OK…

I see that in my absence, a major fight has erupted in the Blogosphere over momblogging and children in public spaces. At least Aadisht is mocking people and having fun. What the hell is Falstaff’s [1, 2, 3]excuse? Is it that he has never been in a hopeless minority in his life?

See, the thing is, though I am a sexist misogynist, I love children. The long distance flight I enjoyed the most was when I sat next to a new mother who was returning with her baby to the US. Carrying the baby in my arms provided a nice break fromthe novel and the laptop.Not only amI not distracted by a child’s cries, I have difficulty in appreciating the point of view of anyone who is. Because I am openminded and all that, you can make me intellectually aware of the possibility of people not liking babies, but you can’t make me understand it.

So if you assume that just because parents are in a minority in most settings, non-parents will share your preference to be free of children, it is quite conceivable – I’d say highly probable – that you are making a bad mistake. It is much more likely that the preferences of most people range from “like children” to “don’t mind them”. When you are in a small minority, any kind of bargaining, Coasian or not will result in a bad bargain for you.

52 thoughts on “OK…

  1. >>”Is it that he has never been in a hopeless minority in his life?”

    >>”you can make me intellectually aware of the possibility of people not liking babies, but you cant make me understand it.”

    I’m glad someone said this. Finally.

  2. Who’s assuming that people who share a preference to be free of children are a majority? I’m certainly not. If you’d read my post carefully you would have seen this:

    “And given the numerical majority of parents and the overall superstructure of parenting as a good, the chances are that those rights will go to parents, not to non-parents”

    All I’m saying is that it’s high time we acknowledged that child-lovers were a majority and as such were callously insensitive to those of us who don’t like children. That won’t help me as part of a ‘hopeless minority’ in any real sense, but I’m sick of listening to parents pretend that they’re the victims and they’re the ones who deserve sympathy. Why should I be less entitled to my victimization than anyone else?

    Besides, parents are the ones so fond of talking about tolerance and acceptance. How about they try being tolerant and accepting themselves? I’m not expecting it to work, but it’s worth trying. And what else can an oppressed minority do but speak out against oppression?

    As for bad bargains, what could be a worse bargain than the one people like me have got today – where we not only have no choice but to put up with insensitive parents inflicting their children on us, but we get called child-haters if we much as suggest the possibility of a negotiated solution that could leave everyone better off?

    Finally, “you can make me intellectually aware of the possibility of people not liking babies, but you cant make me understand it”. Why do you need to understand it? If you accept that I don’t like babies, however inexplicable that may seem to you, why wouldn’t you discuss solutions that would spare me the trouble of having to put up with babies and let people who like babies get more time with them, while sparing yourself the trouble of having to deal with my obvious dislike for babies (which parents are always complaining about) – thus making everyone better off? Why this need to overrule my preferences and force me to interact with babies if I don’t want to? Why this need to beat me over the head until I too share in the collective fiction that babies are charming?

    Isn’t it fascinating, btw, that I write two fairly mild-mannered posts asking parents to be a little more reasonable a month ago, and people are still getting heated up about it? You’d think majorities wouldn’t be so insecure.

  3. Ravi,

    Agree with all that you said. I wonder though, if masking prejudice with humour and mockery deserves the qualifier ‘at least’.

  4. Falstaff,
    What are the ways in which insensitive parents have inflicted their children on you? I mean, what’s the most common sort of situation that you’ve been subjected to? It’s a genuine question. I don’t have any particular liking for kids per se. So, ever since I got to read about your misadventures with kids, I’ve been trying to figure out which side I fall on. (I’ve never really been friends with the parenting world, you see.)

  5. Falstaff,

    “If youd read my post carefully …”

    Aadisht, Ravikiran, Avataram and TON – we will now have a contest to come up with a funnier line.

