If I were to ask you if I could bring Stella to a grown-up party, would you shoot me eye daggers and mind-punch me right in the kisser? Apparently, you would, if you are a reader of and commenter on NYT’s Motherlode.
KJ Dell’Antonia posted about a timely parenting quandary: to bring or not to bring one’s 18 month old child to a fancy adult New Years Eve party in the wake of a canceled babysitter. A Motherlode reader was invited to a party in a fancy resturant. At the last moment her babysitter canceled, and so she called the host and asked if she might bring her child. Dell’Antonia threw the query out to her audience: was the mother of the 18 month old rude to ask? And how should the host respond?
My initial reaction upon reading this post was to think, of course the mother was not rude. In fact she responded appropriately, asking, rather than just assuming her child would be welcomed. And the duty of a host is to accommodate one’s guests graciously. Thus, the doors should be open widely, even to unexpected pint-sized revelers. Nearly every single commenter disagreed with me.
The vigor and vehemence of the commenters collective and universal abhorrence of children at grown-up events shocked me. I thought back to my own childhood, and the adult parties I went to. I reflected on the numerous times I’ve seen small kids here in Aisa out well beyond bedtime. I thought about kids running wild through the halls of five star hotels in China. And all that left me wondering, are we living in an era and a culture of pediaphobia?
One need only to look towards the intolerance with which children are welcomed onto airplanes for further evidence in support of this hypothesis. Our culture is rife with parental judgment and competition, as well as with parental anxiety. We criticize, sometimes inwardly, sometimes overtly and viciously, parents whose choices are not in line with our own child rearing practices. We disdain and mock big kids in strollers. We curse our children for their wakefulness. Still we invest exorbitant amounts of time, and often money, in baby betterment projects, and are always vigilantly on guard, observing our children for any sign of delay, deficiency, or some sort of diagnosable problem, be it simple as tongue tie or complex as Autism.
The culture of parenting hums along at the low-level frequency of anxiety. We worry that our kids will misbehave, that they’ll not sleep properly, that people will judge our parenting, that there will be something wrong with our kids, that we’ll do something wrong with our kids. We’re frightened of them, their mess, their demands, and what they might say about us. So we want to keep the kids contained in kindergartens and Chuck E. Cheeses’, and the hell outta grown up parties.
I wonder what exactly the impetuous to all of this is? Is it the aging, child-free (and thereby sticky, screamy mess-free), baby boomers, with their grasp still hanging on firmly on the tiller of popular culture who are driving this? Is it a backlash against the fetishizing of motherhood? The tabloids celebrating celebrity bumps and celebrity babies? Is it just because we’re selfish and don’t like to be distracted from our drunken revelry by some kid who may or may not be crying?
If you have any ideas, I’d love to hear them. Because really, what the what, people???