Dear society: kids cry, deal with it. Dear parents: kids cry, stop bringing them to grown-up movies

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Alright, everyone. I know we can’t agree on everything. Or most things. Or anything. I know this world is full of strife and contention, controversy and division. I get it.

This is what it means to live on a mortal planet populated by the fallen hordes of sinful, prideful, vengeful beings. We argue, it’s what we do. And, honestly, I guess that’s good for business. I make a living writing about ‘controversial’ topics. What would I do if I lived in a land where nobody argued about anything? The good news is that if I found myself in a place of that sort, I’d presumably be in Heaven. But the bad news is that I’d be really hard up for blogging topics.

In any case, as much as I appreciate a good ol’ fashioned, knock ’em down, drag ’em out online cyber-brawl, I think it’s time we retire a few of these debates.

One in particular: whether or not parents should bring crying children into public places.

Enough of this already.

Can’t we reach a compromise here? Can’t we exercise a modicum of consideration for our fellow man? Can’t we all exhibit a shred of common sense?

I am not known to be the sort of guy who seeks the middle ground, so if I’m asking for a compromise that ought to tell you something.

Perhaps you’ve read the latest viral post on this subject. If not, I’ll sum it up for you: some guy runs a blog called ‘Dad on the Run.’ His sister apparently went to a ski resort recently with her young child and her husband. The child screamed and cried in fits for two nights straight. After the second night, their neighbor in the next room left an angry note under the door, scolding them for bringing a baby to a ski resort and ruining everyone else’s relaxing time. Sis showed the letter to bro, bro took to his blog and scolded the letter writer for scolding his sister.

Next, commenters and other bloggers proceeded to scold the brother for scolding the letter-writer for scolding the sister.

Now you probably think I’m going to scold the scolders for scolding the scolder of the scolder, don’t you?

Not quite.

Look, there’s no doubt that it’s absurd for anyone to suggest that you shouldn’t bring your kid on vacation. From what I understand, this was a family resort. Families, I’m told, often include children. According to some studies, before a child is older he must be younger. This is the way it works for most — if not all — people.

Should we, parents of young children, never check into a hotel? Daytrips only, until the youngest is 14, should that be the rule? Should we pass up an opportunity to enjoy some quality family time because we wouldn’t want to upset the cranky stranger with sensitive eardrums? Should other adults be entitled to utter and complete peace and quiet everywhere they go? Should babies be shunned from society entirely?

No, emphatically, on all counts.

You might remember that I’ve waded into this debate in the past. I wrote of an encounter I had with a young man who made judgmental, vulgar remarks about a poor mother in a grocery store as she struggled to calm her tantruming toddler.

That was a clear-cut case. The dude was a jerk, plain and simple. Parents have to shop for groceries. Sometimes they have to bring their kids. Sometimes the kid cries. Nobody should have an expectation of silence and tranquility in the aisles of a supermarket. If they do — that’s their problem. It’s not anyone’s responsibility to protect their delusion that they’re living in a Children of Men utopia, where babies and children don’t exist.

As for the letter — whoever wrote it went about it the wrong way. They could have switched rooms. They could have gone to an adults-only resort in the first place. The letter was petty, immature, and unhelpful.

That said, I can’t blame them for being upset after two sleepless nights listening to someone else’s kid fuss and cry. It’s frustrating enough to be kept awake by your own kids — but someone else’s? On vacation? That’s tough. That’s annoying.

I have ten-month-old twins, and I’d be annoyed. I’d especially be annoyed if my wife and I were able to escape for a night or two, only to find our babies’ crying replaced with another baby’s crying. What a cruel, cosmic joke. It’s like Groundhog’s Day, but without the ground hog or the Bill Murray.

Of course, kids are great. I love kids. A lot of people love kids. People who have kids love kids (hopefully), and even people who don’t have kids might love kids. But no matter how much anyone loves kids, nobody loves listening to them whine and shriek. We are all bound by — if nothing else — our severe distaste for such sounds.