  6. Falstaff

    What exactly is your gripe? Your post loks like a filler post with a cliched topic of how parents bother you ..I am sure whatever it is you are going through is easily escapable and manageable.
    likewise I am sure you could create a 100 posts about each category of people who talk about a particular thing …

  7. Ravi, if you ever happen to be mugged by a couple of muggers, don’t bother to resist, and don’t complain later. You’ll be in a small minority, after all, and by what this post implies…

  8. Dear Amit,
    The reason your question about mugging makes sense is that we both belong to approximately the same species, and there is broad agreement among us that because getting mugged is an unpleasant experience, mugging is wrong and should not be done. If we were a species where the overwhelming majority enjoyed the experience of getting beaten up by random people, the minority that did not relish the experience would be the ones asking for special dispensation. If the minority were really small, then providing for their needs would impose unacceptable costs on the majority.

    I realise that you shudder at the idea that right and wrong is determined by majority vote, but at some point while using deductive logic to decide right or wrong, one needs to make value judgements – and those value judgements will need to be based on what actual humans feel. Murder is wrong because most people don’t like dying.

  9. I realise that you shudder at the idea that right and wrong is determined by majority vote.

    Indeed. I’d rather that the rights of each individual be protected. I don’t want the kid on the neighbouring table at a restaurant spilling sambar on my table, nor do I want the kid behind me in the cinema hall kicking my chair throughout the film. Most parents bring their kids up well enough to not be a nuisance to others, but there are enough ill-behaved kids out there to be a nuisance, and enough parents who suggest there is something wrong with me that I am not as indulgent of their progeny as they are. Just because they are the majority doesn’t make it right.

    But you like kids, so you think otherwise. Hmm!

  10. Falstaff, you missed, or refused to accept, the “hopeless” part. I am making an affirmative statement that it is hopeless. Writing two posts and a thesis-length comment kind of assumes that explaining harder is going to make people understand.

  11. Amit, “rights” is a big term for what we are discussing. We are talking of matters of common courtesies and who ought to be obliged to be courteous to whom. To the extent that “rights” come in, it comes in the form of which direction the legal issues should default to. Obviously, if a restaurant promises you a childfree environment and you walk in to find a child sitting quietly at a table, you have a case against the restaurant.

    On the other hand, if the restaurant makes no such claim, and you find that your dinner is disturbed by an infant wailing at the next table, the legal question will be whether you have a claim against the restaurant in the consumer court for deficiency of service. The question involving common courtesy is whether you are a prick for complaining, or whether the parents are pricks for not controlling the child or for bringing their brat in the first place. Whether I were a judge or an agony uncle dispensing advice on questions of etiquette, I’d be inclined to find against you. Of course, things would be different if the brat was too ill-mannered, or if the place is such that you have a reasonable expectation of absolute silence – like a concert hall. But most of the times, you’d be out of luck.

  12. Ravi, if a kid from a neighbouring table throws sambar on my table, or a kid behind me in the cinema hall kicks my chair throughout the film, I’m a prick for complaining? Nice!

  13. I really want to know who these monster kids who trouble sensible Coase respecting people are. Clearly, I don’t go out enough.

  14. Ravi,

    What’s extreme about the cases cited by Amit? Are you implying that they are mild (for whom?), or that they are rare?

  15. I’m afraid the sambar thing sounds like an extreme case. Or perhaps an accident. With motor skills still developing, a glass or a spoon are aimed at the mouth but go flying in another direction. I think the parents should apologise profusely if that happens and offer to pay your dry cleaning bills etc. No amount of money can make up for a ruined evening but its an accident that can happen even if an adult trips and jostles you.

    The chair kicking, I have had not just kids but even grown men kicking my chair all the time at movies. I keep turning around and glaring, requesting but they don’t stop. Either they cant control their long legs or keep forgetting or whatever. But it’s part of life. You shrug and let it pass or get into a fight. Not everything requires a legislation. Not all the time do people have other options. If anything, there should be a ban on cellphones in cinema halls. Or a jammer or whatever its called that jams networks so that all phones are on silent.

