Tuesday, January 06, 2009

We can tell you don't like children


Two weeks with a wide range of child-free people has moved me into a new realm of motherhood. Holidays are lovely but this was my first one with children and I made a number of mistakes. I'm going to be much more assertive about protecting their interests on our next holiday (I'll get to practice in a couple of weeks when we go down to Melbourne).

Most people do not love children as much as they think they do. Oh, they say they like them, and they do like them, in a 'Madame, Miss Pearl and Master Louis would like to say goodnight to you now' sort of way. But they don't like to do what children like to do, and they don't like the sequelae of trying to force children to do what adults like to do.

So this is what I've learnt:

1. If someone says 'cafe' (pub, restaurant), my automatic response should be 'no'. If they press, talking about how child friendly the place is, and how they don't mind children in cafes, ask specific questions such as:
- Does the cafe provide drop sheets? Mops? Buckets and cloths?
- Does the cafe have a policy of 'no drinks over blood-heat temperature'?
- Are my fellow cafegoers willing to eschew cakes, sweets and fried foods so I don't have to engage in wrestles with my children to keep them away from the crap?
- Are my companions willing to entertain themselves with a magazine while I walk around the cafe behind the curious toddler, protecting the objets d'art and preventing the children impaling themselves on anything?

2. Small children need to do something. It is no use going somewhere to look at something. Scenery, animals, art, theatre, even TV - small children do not 'behave' and it is unreasonable to expect them to. They want to use their bodies. If they can't run/jump/splash/build/play, they will whine that they are hungry.

3. If it is hot and there is water nearby, go there! Go there again! Stay there all day! Children will have an excellent holiday doing the same thing every day. They do not need variety.

4. Adults love to drive places. They love to 'go for a drive'. There is the illusion of doing something with your day, when really you might as well be sitting in front of the telly. There is also a belief that something must be better if you have to drive a long way to get there. Children are not fooled. Trains are good. Ferries are great. Buses are okay. I imagine trams are fun. Cars are bad. Do not go anywhere further than twenty minutes away, unless you plan to be away a long time. We did a day trip to Byron, which worked because we drove down during their morning nap (7.30a.m), stayed all day and came back at the time they go to bed at night (7pm). We did a picnic in the hinterland which was bad - it took an hour and a half to get there (L and I singing 'The wheels on the bus go round and round' all the way to forestall crying) and the picnic lasted maybe an hour! Then we went to a cafe! (see #1)

5. Children will be gritchy if you are out after bedtime. Or even approaching bedtime. 100% guaranteed.

I think what people don't realise when they insist we go to adult places and then spend the whole time feeling sorry for me ("Oh, parenting is such hard work" "You didn't get much of a break then, did you?") is that trying to make my children fit into adult environments is not what parenting is about. Watching them laugh in amazement as waves lap at their toes, knocking down sandcastles, eating watermelon somewhere it doesn't matter that it goes all over the floor, even the wonder of going down a slide or examining an unusual twig - they are the things I want to be sharing with friends who want to 'get to know the children'.

So when you come to visit, pack us a picnic and take us to a nearby beach, park or pool. Or just pick up takeaway and come around after the kids are in bed. You don't have to pretend to want to see the kids (I'm not a big fan of kids in general either - just mine and a select few others). Adult conversation without kids around works well for me, too.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

As a mother of two under fives I know where you are coming from. Ppl with no children just don't seem to get I can't go to 'normal' places with the kids like they do. I do think you might have gone a bit 2 far and taken it a bit too personally though to say they don't like children. They probably do but have no clue when it comes to parenting, which makes sense since they don't have any kids. From what I have read, you seem to doing a gr8 job good on ya.

Mikhela said...

You are right. I was a bit annoyed when I wrote this, but really it is my responsibility to make sure we are choosing child friendly outings. I felt like I was being all compromising by agreeing to what the adults wanted, then felt a bit like people were cross with my children for being inconvenient in an adult environment!

Also though, I'm okay if people don't like children. I don't think it's a moral issue. I'd just prefer to arrange to socialise with those people without the children if I know that. Instead, I think people feel compelled to pretend to like my children - and why should they?

Anonymous said...

Mikhela, your post is the most sensible entry I've seen in a long time! 1 year old twins do not, and will not fit into adult environments - you'll either get one, or the other or BOTH upset about what you're trying to make them do. And often it's two of them against one of you and you'll ALWAYS lose!

Let children be children I say :D

Mikhela said...

Thanks! Of course I realise I have already made two restaurant dates for Melbourne - it's such a habit to choose that as the socialising spot. I'll have to g00gle child friendly pLACES IN mELBOURNE and find some alternatives that are interesting for the child-free, too.

Anonymous said...

But that's just it, mikhela, were they really cross with your children or did you feel as if they were? If they were really cross with them, then they probably weren't good friends to start with. I try to stay away from ppl like that. Not a tough choice between my kids or them. In my experience though, some childless adults just don't know how to act around kids. I guess what i'm trying to say is could you have jumped to the conclusion that these people were pretending to like your kids when they actually liked them but didn't know how to act? I don't know the answer to that one but you remind me of myself and i have a tendency to jump to conclusions when i'm irritated or annoyed.

JahTeh said...

I've had the opposite problem with some visitors. I don't care that the kids are all over the place, just happy that they're enjoying my things but mothers get so uptight.
I love seeing babies on the beach and near water, it's the look on their faces as they experience everything. It's a joy to watch.
Kid friendly in Melbourne, I'm not sure about 1 year olds.

mikhela said...

Maybe we'll come to your place and trash it...!

Eilyk Nella-Yarbwom said...

i so enjoyed this post also, and all the various comments... not sure if you're still reading the comments now that this is an old post (yes, it's taken me a while to catch up!) but i hope you do... i have found that a lot of people (childless) are unsure of what to do, so i am bolshy and say, "would you mind reading her a quick story while i do...(whatever needs doing)" or I say to Clover, "show him how you've learnt to do such and such" which may sound silly to you considering the twins are 1, but if you start talking about them it will give people something else to think/talk about... may sound silly. bit tricky to put in words. BUT the truth is, a lot of the time i STILL get it wrong and am in a situation meeting up with someone which is totally impractical with a 5 year old...

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Ross Mary said...

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