Monday, September 5, 2016

Parenthood: Week 168 – The Rest Of The World

The world isn’t made for children.

There are times when we take Ollie to a playground that is designed for children. If it’s a well-built playground it can have appropriate things for kids of a variety of ages, but not designed for adults. In this instance, I am entering a child’s world. Ollie’s enjoying himself, I’m enjoying playing with him and bringing myself to his level. My enjoyment is not from the playground itself but rather through Ollie’s experience.

Then there are places that have something for Ollie and myself as an adult. Great museums like the Museum Of Science And Industry in Chicago are like this. They have a submarine, an actual WWII submarine in that place. Many adults find this fascinating along with many of the other exhibits. Also at this place there are things for Ollie and exhibits designed for children his age. Along with family bathrooms, and other accommodations for children, this is a place that we can both enjoy at different levels.

The rest, the vast majority of places and residences, are designed primarily for adults. When you take a baby or a toddler to one of these places, you cannot really enjoy them fully. Your first job as a parent is to take care of and entertain your child, and that means that you eat your dinner as a quickly as possible, entertain your child with your smartphone while waiting in line to purchase an item and at a party you struggle to have a conversation before the sound of your child cries requires you to be drop out of the conversation.

Taking your toddler to “the rest,” is exhausting. It can be made to be fun, like when I allow Ollie to pick out his favorite colored bell peppers (he likes the orange ones) and eat samples the grocery store. Yes, I could give him his own child sized grocery cart, and it’s fun for him, but it is so much extra work to make sure that he run into someone else or wreck the store as he “shops.”

As parents we should bring our children to these places that aren’t made for them, that don’t accommodate their needs, like stores and restaurants that aren’t too fancy. It’s important that while kids are allowed to run around and go crazy at times they need to stretch themselves and behave differently according to context. Doing this takes so much out of parents and while it’s worth it at times, other times, it’s just a waste of time and energy.

Ascending up the concrete staircase of Northwestern Football stadium with Ollie on my back, which lacks convenient elevator access, after dealing with their sexist and anti-family new bag policy, it really made me question if it was all worth the effort. It was cute when we made it up to the seats and Ollie got to sit and play with his toddler friends, but all of the hassle and stress to get to that point was absurd.

These are tough choices for parents. At what point do you say it’s not worth it. I question whether it’s worth trying to get Ollie to got to the library on days when he just wants to stay at home. Other times, I don’t have a choice. I need to go grocery shopping, Diana isn’t home, so he has to come. Well, why don’t I get a babysitter? If you are asking this question, you probably aren’t a parent, so just trust me that it’s impractical to get a babysitter every time you need to do an errand.

I’m not angry. I knew that this was the world I was bringing Ollie into. We are a society that often gives lip service to being focused on family while passing policies that make it unnecessarily difficult to raise children. Right now, I’m just tired trying to reenergize for the next time I need to take Ollie out into the adult world. And I’m disappointed. I feel let down by my alma mater, Northwestern University, for their lack of creativity by going with the NFL’s policies and not coming up with a more family friendly policy about bags.

Diana reminded me that we blessed with so many wonderful family friendly activities for children (Ollie AND Buffy) to look forward to this fall: apple picking, neighborhood Halloween celebration, and children concerts. For now, I’ll keep that in mind and look forward to the song of Ollie giggling and Buffy’s park as they run through piles of fallen leaves.

No comments:

Post a Comment