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28 July 2010

I don’t want to be your doctor if the wound is not mine

Let one thing be known on the outset: I like kids. MOST kids. I like kids who are sweet and articulate. I like kids who can amuse themselves and who don’t need constant praise and attention. In my own far-off childhood, I was the kind of child who got lugged around to a lot of adult only dos, and I took a book, and was usually asleep by the time the party really got rocking. My parents didn’t have many friends with children, so I learnt early on how to make my own amusements and I’m pretty certain I never got in the way.


Reading a lot about kid free spaces online gets my goat though. People think that they should have the right to take their child everywhere and not get flack for it. I don’t know many people with children, and the ones I do know are stellar examples of parents. Their kids are friendly without smearing you with sticky fingers, sweet and if they act up, they are instantly told to quiet down. Of course, there are a few inconveniences, like if I want to smoke, I will have to go outside and I have to watch my language. But a lot of my child free friends are non smokers anyway, and I don’t use the F-word with that much abandon, unless I want to make a point. So far, so good.


But in a culture like India, what I hate is that I am expected to be an on hand babysitter for kids I don’t even know. No, I will not amuse your child on a train journey. No, I will not be appeased if your child knocks over my coffee, no I will not be happy with having to step over the racing body of your toddler as I pay good money at a restaurant. I was a quiet child, I know, and not everyone has to be the same way. But I don’t want to answer a billion questions. I want to be left in peace. Typically, in our culture, we’re all about the family. People LIKE children. People want to be near kids. Granny and grandkid all in one house, it sounds idyllic. BUT, I am not one of those people. If I am reading my book, minding my own business, I don’t want your kid gazing up at me, with his fingers on my knee, with his or her shiny eyes. He’s very cute, yes, but I’m not interested. There are other people who want his attention, let him focus it that way. That’s no reason for you to shoot me dirty looks either. I don’t have a problem with your kid stumbling around as long as they stay out of my way, why should you have a problem with me not engaging with him?


I don’t even have the complaint most people do about kids on planes. Of course, if I could pay a little more and be guaranteed a child free flight, I’d do that, but eh, economy means we’re all stuck together, including the fat farting man next to me, so what can I say? Flights aren’t easy on anyone, so I don’t blame your infant for bawling his head off. He has to fall asleep sometime, right? No, what I really have an issue with is entitlement. The “I’m a parent and so I can get away with anything”. I will give up my seat for an obviously pregnant woman, I will appreciate that the woman in front of me in the queue is balancing a baby and a bag and her other things. But I don’t think that your child should have a free for all pass just because he or she is a child. I don’t want to see him in a bar (which thankfully, is rare in India, thanks to the miracle of domestic help), I don’t want to talk to him in a train (we’re both there, buddy, now let’s just pretend the other doesn’t exist) and I don’t want to skip over him at a restaurant. How hard is it to sit still for an hour? But if we have to coexist in this city, your child and I, I think we need to have a talk about boundary issues.


  1. I agree with every word. Except:

    How hard is it to sit still for an hour?

    Usually five minutes is a huge achievement for the hyperactive little boy that is my son.

    But that being said, I keep him away from places where this would be an issue. Which is why he hasn't seen the insides of a movie theatre not showing a kid movie, a fine dining restaurant, a bar or a beauty salon amongst other things. As a result, I haven't had much movie-watching or fine dining either but I prefer to miss out on those temporarily than expect behaviour from my son that is beyond his age and personality in a place which is not designed to suit him...

  2. Rohini, I think from what I've read on your blog that you fit into "stellar parent" category. :) Also, was just chatting with my mum, and she said on the whole it seems like male children are far more hyperactive than female ones. You have both--is this true?

  3. :D about the male kid being more hyperactive - true, very true - BUT - the female kid will almost always trigger it off (if there's two of them)

  4. Naah..I am a girl and I was every bit as hyperactive like my baby boy is now!!

    It's hard for my boy to sit down even at home unless I keep him busy with books and puzzles (he's 4) which is why I do the same as Rohini; either keep him at his daycare or don't venture out at all! He's never seen the inside of a movie theater yet or a fine dine too! In fact he doesn't even watch his cartoons for more than 15 minutes cos he gets so bored.

    I just know what you mean because I do want my peace whenever I go for a movie or for dinner out! I'm no less finicky even though I'm a mom myself :P

    PS: I adore Alanis...such an awesomely appropriate title!

  5. Hi

    I am the naughty boy at home, infact I was born upside down (means my legs came first) and my mom had to do an emergency C-Section. My mom has made a statement that is humor for the whole world - she says "when you came out you were a pain and you still are" ;). I am 31 now :D

    I respect whatever you have said, but i feel you just cannot ignore the child. If the parents are brining the child to a specific place - its the parents responsibility to take care of the child, but if the child is with you and only you are there, I think you need to just have an eye on the kid - otherwise just don't take the responsibility of the child.

