Many of us have been to parties or other gatherings composed of, mostly, adults – with some kids in the mix. Sara’s dad and I were the type of parents who brought her most places with us, right from the start, even out for dinner. Not all of the adults sitting near us enjoyed that. In New York’s Chinatown it was never a problem.
When Sara was about 13 months old I took her, by train, to Boston to visit her aunt, my sister, Frances. She made quiet a bit of noise during the 4-1/2 hour trip. The passenger in the seat just behind us finally couldn’t take it anymore, leaned over into our seat and curtly asked me to quiet her. I really tried, but, alas, Sara was a baby and I didn’t have much luck. For the rest of the trip I imagined myself standing up and saying to him: “That’s what you get when you take public transportation!” But I was far too shy. Sara, later that trip, discovered she could amplify her voice ten fold at The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. That was a little harder for me. This story also reminds me of a visit to The Natural History Museum in New York City where, after hearing one of us said: “Shit!” that morning before we left our apartment, two-year-old Sara proceeded to say it repeatedly and loudly once we got to the museum – until we convinced her to be a bit quieter. Those words that we say with such intensity are ones children instantly understand have great power, and so pick up immediately and remember, to our embarrassment.
This Thanksgiving I was in Northern Vermont visiting Sara, who moved there last March. Her new place is five minutes up the hill from old friends and five minutes in the other direction from Amanda, my friend’s daughter and Sara’s childhood friend. Amanda’s children, Mabel (5) and Sadie (3) are used to being around adults, and are very comfortable around them. They are more than happy to entertain us – but not in a forced, performing sort of way. There is an ease about them, probably because they’ve been around grown ups all their little lives.
Sara’s boyfriend, Doni, who also lives in Vermont, mentioned to me that his friends, a couple with three school-age children, used to bring them everywhere with them when their kids were little. They would simply put them each in a safe space when they fell asleep and go on with their evening. Some parents would be appalled by this style of parenting. They feel their children should, whenever possible, be put to bed at the same time every night, and in their own beds. I can see the merits of both. Many of us are somewhere in between.
Some adults are not comfortable around children, until they have their own. Others, like me for example, feel life would be empty without them.
“When my kids become wild and unruly, I use a nice, safe playpen. When they’re finished, I climb out.” –Erma Bombeck