Still, these noises are part of life, to some degree or another. Nobody gets to be completely shielded from it. And anyone with such an expectation obviously suffers from a severe case of Entitlement Syndrome.

My kids cry in public sometimes. We don’t like it, we’re embarrassed, but it happens. We don’t need you to enjoy listening to it, but you are going to have to tolerate it on occasion. We can’t roll them around in a sound proof bubble (not opposed to the idea, just not aware that the technology exists), and we can’t always leave them at home.

Sometimes there isn’t anyone around to watch them. Sometimes — gasp — we want to go out and do things as a family. Yes, we don’t necessarily need to bring our children into your vicinity, but we want to. We like being together, if you can imagine such a thing.

We don’t need anyone’s permission, nor do we require their blessing, nor do we particularly care if we’re interfering with anyone’s attempt to live out an existence completely devoid of noise, energy, and youth.

But I promised a compromise, and here it is:

Although nobody is entitled to absolute uninterrupted silence and tranquility, there are some places that society — if not the law itself — has deemed ‘childfree.’ It’s important for the integrity of these areas to be preserved, particularly for the sake of parents who themselves would like to perhaps enjoy a few fleeting moments insulated from the precious twang of a young child’s temper tantrum.

So, while everyone else needs to deal with the random crying-fit at the grocery store, or on a plane, or at a hotel, we parents of young kids need to stop doing insane things like bringing babies into grown-up movies at the theater. There is no excuse for this. It is pure selfishness, through and through.

Since my kids were born, I’ve been to one movie. One. And guess who else made it to the showing? An infant. Infants can only do two things — cry and poop — and this one did both throughout the duration of the film.

Knock that off, parents. We aren’t the only ones who get to demand consideration and empathy from strangers. They can expect it from us every once in awhile. My wife and I don’t go to movies very often precisely because we wouldn’t want to disrupt everyone else. I’d say 95 percent of parents make the same sacrifice. Why do the 5 percent think they’re a special case?

We should also stop bringing small children to fancy restaurants at night. I don’t even understand the inclination here. Who wants to spend 37 bucks on an entrée when you can’t even enjoy the meal because you’re joined at the table by fidgety, fussy munchkins? We should knock that off, too.

If we’re at a place where people go to read, study, learn, or pray — like church or a bookstore or a museum or a Himalayan Buddhist monastery  — it’s our responsibility to remove our kids if they’re making too much noise. We don’t have to leave church and go home, but take them to the back, take them out until they calm down. Do something, for God’s sake.

If we’re out at a social gathering and our children have breezed through naptime and are now in full-on Stage 4 nuclear meltdown mode, it’s probably time to bring them home.

If we’re at a wedding or a celebration of some kind, and our tots are interrupting adult conversations, crying, screaming, fussing, acting out, etc., we need to calm them, take them outside, or take them home.

This stuff is obvious so I hesitate to write it, but we’ve all met parents who are in serious need of this reminder.

These are the sorts of sacrifices we consented to when we signed up for this parenting gig.

In the end, our kids are our problem, and we should be uncomfortable with allowing them to be everyone else’s.

Meanwhile, everyone else should have a little patience and understanding, and never throw condescension and insults at a parent who’s in the midst of a difficult parenting moment.

This, also, should be obvious.

And there you go.

Problem solved.

Compromise reached.

Now we can get onto arguing about other things.

*******

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373 Responses to Dear society: kids cry, deal with it. Dear parents: kids cry, stop bringing them to grown-up movies

  1. Amber says:

    Great post Matt. I have 2 kids and this is just what the world needs to read. I also remember a church service where a fresh baby started crying and the priest stopped his sermon and told the mom not to shush the baby because “they are all God’s children”. That mom felt so relieved that someone was sympathetic. It was such a nice moment.

