This post was brought to you by my brother in law, so it might get ranty.
Let me preface this by saying that I absolutely support people being child free. Honestly, I don’t know anybody working in education and with families who isn’t a strong supporter of contraception, family planning and thinking long and hard about whether being a parent is something that you should do.
I’m also the first to admit that children are not smallish adults, but have certain characteristics beyond age and height that make them different from adults. It’s something that makes people who like working with children enjoy their company, it is something that makes parenting an amazing journey, and it’s something that makes others not enjoy either of these things.
Nevertheless, children are people, they are part of society, they should have their needs met and accommodated. There are very few spaces where children don’t belong, and those are for their own protection, say a Shisha bar. For the rest of spaces: think about how this space can be made child friendly. Many restaurants already do this: they have a children’s menu, they have play corners (one of our favourite Asian buffet places has a whole room), and if you think about it, it’s a smart move, because children will only grow up to value a sit down meal in a nice restaurant if they learn how to behave there while young.
But there’s another level of accessibility and that is for parents. We’ve talked about this before: If you organise something, say a sceptics’ conference or something like that, think about how you can provide childcare. Because if not, overwhelmingly women will be unable to attend your event. I mean, you can go full Sam Harris and blame your sciency manly vibes that scare off fragile little damsels, or you can ask yourselves: what can we do to make sure parents can attend?
Which gets me to a different level, which is private life. And of course you get to set all sorts of boundaries here, but you also have to live with the consequences. There’s a plethora of “Am I The Asshole” posts on Reddit where somebody decides to have a child free wedding and is then super offended when the parents in their lives decline, especially when it’s their siblings. Sorry, but weddings are expensive, and getting childcare on top of it costs a lot of money, the people who are usually watching your children are probably at the wedding as well (Hey mum, could you watch our kids while we go to your daughter’s wedding?), not to mention trusting some babysitter enough to leave them for several days. And, yes, let’s face it, parents do take this shit personal. Their children are pretty important people in their lives and if you frame their existence as a complete nuisance and burden to everyone who is even just in the same room, they might decide that your friendship isn’t worth it.
Which gets me to my brother in law. He is and has always been super entitled. He’s 11 years younger than my husband and didn’t grow up so much with a sibling than with a third overindulgent parent and he’s used to the whole family catering to him. The last two times he moved, my husband of course helped him, which meant driving a few hundred kilometres each time. I can’t remember even being reimbursed for the fuel, and I especially can’t remember him lifting a single finger when we moved. Because those are services he thinks his family has to provide.
Now he has invited us to his birthday. Come on, Giliell, you say. You said he was super entitled, but now he’s inviting you, that’s nice! Only… Well, remember the couple of hundred kilometres? Going there means spending the night. Spending the night means getting hotel rooms. For the great honour of being invited to his birthday he already expects us to spend a few hundred €. He lives in the Black Forest. Hotels ain’t cheap there. And well, we would have coughed that up, if not for the original subject of this post. We’re still in a raging global pandemic, the little one isn’t vaccinated yet, and sleeping in a hotel with her is totally out of the question for us. So we asked him, could the children stay with him for the night? I mean, his flat is bigger than our house, he has a guest room where his parents are staying, and a living room, and a studio, and a fucking library, but he doesn’t have space for his nieces. He really doesn’t want them to be in his space, because you never know. It’s not like we asked them to watch two toddlers who would paint the walls with his acrylics, or tear the pages from his books. They’re two well behaved teens who basically just want the Wifi password and food. Also his parents, who are watching the kids regularly, are also there. But nooooo, he’s afraid for his precious belongings. Which is totally reasonable in his eyes. Yet our fear for our kid is totally irrational, you know? Guess who’s currently being made out to be unreasonable…