"WARNING: You must install cord-stops before using blinds. Window blind cords can strangle infants & toddlers."

My best friend recently returned from working a job on the inaugural cruise of the largest cruise ship in the world.

The first night of the cruise, there was a huge gala to celebrate the pinnacle in ocean-bound hedonism. It was a very formal affair, black tie required. I've seen pictures of this event. The opulence of this ship is more than I can describe in brevity. Suffice it to say the Titanic ain't got nuttin' on this ship.

During the course of the meal, several small children began to misbehave. Usually, screaming was involved on the part of the ragamuffins. My friend tells me that instead of being polite and removing the children from the restaurant, their parents would either begin screaming in return, or try to shovel food in the mouths of babes.

Understandably, the pleasure of fine dining was somewhat diminished by these events. Oddly, though, no one thought to say something to the parents.

A conversation arose amongst my friend and his dining companions regarding whether or not it would be considered polite to get up and ask the parents to excuse themselves and their children from the restaurant in order to administer a bit of discipline.

I was stunned to hear that the majority thought that such a request would be considered rude, an attempt to interfere in the "art" of parenting.

My friend, too, was incensed. Rather, he thought, it was extremely impolite of the parents to interfere in the dining experience of the other guests, who had all paid a good bit of money to attend the event.

Most of the people present at my friend's table excused both the parents and the children in question, essentially telling my friend that since he was gay, he'd never really understand what it would be like to be a parent. Thus, he shouldn't dare to presume to offer instruction to them.

My friend promptly removed himself from the gathering.

This kind of breeder's superiority is evidenced everywhere, as the opening sentence of this node indicates. I recently purchased some new window blinds and found four stickers with that warning plastered on the box. When asked if the cord-stops were necessary for the blinds to function correctly, a clerk at the store replied, "Well, you don't want your children to choke, do you?".

First of all, I don't have children. Children don't come to my house. The intent of my question was one of functionality, not parenting. Did the clerk know? No! He simply could not get his brain wrapped around the idea that one would not want to install these cord-drops, and somehow felt smug about not knowing the answer to my question. After all, installing the cord-drops is good for the children. Non-existent children, in my case. The clerk finally threw up his hands in exasperation saying, "Do whatever you want, I don't care."

I bet he says that to his kids, too.

I have a large callous on my thumb from buying Bic lighters that are childproofed. I don't even have the option of purchasing one that's not handicapped in this fashion.

A single female friend of mine recently came to blows with her best female friend because my friend presumed to say something about the way her friend's teenaged son was treating his mother in public.

Many heterosexuals assume as a matter of course that homosexuals are incapable of parental instincts and/or are somehow sterile.

I apologize if I'm missing something here, but I don't believe that the ability to procreate should confer any sense of entitlement or privilege or superiority to the procreators or their progeny. And yet this sense seems to be more deeply ingrained in American society than when I was a child. If I behaved badly in a public place, I would be removed to the car for a swat across the bottom. My parents wouldn't have dreamed of letting me misbehave in front of others without good cause (and not liking the food served is not good cause, folks).

This corporal punishment in no way made me feel abused. It didn't make me a bad person who beats others. It taught me good manners and respect for my parents. It's not like I didn't know I was misbehaving after all.

People who breed are in no way superior to those who choose not to or are incapable of doing so. It is the height of discourtesy for people who feel they are superior to allow their children to misbehave during any public gathering. I do not spend money to go to a nice restaurant or movie theater or baseball game to be subjected to the screaming, snot and food flinging tantrums of children whose parents don't know how to take care of the situation.

To paraphrase Keanu Reeves in "Parenthood" --

"You know, you need a license to buy a dog, to drive a car -- hell, you even need a license to catch a fish. But they'll let any butt-reaming asshole be a parent."

Warning: I am now going to rant. If you do not wish to be subjected to the discomfort and inconvenience of my ranting, please cease reading immediately. Be aware that by continuing to read beyond this sentence implies the termination of your rights to downvote or soft-link scurrilously.1

I apologize if I'm missing something here, but I don't believe that the ability to procreate should confer any sense of entitlement or privilege or superiority to the procreators or their progeny.