    Moreover, I think the Indian Parents need to either not take the children where they would cause problems or just teach them to behave a little better. I love children and get along with them real quick, but I don't like the way a lot of kids behave today. Its not just the kids, I have an issue with the way the parents treat them as well, which I feel is the major issue - a serious lack of affection, genuine care and warmth and the only thing children are told to do is STUDY!!!!!!! very irritating.

    Cheers :)

  6. i'm not a mom, and as far as i can remember, I was a good child.. but i totally get it.. why should I look after someone's kid.. just because I'm reading my book.. which according to the parents of kids is = free!!

    loved ur style of writing! :)

  7. You hit the nail on the head eM!

    I also love most kids and am fairly reasonable to all kids I meet in everyday life. But what gets my goat is how parents of many kids expect me to find their kid 'adorable',go awww and sing praises for every 'cute' move he/she does. If I dont do it, then they just assume that I am a horrible heartless creature and throw me dirty glares and whine to the next person they meet abt me.

  8. I too was a quiet kid but I do not like pesty kids at all, for that matter kids can be a nuisance moreso at times whn you want to be at peace with yourself

  9. exactly how I feel...

    people say it might change when I actually have a kid...maybe that is true...but right now, I don't, so don't expect me to make allowances for you and your child..right...Cute or not, children are noisy and crabby and sticky and what not...and as you said,frankly, I'm NOT don't count on me to entertain him/her all the time,or anytime at all...well, I might if I feel like it, but mostly, I don't feel like

    Nice post :)

  10. I have a good one for you. When my daughter was around 1yr old we went to see Paa. She sat quietly throughout the film, so I enjoyed it quite well. Towards the end she regained some energy and insisted on walking in the aisles, or better still, outside the hall in the lobby where people waited for the screenings to start.

    So I took her out, and another man with two sons (age 7 and 1.5 respectively) also came out. All 3 of them ran around the place merrily, but at one point the father appeared as if he’d be leaving his kids in my care.

    As soon as he looked like he would edge his way back into the movie hall, I picked up my daughter and marched back in. I was almost about to yell at him, ‘Boss I’ll take care of my kid but you better take care of yours!’

  11. eM, i am not a regular here. Your first line saying you like kids is far from convincing. Kids are not as much public nuisance as are drunk people getting out of the bar, or smokers in non smoking areas or even around their friends who are expected to put up with it unless otherwise mentioned.
    Either we have too many kids in this country or its plain old insensitivity on our part as usual coz most places around the world people with kids are always offered help, or given preference, without the rest cringing about being left out. I dont see the big deal about smiling back at a kid who has strolled upto your table at a restaurant. Unless of course either the kid is pulling at your table cloth, or you are in a bad mood and want to be left alone, each time.

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  13. @shruti: as a smoker, i'm considerate about non smoking spaces, and i do go out of my way to avoid the drunk people stumbling out of bars as well. in other countries, people won't even ask you to watch their child because paranoia about child molestors is quite high. i don't necessarily have to be in a bad mood to want to be left in peace. i just like my space--kid or adult, i don't appreciate anyone trying to intrude into it--as far as anyone CAN have space in this vast teeming country.

  14. Hi eM,

    I will agree to disagree for this one. I do like kids, and I actually don't mind entertaining them. May be I fall in another category as you mentioned. But as a kid, you are bound to be hypercative and a bit mischievous. And they need attention and they need grownups to answer their questions.

    May be our culture is like this. Or may be we are brought up like this. Beacuse you must have observed a vast difference in culture when you were in UK. You just can't entertain or even touch or even try to strike a conversation with phoren kids. Their parents take it otherwise. So in my opinion it is more about the culture thing. And personally I am ok with it. But again, everyone is different and I might not have encountered the type of kids you came across which actually promted you to write this post. :)

  15. eM, the smoker-drinker metaphor was not directed at you. If there are parents who expect strangers to look after their kids then that's silly and i share your surprise and irritation. But i disagree that all kids can be expected to sit still for an hour or carry a book to adult dos. At the same time its 'not nice' to expect adults with hyperactive kids to only go to hyperactive places or stay at home. I am not a stellar parent, just lucky to have a daughter who is friendly and calm. But the stellar parent out there with a brat of a son could use some patience from the people around them and be a little less fiercely protective about their space. Again not directed at you, but otherwise, the private people should stay at home!

