An odd thing happens when you become pregnant: strangers begin treating you like a human being. Pre-pregnancy your worth is zero, during the bump-showing months your worth peaks briefly, and then after you give birth your worth tanks negative because then you have a baby, and boy, are those a nuisance.
My worth never twitches upward as far as strangers are concerned; at six months pregnant my stomach is so unnoticeable in loose clothing that you cannot even tell I’m incubating a baby in there. And yes, my children are all normal-sized. Either my core muscles are working overtime or my uterus, like the Doctor’s tardis, is bigger on inside.
My value stays negative because I have the gall to actually raise a child instead of just creating one. People still grumble when I board a plane with my daughter, make nasty comments in line behind me at the grocery store, and act offended when I ask to use one of the six seats they are occupying on the train.
I don’t mind the treatment, but what does this say about how we view children? We recognize that there is some sacred value in a child — hence our reverence toward pregnant women. But the minute that adorable bump turns into a screaming newborn and inconveniences us, we want it shot dead.
It’s pretty insane how much our society despises children.
And I get it. I used to be one of those people. I thought it was in vogue to complain about babies. I ran a hypothetical debate case suggesting that if it were possible to do so without side effects, children under the age of five should undergo mandatory sedation before boarding public transit of any kind.
I was on the extreme side.
I babysat for older children occasionally and loved it and obviously had the capacity to care; it’s just that no one ever taught me how. Or mentioned that it was a good idea to care about people that aren’t me, including the little ones.
To anyone suffering from the same ailment, I offer this: we were all children once. They’re people, too. I promise.
Today I was leaving Stop & Shop and I asked Zoe to hop into her car seat. She demanded that I put her in. I set down my groceries and stopped to describe how we ask questions rather than making demands. Didn’t notice there was a woman behind me until:
“OH, TAKE YOUR TIME. DON’T MIND ME AND MY ALLERGIES OUT HERE.”
If only someone had taken the time to explain to her what I was in the process of explaining to Zoe, she may have known how to ask nicely. I would have happily closed the door and let her by while still continuing Zoe’s lesson. As it is, it’s not clear to me that one adult’s urgency to get into their car 30 seconds sooner trumps my daughter’s need to learn how to ask for what she wants.
I’m not suggesting that you should be thrilled every time you take an eight-hour flight with a wailing newborn. Bring ear plugs. Bring noise-cancelling headphones. By all means, do what it takes to keep yourself comfortable. But understand that your need for comfort does not obliterate a child’s right to be a child. Someone once put up with you when you were a crying newborn. And if you’re unhappy today, chances are they did it without grace and tact. Afford someone else a better shot.
Children are little human beings. The fact that they are small and unable to defend themselves does NOT make them worth less than any adult. It means that we must take even greater care to ensure that they are protected, nurtured and accommodated.
Not so far from now my daughter will be the one dating your sons, managing your health care or investing your pension or helping maintain your society in some way. At that point, you will hope that I ignored the rude comments and unnecessary pressure and still taught her how to value other human beings.
Children are the next generation and they deserve to be revered as such.