Perhaps I'm missing something here, but I have never really understood this line of reasoning. The childless (by choice or not) have used this argument repeatedly to decry the horrible parenting skills of any person who deigns to raise a child between the ages of 0 and 16 (my mother believes that all children between 5 and 18 are no longer human, and should be raised in some sort of isolated island convalescent institution, but that's beside the point), and yet I cannot understand. I'll say this slowly:

Since when did this become about the rights of the parent?

Since when did children cease having rights and being members of our society?

I apparently am under the mistaken impression that children are members of our society who should be allowed and encourage to participate in its undertakings. I apparently am under the mistaken impression that children are not shameful little secrets appropriate for exposure to the public only in certain prescribed forums (school, daycare, Chuck E. Cheese). I apparently am under the mistaken impression that those intolerant of children and their normal behaviour are the ones with the problem.

I hereby apologize and promise, publicly, to never let my child out of the house. Despite the fact that he loves being around adults and adores exploring new places where he can learn about society, I'll make sure only to expose him to those people we pay directly or indirectly to take care of him. I furthermore promise to endeavour not to have any more children (hmmm, time for the snip?) so as not to inflict any discomfort or inconvenience on the non-breeding minority who apparently believe that while "all animals are equal, some animals are more equal than others".

1 This was meant as a joke, folks. Seems that some people took this seriously, and I really just meant it to be a funny little piece of this w/u. So, consider that it has an appended ;)

The Lady: Whoa, I obviously got your goat with this one. Ok, here are some more reasonsed (I hope) responses:
  • The rights of the parents: OK, maybe I took some liberties here, but when WolfDaddy wrote the line that I quoted, he used the words entitlement, privilege and superiority. I condensed those into the "rights" of the parents. By this I did not mean legal rights, but social rights. I don't think this was stretching on my part. I don't think the attitude expressed in WolfDaddy's w/u is meant to translate into legal actions, and neither is mine.
  • Children are fully fledged members of society: Where did I say or imply this? I said members, period. Again, we're into legal arguments which was not my intention. I am fully aware that children are not extended the same legal rights and privileges as adults, but does that make them lesser members of a society? I was trying to convey the idea that it is critical for a society to integrate children from birth right to the age of majority in all its social endeavours.
  • Any behaviour exhibited by a child in public is "normal": Again, where did I say or imply this? I said:
    I apparently am under the mistaken impression that those intolerant of children and their normal behaviour are the ones with the problem.
    From this you infer that I believe than any behaviour is normal. This is not the case. I don't think destructive little monsters should be set loose on the general public. However, it is unrealistic to expect that a two year old will never throw a fit in a mall. They do that; even the well behaved ones. That is normal. Punching old ladies is not normal. I think that we need to understand that children are not miniature adults and will behave badly, from time to time. Parents need to be accorded the appropriate respect for trying to control them, and the appropriate disdain if they refuse to do so.
  • Children are just inquisitive and curious, they mean no harm: Of course they are. However, did I imply this? Did I suggest that all children are perfect angels upon birth, and we should cherish every little action no matter how unspeakable? I do not think that Rousseau got this one right. However, if we don't allow/encourage parents to bring children into public spaces in order to show them how humans should behave, what good are we doing? Again, you need to expose children to adult situations in order to provide good models upon which they can learn to behave, and this will necessarily entail bad behaviour on the part of the child, from time to time, which will need to be corrected.
  • People who complain about children being undisciplined are all sour, crabby, sterile monsters with no understanding of the joys of parenthood: Where did I imply this? I don't think that people who don't wish to have children are aberrant or dysfunctional. I do, however, believe that they should not expect the world to eliminate the presence of children because they find them distasteful.
To conclude, pimephalis managed, in a few short paragraphs, to fully demonstrate the assertion made in WolfDaddy's writeup, that people who have children arrogantly expect society to be entirely geared towards making the upbringing of those children an easier matter.
Arrogantly? What? So, then, I suppose all us breeders should meekly go about kow-towing to the whims of the childless for their convenience. Damn right I expect society to adapt to the rearing of children. When people say that children are the future, it may be a cliche but it certainly isn't hollow. The fact of the matter is that if we treat children as little misfits and don't work to integrate them into adult society, we're going to have a bunch of thoroughly unpleasant adults running around in a generation.

