Do We Live in a Child-Intolerant Society?

Filed under: Amazing Kids, Amazing Parents, Cabin Fever

Cabin Fever reporting live from underneath the seats of our local cinema. The box of popcorn has been dumped. The floor is sticky. The 23-month-old has just discovered that he can crawl under this row to the one behind us. I've just discovered that I can't. And fellow movie-goers are shushing us incessantly.

Whose idea was this? Oh, right. Mine.

It's a matinee movie for kids. I have kids. Two of them love going to the movies (ages eight and seven). One of them thinks Curious George is terrifying (age four). And the last of the lot thinks he's at an exciting darkened playground (the aforementioned toddler). Remind me: Where did I go wrong?

Before my husband and I had kids of our own, but while we were in the honeymoon stage of fantasizing about parenthood, we vowed never ever to torment the childless by bringing our future children to inappropriate venues. Such as: movie theatres, fancy restaurants, and rock concerts. Not surprisingly, we had this conversation at a fancy restaurant while being tormented by someone else's children at the table next to ours, who clearly should have stayed home with a babysitter.

In the nine years hence, we've broken every pledge (if outdoor folk festival counts as rock concert).

Judgment. It's everywhere. And as you judge, so shall you be judged ... mother of four whose smallest has escaped, with squeals of delight, into the dark recesses of a theatre filled with disapproving patrons who hate you right now...
From my position here underneath the theatre seats, with the shushes of angry movie-goers raining down upon me, I can't help but ask... Do we live in a culture that privileges the child beyond all reason, or do we live in a culture that is secretly child-intolerant?

Excuse me for just one moment while I vault over these seats in pursuit of my irrational, delightful, squeezable, noisy bundle of joy. He is my bundle of joy. I do understand that he's not yours. But this is a matinee movie for children, not an R-rated thriller on after 9PM. It would seem to be an appropriate venue to bring children. Yes, I do see your point, thank you. Toddlers may not technically qualify as children under section two of the old-enough-to-attend-matinee-movies code. I see your point, but hear me out.

I think our culture likes children in theory. We like the idea of matinee movies during March Break, but we don't much like the children who come to these movies and behave like children. We think: why can't that mother control her offspring? Why didn't she get a babysitter, or just stay home? Listen, I think the same thing sometimes, especially when my own children are on their best behaviour.

I think our culture likes the accessories that accompany children more than the children themselves. We fetishize the stuff designed for babies, toddlers and children. We coo over the little leather booties and the bamboo-fabric crib sheets and the hand-crafted wooden toys. We covet the beautifully embroidered diaper bag that doesn't look like a diaper bag. I know all about it. I want that stuff, too. But the very fact of all this stuff, the existence of an industry that revolves around (let's face it) not entirely necessary equipment, is not proof that we are a culture that privileges the child. It proves only that we are a culture that likes stuff -- and even more, we like excuses to get more stuff.

And after surrounding ourselves and our children with all this aesthetically desirable gear, we parents discover that most people, even other parents, don't really want to be bothered by our (admittedly, sometimes, annoying) children.

An odd paradox, isn't it? It might actually be true that children are better behaved, and held more to account, in cultures that are more open to the participation and integration of children into every day life. Where it's normal to see children out and about, being children.

Phew. I've caught him. He's not happy about it. The two big kids are oblivious, happy to stay and watch the rest of the movie on their own, but the four-year-old wants to be held, too. Yes, that's us you hear exiting awkwardly, with a squawk of protest. We'll hang out in the lobby till the movie's over. We'll annoy some more people by talking to each other, running around a little bit, and (four-year-old) practicing whining. And we'll smile at you, and chat, if you'd like, too.

And you know, I think we'll come back and try another matinee again soon. You can come, too. Bring the kids.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.