    And I must admit that despite pushing thirty I havent seen enough badly behaved children to react so violently. I’ve seen some and they make me want to smack the parents who arent doing anything to control them.. but thats it.

  16. Yes, I am saying that they are extreme and rare.

    But more importantly, I am saying that our differing attitudes to children is obviously colouring our evaluation of the severity of those incidents. If a child comes and spills sambar on my table, I will treat it as an amusing incident, not as a violation of my rights or a shocking failure by parents to control their children. There is almost nothing that a child can do that will disturb my equanimity. I have been patient with children when their own mothers have lost their cool.

    Now of course, I am probably extreme in that respect and I will certainly change my view when I have children myself, but it is worth considering that most people will be closer to my end of the spectrum than Amit’s or Falstaff’s. They are free to think that a child kicking their seat is a gross violation of rights rather than a minor annoyance, but if they wish to seek redress, they will need to convince someone of this – and that someone is unlikely to see it their way.

  17. Ravi, extreme or otherwise, those are the cases I cited, having encountered both within the last week — I also specified that I don’t have an issue with well-behaved kids, and I don’t think Falstaff was protesting them either. So you follow-up comment seems to just be picking on a straw man.

    MM, I didn’t call for legislation or react violently. I simply ask for the courtesy to not have other people’s kids thrust on me in public spaces, and if shit happens, then at least not to have it justified by people saying, “arre bachche hai, deal with it.”

    And Ravi, your equanimity is admirable, but others aren’t compelled to share your preferences. (You a socialist or a libertarian, btw?) As for courtesy, I noted your mastery of it when you mocked Falstaff in an earlier comment for the length of his posts. If you’re ever giving classes, let me know what the fees are. 😉

  18. Ritwik,
    I’m much perplexed too. I feel like a ‘kid,’ so to say. Not that I spill sambar on unsuspecting but well-meaning uncles.

  19. @ Amit – not at all. I didn’t mean you in particular. I have just seen far too many ppl saying that there should be rules about where kids should be allowed blah blah. Its easier to leave an annoying cellphone out of a cinema hall than a helpless child alone at home.

    And you seem to have had an awful week 😀

  20. Amit, as long as you are speaking for yourself, that’s ok. But from Falstaff’s posts, it is clear that virtually any presence of children in a social setting is an intrusion for him. The only children he seems to be willing to tolerate are those who are entirely invisible – not only should they not make any sound, even the parents should pretend that they do not exist and coo about their brats. This does not seem like a tolerant attitude to me.

    Second, you need to make up your mind about whether you think that children intruding into your life is a violation of your rights – akin to a mugging, or an inconvenience caused by someone not following your preferred rules of etiquette. If it is the former, then your question about whether I am a socialist or libertarian makes sense. If it is the latter, then it doesn’t.

    It is unfair to expect me to accommodate someone’s preference for beating me up, but if I choose to travel in a Mumbai local train, I will have to accommodate my copassengers’ elbows on my rib. It does not make sense to subject both to a rights-based analysis.

  21. Ravi, I was speaking for myself, and if Falstaff doesn’t like children, I can only speculate that he hasn’t tried them sauteed.

    To answer your second question, children intruding into my life is only a violation of my rights if they violate my rights. Therein lies the problem, and in real-life settings, I have found solutions to the problem that I cannot share on a family forum such as yours.

    On that note of agreement, tra la! 🙂

  22. You are obviously taking the most extreme cases.

    I run a restaurant and I feed hundreds of families a month.
    Amit is definitely not taking the most extreme cases.

    Some parents just don’t think they need to keep their kids in check in a place like a restaurant. I have sworn and cursed under my breath far too many times to count.

    I share Falstaff’s sentiments, a tad verbose as the pieces might have been.

  23. @Amit: You bet! 🙂 One would imagine I am not mad enough and need to be pushed over the edge! Sauteed children indeed! I should send you the dead baby jokes forward.