I wrote what I clearly indicated was a rant. You then accused me of setting up straw men in my argument. I don't feel I did, but I sure as hell know you did. Every one of the "key assumptions" that you maintain I made are straw men. I didn't hint at any of them.

There are a few key assumptions common to this sort of debate, all of which are either mistaken or are not being followed to their logical conclusion:

Children are fully fledged members of society:

This is not supported by legislation or convention. Children are under the legal and moral guardianship of their parents and are therefore in posession of a limited number of freedoms. This is judged to be a fair exchange for the priviledge of being provided for, taught, guided and protected during what is becoming an increasingly longer period of dependance.
Any behaviour exhibited by a child in public is "normal":
Erm, no. Sorry. If you were to show up at the cinema butt naked and screaming, you'd be swiftly picked up and commited by the authorities. As far as your children go, you are the authorities. It is your responsibility to make sure they neither make a spectacle of themselves nor disturb the public peace. We have laws about these things, and unless you want you toddler to be subject to arrest, you'd better accept this responsibility.
Children are just inquisitive and curious, they mean no harm:
I don't know about your child, but most children are human. And humans are by birth capable of behaving like selfish, malicious, attention seeking bastards. Throwing himself on the floor kicking and screaming in the supermarket because you won't buy him the new Pokemon soda-pop ia not inquisitiveness. It's emotional blackmail, which you're free to cave in to if that is what you wish - I, however, am an innocent bystander who should not be subjected to the attendant riot.
People who complain about children being undisciplined are all sour, crabby, sterile monsters with no understanding of the joys of parenthood:
They also happen to be independant observers with a point of view which is free of your natural prejudices and emotions. Not to mention the fact that it is not only some kind of hostile minority who has to come in contact with and suffer from the raucus and unruly behaviour of loud and willful children. It's everybody who's not their parent. It's the public. A public to which you, as a member of a law-abiding society, are beholden.
Many people who have children do arrogantly expect society to be entirely geared towards making the upbringing of those children an easier matter. This is not the case. It's your own job, and not mine, to raise your children to be people who are easily and painlessly integrated into society at all ages. Just as you exercise restraint and discipline while going about your daily business (you don't urinate or defecate where you stand, you use polite language while giving or receiving a service, you pay for what you want, you restrain your voice and violent urges, etc.), so should you carry the burden of excercising that discipline on behalf of those who are too young to do so for themselves.

It does children no good to be lawless. They do not grow up free from inhibitions and complexes, or as beautiful and romantic Nature Children. They grow up belligerent and unpersuadable, self-centered and demanding, and probably meet with more heartache from dissapointed expectation than those who are taught from an early age to be considerate of others and view the world realistically - as a place where we don't always get our own way.

Much of the trouble with this whole parent/non parent issue comes from the fact that children are children, they are not responsible, reasonable adults.

They cannot learn to become so without travelling in the world.

TheLady says:
Throwing himself on the floor kicking and screaming in the supermarket because you won't buy him the new Pokemon soda-pop ia not inquisitiveness. It's emotional blackmail, which you're free to cave in to if that is what you wish - I, however, am an innocent bystander who should not be subjected to the attendant riot

I never wished to cave to this blackmail. However, it makes it very difficult not to do so, if all that the other adults in the vicinity wish is to have a nice peaceful time without any riot. The quickest and most effective way to make a child behave in the short term is to give them exactly what they want. Of course, it's a long term recipe for disaster, but then, next time the little darling goes ape-shit, you won't be around to be bothered by it.(I won't get into the rant about cereal and soda companies -- which are run by adults -- who package bog-standard products in child attracting packaging to prompt these riots in the first place, that's a whole other rant)

