Do We Really Just Hate Kids?

04 December 2013
More of the "trouble with kids these days" from an acquaintance on Facebook, and whilst I've blamed the problems of kids these days on economic rationalism, this thread on Reddit made me wonder if the problem with kids these days is that we hate them. For a society that claims to venerate children so much, we sure show in so many ways that we don't actually like them.

Children and parenting are the other; to be kept marginalised and out of sight until the messy, unpleasant business of being a kid is done. It starts early, with complaints about pregnant TV presenters and public breastfeeding; graphic depictions of motherhood should be kept out of the public eye. Then there's the rise of the parent-shaming websites, attacking people for oversharing their parenting experiences. Whilst I wouldn't post about my child's poop myself, early parenthood does involve a great deal of the stuff and you do get a little obsessed (and that's me, who prior to having a baby became wildly embarrassed at the slightest indication that anyone had a digestive system). Parenthood can be very isolating especially those early days when you're largely stuck at home with only a non-communicative creature for company, and it's natural to use social media as a way to connect with people - especially at a time when you're so vulnerable to post natal depression. But the sites promoting mocking and judging of parents perpetuate the message that the messy details of parenthood are something to be ashamed of, and parents should just shut up about it all. It's all right to complain about things at work, or that jerk who cut you off in traffic, but not about the daily routine of caring for a baby. No one wants to hear about that.

If parents get it bad, kids have it even worse. Childishness is not permitted; children must restrain their childish behaviour at all times for the comfort of the adults around them. Children are spoken to in ways we'd never speak to an adult. Notice your partner is grumpy on an outing? Decide to ignore it till they cool down. A grumpy child? They're a spoilt brat, ruining the whole day, and we're going home right now. I've seen teachers on school excursions barking orders and insults at kids worse than anything in the army. It's not all teachers that are like that of course, but a few are. I saw a little boy hauled over the coals for forgetting his bus pass, in tears in front of the entire bus. Parents who want to toughen kids up. You have to show them who's boss. Kids are not seen as future adults to be nurtured, but wild animals to be restrained and trained. (And some of the parent shaming sites feature parents shaming their own kids - not okay). 

 And teenagers. If we don't like kids, just look at the narrative on teenagers. They're running wild, disrespectful. God help them if they leave home to escape abuse - they're being handed money by Centrelink because they're out of control and can't follow the rules. (Incidentally, I planned to write a term paper on teenage abuse last semester, but couldn't, because I couldn't find enough academic sources for a 2,500 word, first year essay. How sad is that?)

Anyway, enough of the child and parent shaming. I'm going to stop feeling marginalised. Children are messy, loud little creatures and I won't feel I should hide my son away. Oh, I'm still going to be a respectful person; quieting him if he's shouting at the top of his lungs, not changing him on food court tables, and so on. But as I said in my last post, respect goes both ways, and it's pretty disrespectful to hide away and shame a great chunk of the population simply because we find their childishness offensive. 


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