“Only Bad Guys Hate Babies”

And with that, Simcha Fisher speaks truth:

I’ve had a woman hold a door for my double stroller and hiss, “You have too many children.” My friends have been lectured in their church parking lots about their irresponsible breeding behavior. They’ve been glared at for the high crime of bringing children into a supermarket. People get up and change seats with a groan of disgust when we come into a waiting room, as if the pretty little toddler in sandals and a sundress is covered in oozing sores.

{…] In a way, the distaste children is easy to deal with. It’s so obvious that only bad guys hate babies. But what tears my heart is the people who reach out in wonder and astonishment at a baby, as if she’s a novelty, something lovely and exotic, a precious, aberrant artifact that they’re drawn to and long for, but cannot understand. A baby is a sweet hallucination, something you enjoy before coming to your senses and getting back to your real life.

“Only bad guys hate babies.” Succinct. To the point.

In the NY Times last Sunday, between the Magazine and the paper, I read not one, not two but three pieces that either took passing snipes at people who dared to bring their children out in public or acknowledged that they’re aware of this baby-hating mood. I remember it was three because my husband and I discussed the casually recurring theme. In one particularly off-putting piece — meant, I think to be funny (and failing) — a woman learning to ride a bike writes:

Learning to ride a bike in a public park means anyone can see you. This was plenty insulting, but I took special offense at the sleep-deprived puffy couples with squawking newborns openly delighting in our discomfort. These wan goons I derided sotto voce for bringing their squealing offspring to brunch or for clogging up the sidewalk were momentarily cooler than I, and that was unbearable.

Ugh, ugh, ugh. So ugly, so neurotically self-involved and weird.

Then this story, in the Real Estate section, where a mother is so casual about the social disdain shown her daughter we must believe she gets a lot of it:

The couple are enjoying the neighborhood more than they expected. “I didn’t realize how many great restaurants are on Fifth Avenue . . Those restaurants are child-friendly, too. “I can walk into a really nice restaurant with my 4-year-old daughter and not feel everyone’s chest tighten,” Ms. Fontes said.

So, yes, Simcha is relating a truth; increasingly people feel entitled to publicly demonstrate their hatreds, not just for people who think differently (“enemies of the human race!”), or on political issues (“I hope your daughter gets raped!”); they feel okay about hating little kids.

Active baby-hating is not a sign of a healthy society.

But whoever said we were that?

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Ali

    I’m one of those people who groan and move away when a noisy child comes into a waiting room. I’m also one of those people who groan and changes seats in the movie theater and in restaurants when a noisy child comes in. Notice the word “noisy” in each sentence. I have no problem what so ever with a quiet, well behaved child whose parent actively parents (which includes discipline) to keep their child behaving politely and not disturbing others. I support the old way of raising children (and I’m fairly young) where children are to be seen but not heard.

    That is the main reason today that most people don’t like to be around children. It’s not the child who is the problem, it’s the idiot parent who willfully allows their child to babble incessantly and carry on with no consequence what so ever. This is the reason we’re not such a kid-friendly society any longer. The parents who are lax have done this to themselves and their children. This is why classrooms are riddled with learning disabilities. Parents don’t parent anymore. No set bedtime, no set rules and no firm and consistent discipline (I did not say in the form of spanking did I.) They just let their kids do/say whatever they want as it’s easier than actually caring enough to raise them to behave properly or discipline them to teach proper behavior. It’s just too hard and they don’t care enough about their children to do it.

  • Lee Johnson

    I think everyone’s just been grumpy the past few years.

  • totustuus333

    This piece is so well-written it’s astounding. Thank you for it.

  • oldbat

    I was the nother of 5 children and this was the 1960′s. Although they could be as wild at home as most large families they were quite good on what we called “Outings” like going to Chinatown for dim sum or at the movies or even at the museums I dragged them to. I never took them to mass until they were about three and they were placed in the front row although my youngest laid on the kneelers and looked at the picture on the ceiling. As far I was concerned you had an in the house manner and an outside house manner and I agree that today young children are taken to places where they seem to be indulged witness throwing every french fry on the floor. But I am just happy to see families together and I love the squeaks and cries from the babies at church. It is a marvelous to see young couples who bring their children to mass because they are striving to bring them up in the Catholic faith. I have one who has strayed and one who is simply not “practicing”. i pray at mass that these toddlers looking bemused as Father pats their head will grow and love the church as my others have done.

  • Margaret

    What a coincidence, I feel the same way about adults! I wouldn’t mind being around them if they were just quiet and well-behaved. Noisy adults who dare to babble on incessantly have ruined it for us all. They carry on with no consequences for their chatty and loud behavior!

