Why Does My Children's Presence Offend You?

15/05/2011 15:06 | Updated 22 May 2015
I'm sorry if my children's presence offends youGetty

"Why do some people hate children?"

My daughter's question knocked me for six.

"Because they don't know any better," I answered.

I don't think there's much else you could say.

Sad that she had picked up on such a feeling, I asked what had inspired our conversation.

Emily, now 12, explained it was when we were watching an ice show in Blackpool as a birthday treat.When one of the dancers landed perfectly after a tricky jump, Emily clapped and whooped.

A woman in front of her wasn't impressed.

"Do you mind?" she'd protested, evoking an immediate apology.

But it wasn't enough. She must have considered Emily's enthusiastic appreciation far too loud.

"Bloody kids get on my nerves," moaned our fellow spectator to her companion.

I'm not sure who else she expected to make up a Blackpool Pleasure Beach audience.

Yet this was just the latest in a long line of disapproving responses. And I stress there is nothing overly loud, disruptive or naughty about my children or many others that I know. Yes really.

Why should the presence of my children on a holiday or in a restaurant or theatre ruin other people's day?

They are just children, small people who can behave better than many adults. They aren't about to scream the place down, lift up their dress to show their knickers or fart like there's no-one listening.

My daughters, like most other children I believe, have been brought up to respect other people's wishes and be mindful of peace and quiet if that's what's expected.

If anyone thinks emitting a lone whoop at an ice show proves me wrong on this, dare I respectfully suggest you need to get out more.

Like other children, and adults too, sometimes they get it wrong. On occasions as toddlers they may have cried or showed their discomfort, they may have needed feeding. When this happened, they were noisy. I did my best as most parents do, to help them.

Often, their cries, in stereo, were met with disdain.

I avoided travelling by public transport. We couldn't afford foreign holidays which had to be a good thing - such is the disapproval reserved for a mother who dares to book her children onto an aeroplane.

Why are we scrutinised as if we've at worst just mugged a pensioner or at best tracked a heavy dose of dog mess into a prized rug? Why is it that even the best behaved of children can provoke extreme reactions?

I'm baffled. If a child utters a cry or a scream when they are tiny, then they are in discomfort or pain, but still the poor mum or dad with them is deemed somehow lacking, why oh why can't they keep the little blighters quiet?

I once read an article on a village where children are banned. Yes you read it right, banned. It reported residents were fed up of smug parents who wanted to discuss nothing but their children. This was later claimed to be media hype and it was pointed out that grandchildren were allowed to come and stay.

But still, while dogs were allowed to live there more permanently, children weren't.

Oh dear.

Just weeks ago I watched in silent amazement as a woman huffed her way out of a supermarket cafe muttering about "screaming kids" after a baby boy whimpered very modestly.

I know sometimes children are naughty, inconsiderate and rude.

Yet so are most adults.

If we encounter a group of football hooligans kicking up a storm, or a gang of drunken party goers in a café, we don't tut and say 'that's it, I hate all people."

That would be ridiculous. And so is tarring all kids with the same brush.

Yet sitting down to Sunday lunch in a country pub, however close to the cosy fire your family is, you may often feel a distinct chill in the air.

If you were venturing into a three-starred Michelin eatery with a screaming toddler or two then I'd understand the frosty glares. But when it's a cheap and cheerful place - often even with its own resident bloke in a bear or clown suit - you'll still feel like the girl picked last for netball. That's regardless of how your children are behaving.

When we ate out with our girls in the early days, they were their usual unobtrusive selves; no tantrums, no tears, no running around and no filling of nappies - they saved that for when they got home.

But still people seemed offended by our blatant show of fertility. Not that we ate out often. Once in a blue moon more like. The stress of the scornful glances became a bit much for me.

I'd really liked to have stuck two fingers up at all the snooty onlookers. But of course I didn't want to make things more unpleasant than they already were.

But I look back with regret.

Worried I might upset someone with our chatter; I was far too polite and hushed my girls more than I should. If young friends were with us, my stress levels were off the scale.

Does this sound familiar?

Do you think our society is intolerant of children?

Is seen and not heard still people's favourite mode for kids?

Tell us what you think...

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