  16. @shruti: if i'm in a mcdonald's or even a moti mahal or something, then fine. i don't expect to be uninterrupted, because those mainly cater to families. but if i'm in a fancy, "adults only" place, where i've obviously spent money so i can BE an adult, then i don't want screaming children everywhere. in a situation such as public transport, where everyone is stuffed together for a long period of time, all i'm asking for is to be left alone. this does not equate into "i should stay at home". if, as you argue, a parent of a hyperactive child, shouldn't have to stay at home, why should i? why should any child free person HAVE to either like it or lump it?

  17. Not to mention the pitying glances most mothers give you for STILL being single and childless and the fact that most restaurants actually PREFER families, giving you dirty looks if you want to dine on your own. the discrimination is on the other side. :)

  18. Parents have as much a right to take their kids to any establishments which allow for the same as anyone. If someone is not happy about the same, pack up and leave, it's that simple. And remember they are kids for a reason and not adults, to behave as per norms to the T.

  19. "How hard is it to sit still for an hour? " -->
    1) toddlers don't really know better -they're too young to know -have energy, will expend
    2) parents of toddlers do deserve to go out a bit..
    3) I'm not sure what the adults-only place you're talking of - i don't know if restaurants are adults-only -if they were - families with kids would be stopped at the door i think
    4) Kicking screaming kids - i feel sorry for the parents, i also feel sorry for the ppl who have to put up with it - but a bit more sympathy will help.
    5) Older kids who behave badly and parents who don't correct at all, then i'll agree with you..

    Otherwise i'd say - have a heart....

  20. 6) of course you're not expected to entertain other ppl's kids - i'm sure mature parents respect that..

  21. Come on Em , they're kids. They're really not as cunning of clever or fake enough to always behave as per norms.

    I do agree with you about kids being a major disturbance in places like maybe a movie theater or maybe a bar.

    But really , what is the big deal about smiling at a toddler that you're travelling with?

    The child's smile is probably the most genuine smile that you might have got that whole day.

  22. I'll do the grandma thing here and say...wait till you have your own...your perspectives will go through a drastic change when you see your sweet child trying to be friends with someone and them not showing any will feel like murdering them!

  23. I totally agree with you.

    Having a kid does not give you the right to interfere with anyone's space and no one can decide for you whether you want to spare a smile for the kid or not.

    Just cos you have a non-tolerance for kids, does not make you a vamp.

    If you have a are blessed..and thats your blessing. Dont try making it others blessing, which they will not take it as.

    I love kids, I love being around kids. But I hate it if parents take it for granted that all will have the same outlook towards their kids, just cos its the "right' thing. Specially in a movie hall or any other public place.

    If only parents could take care of their kids, kids will be kids after all.

  24. I'm not a kids person either. That is, I like some kids just as I like some adults but I tend to tell people I don't like kids so that they don't feel offended when it's not their kid I chose to like.

    However, as more people I'm close to are having kids, I've understood a couple of things:
    1) All kids want attention. It starts when they are infants... even babies just like people around making faces at them. There are the rare kids that are blessedly peaceful and the other extreme where they are hyperactive; most kids fall somewhere in between. Depending on their age, they might entertain themselves for half an hour at a stretch on their own. After that, they need some interaction.
    2) It's hard to remember how we were as kids. I'd like to think I was not so annoying but it's hard to be sure because we cannot really recall the times we may have smiled up at some unresponsive adult and annoyed them. Before you started reading, there must have been adults around who were willing to indulge you at intervals.
    3) Most parents, especially if they are the primary caregiver, would be grateful for a break from their kids.

    And in India, parents have a ready support system because most people seem to like kids. In the past in India, very few people (especially women) even allowed themselves to think they didn't like kids. Now that is changing and people are being more honest about their feelings (to themselves) and more open about them. So, parents need to change and not assume that everyone will be fascinated with their child, just like we need to stop assuming that everyone wants to get married, have children when they are married, or be heterosexual. Indian parents are lucky that the majority is still indulgent about kids so they could be a little thoughtful about the minority who aren't.

    I also see Indian parents caught between the old model of disciplining children which was very harsh and the Western spare-the-rod thing. They are floundering somewhere in between, and seem to err on the side of indulgence. I have been on a flight where the kids screamed the entire flight, and kept kicking the seat in front of him. It wasn't a tantrum, he just wanted his parents (or someone's) attention every minute. The parents didn't say a word to correct him, nor did they try to apologise to us in the seat in front (maybe if the kid had a problem, they could've just said... I'm so sorry, this is waht is wrong with my kid and we would've felt better). Even the older aunty's next to me were not amused because from the kid's behaviour, it was clear he was just a brat and the parents couldn't be bothered to discipline him.

    About the restaurant thing, bringing your kid to a restaurant which has a quieter and dignified ambience is selfish. You're not just infringing on the people who have paid a lot of money for that ambience (some of whom might be parents who left their own kids at home for some quiet time) but also it's not fair to the kid - because kids cannot really sit quietly for that long.

