I get it.
I mean I totally don’t understand it, but I accept the fact that there are people who walk among us who dislike children. Children are young, they are messy, they are noisy and full of life and potential. (Sorry, I had to sneak that in there.) Because just as there are people who don’t like children, I do not like people who do not like children.
Take yesterday for example. My friend and I took twelve 10 year old boys on public transportation— a New York City bus— to get to midtown. The bus wasn’t crowded, we boarded, paid and the boys went to the back of the bus where they took the last section.
No sooner had they sat down that I heard a sharp “BE QUIET” from the front of the bus.
I looked and saw a woman of a certain age staring at me. “Get them to be quiet!” she yelled.
I turned to the boys. Each of them was in his seat, talking. No one was shouting. They were using their indoor voices. But when there are twelve of them, yes, they made some noise.
“Guys, keep it down,” I said, hesitantly, because they were not making a lot of noise.
“Ma’am, they’re children,” I told the Be Quiet woman.”They can’t be silent.”
She didn’t seem appeased. There was a lot of eye rolling and sharp looks and what appeared to be sighing.
At some point, I ignored her. We were traveling on the bus for a total of less than fifteen minutes and I was focused on the children.
But her attitude made me angry.
Because I think it stems from disliking children more than from any noise they may have been making.
To be clear: there was no shouting or yelling. They kids stayed in their seats. Their feet were on the ground. They did not throw anything. But they were not silent. A group of 12 adults traveling together would have made less noise only because they would have been checking their email and studiously ignoring each other.
There was some noise and the kids were making it.
It is appropriate that a group of children make some noise. A reasonable amount of noise. Putting up with that noise is part of the living in society, an acknowledgement that children are valuable members of our world, even children that are not ours.
No one wants to sit next to a screaming baby on the plane, but it has happened to most of us. So we deal with it, and if we are not complete narcissists, we recognize that the baby crying is not a personal attack on us, that we are part of the greater world where sometimes some people do some things that inconvenience us. If we are hostile, we blame the parents, thinking that they have a magic way to quiet the baby that they are choosing not to exercise. If we are completely insane, we blame the baby for crying.
Or maybe the Be Quiet woman was from the “children should be seen and not heard” era. Any noise emanating from them was bad and unacceptable, a reminder that they were there, in her adult space.
To this, my answer is that it is unreasonable to expect silence on a city bus sitting in the middle of NYC traffic. If someone chooses the bus ride as their sanctuary for meditation, they need to adjust their expectations.
It is no more reasonable to expect a group of children to be quiet than it is to ask an elderly person to walk a little faster, please, step lively!
Because children will continue to take public transportation, and they will continue to make age-appropriate levels of noise.
It’s one of the things that makes them children. Be glad they’re there.