    @ Ravi: You put it well – parents cannot be expected to pretend kids don’t exist. neither should others. Its just polite to ask after another’s family/wife/kids/job… yaada yaada. its just another part of their life.

    @ Mad Man: Really? And you allow it? Please tell me if it’s in Delhi! I rarely take the kids to a restaurant because I refuse to let them misbehave and spoil another’s eating out experience. If you let the other painful brats get away with it, why not mine ?:P

    honestly though, can’t you politely ask parents to keep their kids in check?

  24. Let me jump into the fray. My own impression on reading Falstaff’s posts was an indictment of parents for bringing children everywhere; his personal dislike of children was not the major issue.

    I love children, but even I will agree that there are certain places where I would prefer not to have children. Who likes bawling infants in movie theaters? Or at the opera?

    I have also endured 6 hour long flights in coach class with a kid kicking the back of my seat all through. It’s not fun, to put it mildly.

    These are not extreme cases, Ravi. Not if they were to happen so frequently and to so many people.

    I don’t blame the children – I blame the parents. Is it so difficult for people to be considerate of others? Really, if you have little kids who cannot sit through a movie, why not hire babysitters ? No one is asking the kid to sit at home alone, mind you.

    I have seen examples of good parenting too – parents bringing enough toys, books and drawing stuff for long flights so their kids will be occupied. Parents who have the courtesy to apologize if their kid does misbehave, and control the kid. In all the examples I have mentioned, the parents did not do so because they could not care less.

    So the real issue is not misbehaving children, it’s inconsiderate parents.

  25. I’d like to add, as the Mad Momma pointed out, by condoning such inconsiderate parents, you are actually providing a disincentive to considerate parents – why should I pay a babysitter $15/ hour when I find others bringing their screaming infants to the restaurant/ movie? The solution here is to have a common rule – say movie theaters can disallow children under the age of 3. This actually is fair to everyone.

  26. Ravikiran,
    Its one of those rare occasions that I find myself disagreeing with your point of view. I have to agree with Lekhni above that the minority is not so much as intolerant of children but it is probably parents who are fanning the fire. The mad momma can shout from the rooftops but almost 90% of the parents I have seen, say in the last 6 months couldn’t care less what a fucking pain their child is being to someone else. As Amit points out the reaction is either “arre baccha hai’ ergo you deal with it or its the other extreme of “oh my we have done a blessed glorious job of pushing the child into this world” – you guys pay homage to that blessed act. Here’s an example of the other extreme of how parents try to take advantage of someone just because they have child along. Was travelling by train to Hyd a couple of weeks ago. At Pune a lady got on board with a about a 3-4 year old. Settled in and ‘initiated’ conversation. This inspite of the fact that I was happily engrossed in a book, wasn’t making eye contact and was quite apparently not looking to engage with small talk. The conversation was inititated not with “excuse me, but …” but by using the child as a ruse “Pinky aunty dekho kaise padh rahi hai. Aunty ki padhai ho rahi hai kya? Aunty ko poocho ‘aunty aapy kahan ja rahe ho?” Wtf moment. Sigh. Put a book down and cater to repeated assault. Turns out the lady had the upper berth and was looking for a swap. Hell gave it to her just to stop her yapping and pushing that child at me ‘ “aunty ke saath khelo?” . Picked up my book and tried to ignore. Lady starts sending out feelers and asking me at 4:30 in the afternoon “aap kitne baje soti hai?” aka when the fuck are you going on the upper berth? So I said oh about 8;00pm? Irritated expression follows. Went for a toilet break at 5:30, come back to see that lady has kicked all my stuff to upper berth, is sprawled on the lower berth and has the gall to say to me in a very loud voise in response to snarky comment “oh my kid is tired and needs to sleep. But if its such a big deal to you I will take my kid and go on the upper berth and hope she does not fall down.” Another wtf moment. The loud voice is just so people in the neighborhood can understand the victimization being suffered by a parent. Had to sit on a upper berth and try to read for the next 4 hours lying down – that when I do get motion sickness when I do that, have a mild case of vertigo myself. But can’t stare at the ceiling for hours in broad daylight! More often than not I have seen parents either USE their own kids and it leaves a bad taste in the mouth. The Mad Momma, as I said, can shout from the fucking rooftop. Just as she and you are labelling us as a “minority” she is in the minority herslf as far as I am concerned – that of a “good parent”. And that’s giving her a benefit of doubt.