    By the way, kids tend to gravitate to the person who is not giving them any attention. It's a fine balance smiling at a kid and simultaneously conveying I-don't-want-to-talk-to-you.

    I'll confess here that I'm pregnant. I solemnly swear not to inflict my kid on people who have no interest in him.

  25. um...didnt I see a whole Sex and the City episode with everything you just said!

  26. Stellar???! Not a chance. Ask my kids in a couple of decades and I am pretty sure that is not the word they will use...

    Too early to say. My daughter is quite an active baby but she doesn't have the restless energy that my son had and still has... Time will tell.

  27. Word. Parents today spoil their kids saying things like "Kids will be kids". Having fun does not mean spoiling other people's and NO, not all kids require constant attention and are not mischievous. I've been to innumerable events where kids have kicked me, taken food off my plate, thrown glasses about, demanded everything in sight, and parents just say "Oh kids will be kids". Sorry but that's just crap. Kids need boundaries.
    I don't blame the kids though, I blame the parents who seem to have no idea when to put their foot down.

  28. i do get the whole space think,but really how much space are you losing by smiling back at a kid that has clearly made the mistake of grinning up at dont have to be a kids person to spare a smile!!i am thinking thats probably just you being anal about absolutely nothing!plus,i think these days most kids are pretty intuitive and can guess when they are not welcome,unless they are really small which is perfectly excusable for them and as for the parents,well,sometimes it gets really hard!!rest all said and done,just like your title you know best when you have your own and maybe then it gets easier to be a little more patient perhaps.

  29. i agree with u so very much. why should i have to give your child my attention when i was just here, sitting minding my own business until you came along, right?

    thank you for writing this post. you really put the accurate words to my thoughts!

  30. I concur, can almost hear some mommies saying "wait till you have your own"!

  31. Very nice article. Agree one hundred percent. But you left out another major issue. Kids at parties. I don't have children (and don't even get me started on people who ask me if there is anything "wrong" with me). Whenever I have a party at my home, people bring their kids over in spite of the invite specifically stating "No child care provided". My home is not kid proof. I do have electrical sockets at ground level. I have sharp delicate objects all over the place.
    What really gets my goat, is the kids trying to pick up my pets without permission. I can see my dog growling and yet the stupid kid thinks its just a toy. Of course if the dog, after all this warning, turns around and bites the idiot child guess who's fault it is? I have very very little patience with bratty kids. In fact your post has inspired me to do my own blog about it as well. Loved it :)

  32. On the fence on this. Some kids are cute, some are irritating. But I try and be patient with all of them because, well, they are all someone's kids. Which is not to say parents should get away with subjecting us to their antics. No, not at all.

  33. I recently had a new mum over for a weekend stay. Her 7-month-old peed EVERYWHERE, from the couch in the living room, to the kitchen floor.. to the carpets.

    She kept him only in cloth nappies that leak every time the kid peed.. and (since I'm like 9 months pregnant) her excuse was, 'You better get used to this'.

    If that kid was 2 years old and he peed in my bed, she'd have been embarrassed about it, wouldn't she? She wouldn't have been making him pee in the bathroom sink if he was 3 years old, would she?

    Then how does it become ok to do all these things just because the kid was 7 months old?

    She might be anti diapers when she's at her house, but this was not her house! Would she have taken the kid for a dinner party (or to a movie theatre or an expensive restaurant) wearing only cloth nappies and then when he peed and pooped everywhere.. say, 'you'd better get used to this'??

  34. okay. fair enough.

    So next time just try saying it their face. If a kid pokes you with his sticky fingers give him/er an angry look and say "dont do that". Maybe kids find you approachable or friendly types. If you dont care about them much, just say it out loud. I mean not on a blog. . . to them. Direct.

    Or to their parents. I know you have a popular blog, but dont expect that this will cause some kind of social revolution. So if you want your peace of mind, just tell the parent(s). . . "can you please take care of you kid? I am trying to read my book here and i do not like to be disturbed". I am sure they will not try to talk you into taking care of their kid.

  35. Ick. Little kids are such snotty brats. I mean literally! They have snot and goo drooling down their noses and the parents want us to think their kid is the epitome of cuteness. :/

    That's why when I grow up I'm not going to have kids. I'll just have two dogs and call them Nimbu and Pani.:P

  36. Ha! I had read this post long back when I didnt have a kid (and hated kids) but now that I do have one Ive realised something - the first seven years of anyone's life is their making, and thats why I'll always be exceptionally nice to children, even if it is out of my way. Its not their fault if their parents dont teach them good behavior, and their tantrums are an important development stage where they learn to negotiate. So yeah - I put up with it quite willingly actually. Thats my reason anyway :)


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