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.