April 24, 2008

A word about wee ones

I'm home. I'll post later today (I hope) about the events of the last few days (I have to do laundry so I can leave again tomorrow.) but first....

I love babies. Just about all of them. They are the only human beings on earth that I judge as a group. (This likely has something to do with the way that they don't mouth off.) Everyone else, everyone above about the age of 18 months, I meet individually, understanding that I'm going to like some of them (most really) and not like others. I've never understood people who say "I love children", since it has always seemed to me that children are people, and I am going to like some, and not like others. Saying "I love children" has always struck me as bizarre as "I adore the elderly" or "Aren't middle aged men just the best?" Sure, I admit that the very young have powerful qualities that make it more likely that I am going to love them...three year olds are the major repository of charm in the human race, for example, and scientific principles explained by a six year old are nothing short of devastating in their ability to captivate, and I like the unbridled stupidity, wilfulness, stamina and energy of teenagers - as long as they are yours. (In mine, the charm is lost on me.)

This belief, that children are people, with rights, needs and privileges, is central to what I'm about to tell you. There has been an incident or two at events, over the last weeks, where some adults have felt that some children should not have been present. The occasional mother has been asked to remove her child (not by me, nor by someone hosting the event.) and I wanted to go on record as saying that the actions of attendees at my events do not reflect my beliefs. (I also don't want to go into the specific incidents. I'll simply say that I was unaware of all of them, which, since I was at the front of the room, facing all possible offenders, must mean that none of them were a massively big deal. Nobody screamed for an hour, I assure you. Please try to avoid any specifics in the comments, if you know of them. We're speaking in very general terms here. I don't want you to write about who's kid you think was disagreeable, which mother could have done better OR what some other person attending said that you feel wasn't nice. Anybody who wants to can read here, and I don't want people saying bad things about each other. It's very hard to read about yourself.)

I believe that children are people. I believe that as people, they have a right to be anywhere that people have a right to be. I also believe that some babies/children/mothers are inseparable and that that is how it should be for them. Amanda was the kind of kid that I could have left with a babysitter any time I wanted. She didn't mind at all. Megan, on the other hand, earned herself the nicknames "velco" and "The Klingon" (get it? Cling- on?) within moments of birth. If I hadn't taken Meg places that I wanted to go, then I wouldn't have been able to go anywhere...

and isn't motherhood hard enough? We've got the only culture on earth - or in the history of humans that actually segregates adults and children, and it's really hard on those of us who have little children who feel in their bones that they should be with their mothers. These mothers then have to choose between meeting the needs of their kids, or missing everything for years and years, and I think that really sucks, and discourages mothers from doing what is right for their particular little one. If a kid isn't ready to be without their mother (or the other way around) and there is an ever increasing list of places that babies/toddlers/children aren't welcome...then what's a woman to do....curtail every aspect of her life for years? That's really feminist...suggesting that a parenting/breastfeeding woman not take part fully in society. Just stay home and breed honey. Whoops. That's a debate for another day.

That said, I also think that children disrupting something is pretty sucky too. I've been at movies or plays or something like that where a child wasn't happy and nine times out of ten, the mum high-tailed it out or went to the back as soon as she realized that her kid wasn't into the scene. The tenth time, maybe she didn't, but I still cut her some slack because I understand that it might be the only time she's left the house in two weeks, and leaving the house is really hard, and maybe the only thing standing between her and taking up chewing on sticks from the park as a hobby, and because maybe the first step toward decent child care, maternity leave and ethical treatment of parents and families is actually accepting THAT CHILDREN EXIST and are so far, the only way we have found (despite them being loud, dirty and occasionally too damp for my personal taste) to continue the species.

This is a long way around saying that babies/toddlers and children who will be happy there are welcome at my book events. In keeping with the "children are actual people" thing, I would hope that no baby/toddler/child who would be unhappy there would be brought or forced to stay, and I have faith that 99% of parents will make the right call for their particular young.

This means, and I know some of you will be disappointed about this, that it is very likely that these smallest of humans will continue to be present at events. (I hope) Most of them will be happy children, because their mothers, want to meet their needs by staying with them, but also want to meet their needs by not forcing them to stay when they are clearly miserable. These happy children will likely make happy kid noise. As long as this is a reasonable amount, I would like to suggest that the same way we wouldn't ban anyone who used medical equipment that made noise or a person who had tourette's who was unable to be quiet, that we all just cope. Happy kids make noise. (Actually, almost all kids make noise, and most adults have a terrible track record, there are tons of happy and unhappy adults who can't zip it either.)

Saying babies/toddlers/children are welcome as they need to be, however, does mean that every once in a while there is going to be a happy kid who makes too much noise or a mum who fails to recognize that her child is being disruptive (seriously, it's like becoming snow-blind. Mothers can't always see it - I assure you that getting 3 hours of broken sleep a night can mess with your judgement.) or there might even be an unhappy kid who was predicted to do well and doesn't, and instead uses the time to finely hone their impression of demon spawn, and those kids are going to be a pain in the arse....Just like some other people we are all going to meet in our day (I am keeping a list) that are a pain in the arse that we don't have the right to get rid of either. I know these occasionally loud kids are going to get on your nerves, and sometimes mine too, but I'm begging, on behalf of mothers everywhere, to approach these baby/toddler friendly events of mine with a little tolerance and gentleness for these inexperienced little people and those who are trying to both have a life, and keep the peace.

Back to the regular blog shortly, I'm working on it. I got to bed after the Portland event at 1am, and had to leave for the airport at 4am and all day yesterday was lost to travelling home. I'm wiped, and I've got to go again in the morning. Still...I'm on it, and I'll get something up about Seattle (I love Seattle) later.

Peace out.

Posted by Stephanie at April 24, 2008 1:11 PM