August 25, 2009
Are People Pro Baby and Anti-Toddler? Toddler Discrimination on the Rise
Remember when you were pregnant and people held doors open for you, and instead of mowing you down when you crossed the street, cars would slow down for you to get to the curb... and people were generally more kind and patient with you? Then you gave birth and went back to being just another person people had to overcome? Well, I am convinced this is what toddlers must feel like after growing up and out of the baby phase.
We coooooo and ooooh and ahhhh all the live long day, (and rightly so) over newborns and babies. We reassure them when they cry, rock them for hours in glider chairs or bounce them on exercise balls in our laps. We nod knowingly and understandingly at the almost insurmountable task of getting a baby through colic. But lo and behold, once this precious little bundle of chubby, drooling joy dares to age, all of a sudden their charm is retitled "terrible twos" their tears are "manipulative" and they are basically treated as though they have a personality disorder simply because they are growing up. For instance, I'm sure you've heard a parent say to their toddler out in public, "That's enough! Quit crying!" But the same parent would probably never have said that to their newborn. Where do the compassion and understanding go?
I think toddlers suffer from ageism. The whole roll your eyes, uh-oh, here comes a little terror, brace yourself mentality seems to go hand in hand with this pint sized contingency whose minute by minute mantra consists of the words "NO" and "MINE." Instead of ushering them through this extremely difficult rite of passage of developing a healthy ego, society has begun to shun toddlers for their unbridled displays of frustration, anger, sadness, and even joy.
*Disclaimer: this post is written with the premise that parents are actually parenting their toddlers and doing all they can to monitor, shape and control their child's behavior in a loving manner.
Here's why I think toddlers are discriminated against. Portland is considered one of the most family friendly places to live, yet we've been here under a year and already two places we have enjoyed as "toddler friendly" have closed their establishment to toddlers under pathetic guises. First, Sip & Kranz, a coffee shop in the Pearl District closes their play area, saying that they need the (tiny) space to serve more customers. Mind you, the well-sized establishment is never full, so clearly this is an excuse. And many people left comments on this online news story with harsh statements against children saying they were thrilled that kids will no longer be co-existing with the coffee sipping crowd. (DO PEOPLE FORGET THEY WERE ONCE KIDS?)
The next ageist offense happened yesterday. We had been taking a mommy/toddler yoga class at Om Base in which toddlers were allowed to roam free while moms did yoga. Collectively, we always left the studio how we found it, clean and orderly. I just got an email saying that the toddler/mommy yoga class has been canceled because the directors of the studio no longer feel it's the right venue for kids. But THEN they go on to announce the next session of the mommy/BABY classes.
Here's and excerpt of the letter I sent back:
"Thanks for sharing this disheartening news. I think it's strange that you say the studio isn't designed for kids but you are canceling the toddler class and keeping the baby class... so perhaps it isn't designed for kids who can walk? I see this increasingly, with the closing of the kids section at Sip & Krantz in the Pearl district too. I wonder why the unbridled charm of toddlers is so frowned upon where adults must co-exist. Makes me feel that much more fortunate to be around one all day everyday- what a gift of letting go."
Basically, babies are cute and entitled to endless patience and toddlers are work and should be disregarded is the message I'm getting from many angles. I have always thought our society isn't kind to elders, and now I am beginning to think we aren't kind to toddlers either. I for one am privileged to be around a two year old day in and day out. She drives me to the brink and back again... but I have never felt more inspired, alive or blessed than when I am in her presence. She is the ultimate reminder to live and let live, and we could all use that lesson.