The problem with being a parent is that you're damned if you do, and damned if you don't. My reaction, when my child was at tantrum age, was to say "No, you can't have it," and walk away from her, leaving her screaming, if necessary. The screams very soon died, and she followed me, contrite. I was also thoroughly berated about it, on more than one occasion by a well-meaning passer-by. If she misbehaved in a movie, or theatre she was taken out. Sometimes she would be smacked, which would also earn me, at the very least, disapproving looks. She wasn't taken to what I consider "exclusively adult" provinces, such as good restaurants, unless there was absolutely no alternative -- perhaps when we were on holiday and there was no babysitting service available, or child-friendly alternative open. I must also say that she never misbehaved on the occasions we did take her.

I should mention that my daughter is now eighteenish, has excellent manners (when she isn't at home at least) and has been described by people who have had her visit as "a delight", from the age of about three onwards.

I don't believe a child should be allowed to spoil an adult's enjoyment of a social event. It is a parent's absolute responsibility to keep ensure that their child is not a persistent nuisance. However, please bear in mind that the parents too have paid good money, both for themselves, and for their child, to be there, and allow them the leeway to attempt some kind of control in situ before they have to leave, or in a place like a supermarket, understand that a tantrum needs to be quashed, not surrendered to. We realise it's inconvenient and annoying -- but we're attempting to stop it becoming a regular incovenience.

In return, when a parent has spent all evening in their room getting the babe to sleep, maybe they won't scream at the drunken adult who crashes the door of the next room open at 3am, then hammers on the wall to "shut that fucking child up" when it wakes.

I'd like to justify the general belief-pattern in society that rearing children is important, and should take precedence over other, more adult pursuits (even those of strangers with no obvious responsibility to the child in question) at least some of the time. Before that, I should mention that this issue has nothing to do with one's sexuality for me--I have no reason to believe that being homosexual or bisexual would make one a bad parent, and it also seems quite possible for someone who is homosexual to have a child in his/her care, either through artificial insemination, experimentation (e.g., The Birdcage), or adoption.

Things which persist for a long time either take pains to do so, or are indelicate in the extreme. Societies are quite delicate, therefore, those that last are so constructed as to encourage their continued existence. If we can assume that good parenting helps society to be more viable by producing more prosocial individuals (which seems fairly cynical, but also largely accurate, so long as we assume that this is not ALL that it does), it is in the long-term good of any society to encourage good parenting. I'm not saying that this is good or bad, just explaining that if one wants to be in a society which will last longer than one generation, good parenting is certain to be a strongly-held value which must sometimes take precedence over other, less society-critical exploits, and one will have to accept that.

That said, there is a further injunction against infringing on the rights of parents to deal with their children as they wish, even if the children are clearly doing something wrong that the parent is dealing with inappropriately--this is much harder to justify. As a matter of personal choice, I know that I will tend only to interfere if it appears that the child's rights are being violated, however, I recognize that I am far more patience and value children more than most members of my society. I do this because I feel that there are many situations (Demeter describes one) in which allowing the child to continue to disturb the peace is the best option for society as a whole, and I am willing to accept that my peace has been disturbed in order to bring about the benefit to society that will be generated by the improved behavior of such children in the future. So there are some cases in which it seems as though, even though the children are annoying, the parent(s) is/are doing the right thing, and should be given the space to do so.

When a parent seems clearly to be doing something WRONG, however (as in WolfDaddy's example of the cruise gala), it really comes down to the individualism in Western culture. Parenting is hugely important in developing beliefs and behaviors of future adults; it would be absurdly easy, if a government or society could control how children were raised, to drastically alter the future of the government and society. That's more power than I'm willing to allow the state to have, even if it means that selfish people will raise their children badly in ways that both produce bad citizens later and annoy me now. Even just altering social norms slightly so that other people would give advice would weaken the child's belief that their parent was in control of things (which could be traumatic at first, and also end up reducing the number of people who believe in God (for many atheists contend that the reason people believe in God strongly relates to a need for a God-like authority to fill the hole left by their parents, when it was discovered that they were not all-powerful)--whether that would be good or bad, I'd rather not put the beliefs of my future children in the hands of strangers), and potentially allow people to interfere with the parent's authority in situations like Demeter's, where such interference would be negative. Essentially, allowing smart people with good parenting instincts to give good advice would also allow stupid or selfish people to give bad advice, and it isn't worth it.

