A while back, I mentioned that I wanted to post something about children in public. Well, several friends have recently posted a link to this story about a couple in a Toronto Neighbourhood who want a municipal bi-law to make a 4 block radius around their home child free.
I can empathize with this in some sense. I frankly like my own kid, love her even, but would be perfectly happy to avoid most other children most of the time.
Here's the thing. On both sides of this, there is being a good neighbour and there's being an a**hole. For the childless, being a good neighbour might include occasionally tolerating that your neighbours who have reproduced might bring their children with them to a dinner out, because like you, we have made the conscious choice not to cook and to translate some of our hard-won economic capital (money) into a yummy dinner that someone delivers to us. Just because we have children does not mean we should feel obligated to settle for the sub-par fare served at establishments such as Jack Astor's or Chili's. My foodie tendencies didn't disappear with my ability to sleep through sneezes. It might also mean that sometimes, getting an injured, hungry, or sleepy child in the house quickly might trump immediately hiding away all evidence that a child lives within.
However, out of respect for those who do not share my absolute entrancement for a noise that the Bug makes that I choose to call a squeal, but might more accurately be described as a shriek, I do the following when we go out: in addition to giving her free reign over the breadbasket and any crackers that may be on the table, I bring along quiet toys, food I know she will eat (bunny crackers and milk, generally) and an overall sense of flexibility. I also bring the willingness to ditch the whole venture and get my meal to go, should all go terribly, terribly awry.
Around my home, I rather expect my neighbours to adhere to basic standards of cleanliness and safety, as well as the local noise ordinances. I expect them to look both ways when driving on the street, put away their bikes and lawn equipment and so on. From the front of my home, the only sign that a child lives within is that there is a wee garden chair between the larger ones on our porch. Because we put away our crap when we're done with it. We have a neighbour whose older children (between the ages of 6 and about 9) run in the streets and leave their stuff everywhere, and it makes me nuts, not in the least because it makes the rest of us with kids look bad. (Also because the little jerks have kicked a ball against my garage door and somehow damaged it.) That said, I understand that sometimes we don't get our stuff away right away. We do our best.
*** (Added 18 September 2011) Upon further inspection of the radio show's website, I discovered that the CBC radio program 'This is That' is, it turns out, sort of like the Daily Show for Canadian radio. Nonetheless, they have fairly succinctly summed up the nexus of conflict between people with children and the vehemently childless.