  27. @Anamika. Oh I don’t care to shout it from the ‘fucking rooftops’ at all. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Shouting isn’t going to make a valid point… just as foul language in a response, doesn’t. I am much obliged that you give me the benefit of the doubt.
    Frankly I think Lekhni, Ravikiran and I are more in agreement than you are with Lekhni.

    Perhaps the idea is to come up with constructive solutions, just as Lekhni has, instead of foaming at the mouth. I think not allowing kids below the age of 3 is a fair rule. I don’t take my kids, even if it means watching all the movies on DVD. But then I would also like to be able to through out the couple making out loudly in front of me and the idiot whose phone won’t stop ringing, behind me. More rules would definitely be a good thing.

  28. @amit:
    Given that being silent does not mean “yes” (unlike in Bollywood movies), I wonder how you ever got a chance to become a huge fan of such an activity. Amazing amusement appears.
    Okay, sorry for those last 3 words.

  29. Mad Momma,
    The word “fucking” is an enormously useful word in the English language unmatchingly able to express a variety of emotions. Don’t fucking split hairs. Concentrate on the fucking argument and ignore the non-fucking-issues.
    Thank you.

  30. The gist of the fucking argument is that while traveling by train a family with a child emotionally blackmailed you into vacating your seat and occupying the upper berth, and you were fucking traumatized by the fucking incident?

  31. @Anamika. I did actually reply. I don’t think you fucking noticed 🙂 Didn’t realise the argument got you excited enough to lose the ability to frame a sentence. Maybe you should have been responding to Ravi instead of me? hmmm? so what is the issue? your inability to just tell the woman that you didnt want to give her your berth? or to tell the child, ‘beta, abhi disturb nahi karo, aunty pad rahi hain’ ?

    And the hyd train experience sounds awful. but honestly i don’t see too many ppl having the same problem. we’ve all travelled and for every bad experience there is a good one. Ravi for instance seems to have no problem.

    its not so hard to say no. last year I travelled while pregnant, with my toddler son, and asked someone to exchange seats with me (I had the upper berth) and didnt think I should be climbing up and down, carrying a child. they refused. which is fine. all you have to do is assert your right if you dont feel like being generous.

    why does it become a special situation if its a child? just request the parent or the child. its a lot more satisfying to politely request someone to leave you in peace than to angst over it later. or is it that you ran out of polite fucking words!?

    anyway – peace. I just don’t like people referring to me and using bad language when I am unaware of their very existence.

    Sorry Ravi! I think your reasonable post got drowned out by a few bad experiences.

  32. Anamika, sweety- I think you need to sign up for an assertiveness class. Or did you already go to one where they told you that saying fuck shows people how confident and assertive you are?
    Mala

  33. @Anamika: I’ve had the exact same experience as you, except it’s been an old man who did that. Who wanted to exchange the upper berth with my lower one, who constantly interrupted my peaceful reading session, and who lay down in the lower berth at an unholy early hour, and complained loudly about the overhead lights being on.

    I have also suffered from lack of sleep because of the college kids in the next berth loudly living it up in the train AND I am ashamed to say that when I was travelling with my friends in college, I might have done something similar.

    My point is that a LOT of people in India especially are somewhat inconsiderate in public spaces. Blame it on our social genes or whatever, but the fact is, we are. Surely when said inconsiderate people become parents, some reform, some stay the same.