Finally, I think the dude at the counter WolfDaddy describes was a prick, and needs a smack. Still, it seems difficult to predict with certainty that no children will come over in the future (similarly, any lighter, from the manufacturer's and retailer's perspectives, might fall into the hands of children too young to avoid setting themselves on fire--callouses on the hands of the many are worth preventing the death by incineration of the few) to be strangled by the cords of one's blinds, so unless there's a compelling reason to remove the cord-stops, I'd leave them on.

To illuminate my perspective somewhat, I have yet to find the right partner, and am not yet in a situation where it would be wise, but I am dearly looking forward to having children. I rate being a good parent as a more important goal of mine than any other, and intend to relish the experience. I have never heard anyone use the word 'breeder' to refer to anything other than a band, so I have no particular feeling about that word, but disdain for any large class of people is something I feel pretty cautious about.
A message to parents, loosely taken from the wisdom of Bill Hicks:

If you have children there tonight and I assume some of you do, I am sorry to tell you this: they are not special. No, wait hold on, don't misunderstand me. I know you think they're special. I know that. I'm just here to tell you they're not....Childbirth is not a miracle, no more a miracle than you eating a hamburger and a turd coming out of your ass...You want to bring a miracle into this world, have a kid that won't talk in a fucking movie theatre....You're not a human till you're in my phone book. There, I have thrown my hat in the political arena....

Alas, another addition from little ole me. Parenting and the residual effect it has upon society has increased in its visibility over the last, say, 50 years in America, a drop in the bucket of time for most countries, but what America lacks in age in makes up for in overzealous evolution. Most of this issue with the public having to deal with the awkwardness parenting provides is due in part to the direction we've taken to ensure economic growth and survival. As mothers became less and less able to tend to their children at home and with minimal parental support from the father outside of traditional role of breadwinner and protector, the more children became visible. Children were at large kept out of public functions until such a time came that families could no longer afford to do so. Instead of simply not having children based on economic inability, parents have been forced to compromise the environments they enjoy generally because there are no children present and bring them along anyway.

Am I saying that parents should simply stay away from public spaces until their kids are at an age when they can be presentable? No. Children started out being in their own class, with their own set of rights and limitations, and I believe those limits are for their own good and for the good of society, not because children are merely annoying when rowdy in a crowded upscale restaurant, but because it does little for educational integration of children and adults. By asking a parent why (s)he thought bringing a 5 year old to Commander's Palace, you are asking about many decisions that parent has had to make.

The problem is anchored more about being overcommitted than anything else. I understand that the desire of parents to not let too much stand in their way, which includes their young children, but because of how much more of a struggle it is to be a suitable parent today, you need to think about and consider that much more what it means and what will change when you have children. Parenting means that you will miss out on a lot, but you're supposed to. If there isn't some sort of sacrifice on the parents' parts then that child isn't going to learn a thing from them. I don't know the economics of parenting these days, but I assume if you can afford to go out on a glitzy dinner together, you can throw in some cash for a baby sitter (my examples are limited ones on purpose, so turn your flame throwers on toast upon your first perusal of my opinion). If the kid is far too young to be left with a sitter or you don't feel comfortable leaving your kid with someone else, then stay home. I know that you want to go out and do things and that kids are often complicate things, but they're supposed to.

In my opinion, a mother should be able to stay at home during most of the child's life as a child, and that if she cannot or will not due to financial struggles or desire for a career, then she should not have children. Even if our society has evolved so much that children may not need (in modern suburban circles I've eavesdropped into, you'd think this was gospel) a stay at home mom, but I tend to think some traditional reconstruction is due on many areas of soceity. That is just me and my opinion on the matter, and I am well aware that choices like those are not easy to make and that we should not curse those who have made the hardest choice, that of bringing more people into the world.

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