    But in all seriousness I am a big fan of discipline too. I would say my small children are reasonably behaved for small people who do not yet reason logically and are still learning self-control. But I have no doubt people judge us when one of them is having a bad day. Children are not robots programmed by their parents. They have feelings and moods and good days and bad days, chatty days and quiet days. It never hurts to give a little grace to others and not jump to assume that children making noise are products of bad parenting or even being naughty to begin with.

  • Heloise1

    The only period in my life that I avoided babies like the plague was from mid forties until menopause. Way too tempting.

  • Covie

    Sad testimony of today’s society. Use their own words against them – someone sneers at your large family? Look them straight in the eyes and say “my body, my choice”

  • Adam Frey

    Don’t judge a book by its cover. I appreciate your frustration with publicly loud children, but I *have* one of those publicly loud children. My child suffers from an undiagnosed anxiety issue where, despite her best efforts, she 1) cannot sit still and 2) has no “off” button for talking out loud or consideration of others. Seriously, she doesn’t. We have tried all kinds of medication, therapy, and discipline, to no avail. We continue to correct her, but I am largely resigned to the fact that my child will continue to be at least somewhat publicly disruptive. I am doing my best, and I’d like to think that I do “care enough” and “discipline” her in spite of her inability to control herself. I would like to continue to expose my child to the beauty of the Mass or the wonder of a Shakespeare play and hope that the public at large will just ignore her foibles. Do *you*, sir or madam, have a solution to make my child behave to your satisfaction short of locking her away, using chains and a muzzle, or extreme corporal punishment? I should like to see *you* raise my child without crossing legal or ethical limits. I should take your prayer and sympathy over your disdain any day.

  • Andrea

    Some parents are too lazy to do it; however, when you see a mother or father doing everything right and the child is still just too immature to know how to talk quietly (my two year old seems to think he needs to talk louder when church gets quiet), you should just smile and think “Thank goodness it’s not my kid.” Have a heart and just move on. There’s more to life than hating loud children, for goodness sake! I see mature adults texting while driving and think “now, there’s someone who lacks self-discipline and that may just be the cause of his/her untimely death and others.” Now that is something that truly makes me angry!

  • Suburbanbanshee

    Mass is a necessity. Shakespeare live is a luxury. My parents never took me to live theater until I was able to be quiet, which is the normal way to do these things. Before that, my exposure to live theater was on TV at home.

    Now, if Shakespeare plays are being played in front of a talkative crowd of groundlings and yakking nobles, your kid will clearly fit in okay. You might even think about going to a rehearsal or dress rehearsal, where yakking and comments are common, and actors are less tense.

    But in the Wagnerian tradition of quiet audiences and no house lights on, it’s asking a lot of other people that they ignore the “foibles” of anyone talking or making noise, be he child or adult or little green alien.If it’s something free and offered in a park, I suspect that tolerance will be higher than if it’s expensive ticket land.

  • Adam Frey

    In the case of Shakespeare, I can see your argument, although in the particular instance we experienced, I feel like the offendee had it in for my daughter. She was simply fidgeting in her seat, not talking loudly. (This was also a comedy, so audience laughter was common throughout this performance.) This person made a point of telling my wife that she found my daughter’s movements distracting. We were in tiered seating, so I can’t fathom why she couldn’t simply *look over* her as the seating design allowed her to do and pay attention to the play.
    Regardless, my daughter had a great time at the play and learned a lot. The offendee’s grumpiness did more to disrupt my enjoyment of the show than my daughter’s.

  • Matt Bifulco

    Seriously, Adam, introduce your daughter to Shakespeare yourself, in the comfort and privacy of your own home. There are plenty of child-sized editions of the Bard, which you can enact and dramatize in persona. This is also the answer to your daughter’s psycho-social problem. Shakespeare done rite is replete with cognitive strategies for young and old alike, which she could use to channel her munificent energies. Who knows, maybe she’ll end up as a performer on the stage?

  • Matt Bifulco

    Nobody hates little kids. It’s themselves they hate.

  • S Dunn

    I always make it a point to smile at small children. It used to be just because I like them, now it’s a counter cultural protest. My wife says I must have a saintly nature buried inside somewhere because children and animals are invariably friendly to me. There are always children fussing and wriggling around at Mass. It used to bother me, but then I thought, surely The Lord and Mother Mary are so pleased to see children in His house…who am I to grouse?

  • Ray

    I guess I’m a bad guy then. I’m ok with that.

  • Adam Frey

    We’re doing that. But I am getting a nasty “keep your kid out of our sight” vibe from a lot of people.

  • DianaG2

    Yes, thanks so much.

  • DianaG2

    I agree with all you say, but please don’t medicate her. She’s fine. God bless. She’s probably especially intelligent, right?