    Wouldn’t you agree? Now tell me how can we weed out the inconsiderate old folks, the college kids AND the parents? Simple. By asking them politely, if they would stop doing whatever it is that is annoying you. If they are in a situation where they can, that is.

    Instead we have long discussions on how we can exterminate parents and kids from public spaces. Well if we’re doing that, I demand that we exterminate nosy old people, people with loud cellphone tones and rowdy college kids. Sheesh.

  34. Vivek, rooftops are silent? In my experience, they positively moan. Maybe you’re just not good enough at, ahem, um…

    I don’t see why people are still arguing, honestly. Some of us (Falstaff, Lekhni, Anamika, me) have a problem will ill-behaved children getting in our faces in public places, and some of us (Momma, Ravi) think not not too many children are ill-behaved, and children are otherwise just darling, even when not sauteed. So fine. Where’s the disagreement?

    (That’s a rhetorical question, don’t start now…)

  35. @Amit: LOL! No, we don’t think they are darling at all. Sometimes my own brats are a pain. But all you have to do is ask parents to take them out of the restaurant/film if they are too thick to think of it ourselves. Thats all. And as Poppins above pointed out, there are unreasonable people in every stage of life. Nothing you can do about it. But get into a pointless argument, maybe. The rest of us try really hard to ensure that no one is disturbed. but if its an aircraft and there is no way out then, kya karein, bachcha hai :p

    and hey – i am agreeing with Lekhni!

  36. Lekhni — I agree with you. We’ve been discussing this ad nauseam of late and that is what we all agreed on: parents are the problem, not so much their kids.

    I would never dream of asking my son to show off a skill to any stranger but I can’t always help him throwing a tantrum in public. He is only 16 months old and not everything is easy to deal with.

    BUT it is my responsibility and I would consider it wrong to expect somebody else to amuse/soothe/whatever him. If my co-passenger offered, I might (note, might) accept, but I don’t expect it. Unfortunately, I only learnt this consideration after many experiences of the kind that have got Falstaff and Amit riled up. I mean, back when I was single and, er, exploited. 🙂

  37. Anamika — I don’t expect you to believe me but I really do know where your anger comes from. I’ve been treated like that too many times to count and I’ve decided to deal with it by trying to ensure that both my son and his parents try their hardest to be considerate fellow travellers. With a baby this is not always possible but we do try.

    I think MadMomma’s point was that it would be nice to be have our efforts noticed as well as the disturbances we cannot always control. Poppin’s Mom, having been a judgmental sort in her own day is similarly strict with her daughter.

    Ravi — Thanks for letting me hog your space! 🙂

  38. Momma, agreed, the issue is not so much misbehaving kids, but parents who are indulgent of such misbehaviour and oblivious to the inconvenience it causes others. If kids spills sambar and parents apologize and control the kid henceforth, I’m cool. But if kid spills sambar and parents are, like, “Oh, Ravi beta kitna naughty beta hai. Shweetie, shweetie,” then I have a problem.

    Did I say Ravi beta? Why did I think of that name? Hmmm…

  39. @Amit. Because you are a wicked but funny man!! LOL.

    And hell…if parent says ‘shweetie shweetie,’ I’d not just have a problem, I’d voice it too…

  40. @Amit:
    Wasn’t it always understood that the fault lies with parents and not with children? I didn’t think that would be something people would need to agree with after so many posts and comments.
    And Ravi is beta, of course. There are still some bugs left to be sorted out.

  41. Ravikiran – Hope you are doing well after getting that off your chest. Maybe the tight ass can now relax? And may the milk of human kindness continue to flow from thyself.

    Mad Momma- after that thesis on your blog, you are saying I got excited?

  42. Looks like we are all agreeing with each other here. The only opinion I am still waiting for is the rooftop’s. I wish it’d stop being silent (or moaning) and tell us if it also agrees. Then we can all close this thread and move on 😀

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