibility to make sure your offspring arenít doing something theyíre not supposed to be. You made that choice to become a parent. It was your decision, not anyone elseís. So taking care of what you brought into the world Ė and that includes watching them; disciplining them; teaching them right from wrong Ė thatís not anyone elseís job. Itís yours. And itís time you grew up and did it.

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