  2. As a parent myself with screaming kids, I understand completely. We don’t have to even apologise for things like this. All parents go through it, and I believe it’s only natural that kids scream and cry everywhere they are in public. And if some people can’t handle that’s their problem. They have forgotten how they have annoyed others the same way when they were once young themselves.

    Also, apart from screaming kids, try a person who sneezes in the library and get told off just because sneezing is noisy! My partner got the evil glare for just sneezing. It’s ridiculous…

    Great blog, and thanks for sharing this.. No one could have written it better 🙂

  3. August says:

    Two words: ear plugs.

    If you vacation, have a pair of these handy. I always have mine when I travel. The end.

  4. 10plus says:

    I am new to your blog and have been perusing today. When I came across this it reminded me of the bothersome trend in segregating children and adults at church. My church does not do this but with the steep decline in morals we all have to consider the next generation and what is best for their faith.

  5. emma says:

    Like your title indicates, it definitely depends on context. I DO judge kids who throw tantrums over the age of 6. I remember by then, my parents had socialized me with some basic manners, so other children do not have an excuse! Also, a lot of parents don’t tell off their kids for misbehaving in public, which explains the behavior. Toddlers and babies will of course cry, so I don’t care. Of course, bringing babies and kids to an opera or a formal conference is not ideal, but I understand that it’s not always convenient to find babysitters/external caretakers.

  6. “In the end, our kids are our problem, and we should be uncomfortable with allowing them to be everyone else’s.” Yahtzee.

  7. Elizabeth says:

    One thing that always bothers me is when my husband and I take our daughter (not yet 2 years old) out to get a milkshake or something at a fast-food, family-friendly place and there are other kids who spend the entire time standing up in the booth behind us, staring over the top of the seat, while their parents ignore them. I ask you, how hard is it to tell your child to sit down and face the table (or, heaven forbid, physically pick him up and put him gently on his backside facing the table… you know, “show, don’t tell”)? It’s not that I expect the kid to actually do this by themselves most of the time (sitting is hard) but I’d just like to see a bit of effort from the parents.

    On the other hand, I have experienced such wonderful patience from my church. We are one of the only families (in a large-ish congregation) who keep their children in the service (no nursery), and only a few times have we gotten nasty looks from people as we attempt to keep the baby calm and take care of her (this has included feeding her, rocking her to sleep, offering her quiet toys, or leaving the room twelve times in a single service etc.). I’m sure that we are distracting at times but I’m just thankful people generally don’t seem to mind.

    • Nancy WITHROW says:

      I can agree a certain amount but when we go to fazolis or McDonald’s on kids night if the worst thing that happens is a child is standing up starring at me over the seat I’m gonna call it a success! That was actually the biggest pet peeve of mine as a young adult with no children. I would constantly roll my eyes at the child who found us more interesting than its own table…..but in a cosmic twist of fate I am now a parent of a mildly autistic 3 year old. He loves to watch other people and see what’s going on everywhere else but our table. No I don’t allow him to climb over the booth and settle in with his neighboring table but I also know if I constantly force him to sit down facing forward in the seat at places like McDonald’s where every “normal” kid is jumping, screaming, running and playing we’re gonna have a meltdown on our hands and believe me you’d take being watched over the meltdown of given a choice. Don’t get me wrong I still try to parent my child and correct him as best as I can but at Chucky Cheese..I go with the slogan..where a kid can be a kid 🙂

  8. Amanda B says:

    “Meanwhile, everyone else should have a little patience and understanding, and never throw condescension and insults at a parent who’s in the midst of a difficult parenting moment.”

    Thank you for this.

  9. This post is spot on. I couldn’t have said it better myself. Children are a part of society and they are going to be out interacting in the work with adults. People forget what it’s like to be a child and that children are still learning.

  10. authorwin622 says:
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  12. I have been reading blogs today and happily stumbled upon yours. I read the original encounter at the ski resort letter reply as well. What good responses you have. A great reminder that there are 2 sides to every situation!

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