Correct me if I’m wrong, but does it seem like you get far more dirty looks today when you bring your children with you? Or rude comments? Or impatient random strangers? Admittedly, you also get an added share of smiles, kindness, and “she’s so cute” statements. But I’m left to wonder why our population often seems split on viewing children as precious gifts or annoying nuisances.
Of course, abortion is the most obvious example of the rejection of children in today’s society. I spend a lot of time writing about abortion and the many, many reasons why it’s wrong, inhumane, and simply cruel. But beyond abortion, does our culture truly welcome children once they are born?
I realize I’m posing a sort of odd question. I’m not talking about whether we send money to starving children in Africa, donate blankets or winter coats to homeless children, or get involved with foster care or adoption. I’m simply asking if we have an attitude that welcomes children in our day-to-day lives.
And I’ll get really honest with you. Before I had my daughter, I was a lot less welcoming to children in general. Sure, I was your typical babysitting teenager; I helped out with Sunday School and VBS. But I was never a super “kid” kind of girl. I love babies – babies are incredible! But sometimes kids can really be annoying, or so I thought. I thought a lot more like this until I had my own daughter.
Let me tell you: I truly never thought it was possible to love someone so much and so instantly as I did when they laid my daughter on my chest. (And I love my husband a whole lot.) But a mother’s love for her child is just something else – not more love, just a different, unexplainable love. In addition to the fifty million other things my daughter has taught me, she’s made me question how I view other children in my day-to-day life.
When a two-year-old throws a temper tantrum in the grocery store, I don’t want to roll my eyes and get out of there anymore – at least not usually, haha. Now I know what it’s like to have a tired kid who just can’t express herself. I know how badly kids want you to try to understand them. When a little kid tells me “hi” or waves in the parking lot, I’ve become a lot more conscious about answering him back and making him feel special. My own daughter’s favorite line at the store is, “Thank you so much, buh-bye” to every cashier. I know how I feel when she gets ignored, so I can only imagine how she feels.
I’ve even felt a difference in churches. One church my family attended for a while made it pretty obvious that you should put your kid in Sunday School, and if your kid started to make noise, you had better get her out. Granted, this church also provided incredible kids’ programs and great facilities for parents to stay with their kids in separate rooms. But still, the feeling was there that the service and the other adults were more important than your not-super-quiet toddler. It made me sad.
Thankfully, we’ve been able to find a church that offers great kid programs but doesn’t try to insist that you put your kid in them. I don’t feel worried if I keep my daughter with me in the service. (Even though she once proudly announced, “Daddy go potty. Daddy be back.”) The pastor at our church makes light of unintentional distractions that go on, and the atmosphere at the church is welcoming to everyone who walks through the doors – no matter their age or abilities.
One last case in point I’d like to share. I sometimes attend a public board meeting that’s kind of important, but not as big a deal as some of the members seem to think. At the last meeting, a photo needed to be taken of the existing members. A member had brought her toddler, and the girl was remarkably well-behaved for most of the meeting. During the picture, the little girl wanted to stay with her mommy and clung to her legs, sort of crying. One board member – an obviously kind grandma lady – said, “Just pick her up! She can be in our picture!” The mom was happy and lifted her daughter in her arms, but another board member replied very firmly, “No. We’re trying to be professional here.” The mom quietly lowered her daughter, and the little girl cried until the picture was over.
Okay, seriously, I get the point of a formal board picture. I do. But what does it hurt to have a child in the photo? Is it really worth it to make a small child cry just so we have a “professional” photo? Is our professionalism really worth more than the feelings of a child?
Don’t worry – I understand that parents need to be respectful of others. If your kid is crying in church, yes, by all means – take him to the cry room or a family room. If you can find a babysitter you trust (think grandparents, haha), it can be a good idea to go to “professional” meetings alone. But I’m reminded that, years ago, it wasn’t such a big deal if parents let their kids tag along. It was the natural order of things. Kids learned to be adults by accompanying their parents everywhere.
I’m not advocating for a reversal back to the 19th century; after all, we also had child labor and other such horrors. But what I’m advocating for is an outlook reversal. Let’s stop looking at children – even ill-behaved ones – as nuisances. Let’s start seeing every child we come in contact with as a gift, a blessing, and as a special little person who deserves our love. Let our actions, words, and attitudes say, “You’re a gift!”