Friday, November 26, 2010

Is Our Society Child Friendly?

Before I had my child, I had read and heard about the sacrifices new parents have to make for the just-arrived member in the family. And I always thought that people made too much of a deal about it, after all, how could you grudge, deny time or even get bugged about such a cute little new member. And my philosophy was quite simple and straightforward – first show them who’s boss and then just integrate them in your adult life.

Needless to say, a LOT of my thinking changed when my daughter arrived. Nothing, nothing could’ve prepared me for the sacrifices! Of course when you are 60 and you look back, sacrificing a couple of years will not seem as big a deal, but when you are in the middle of your time, steeped in your career, finding your groove in the larger scheme of things, it does seem like a big deal. But that’s for another blog. This blog is about children and how I feel our society is increasingly becoming intolerant of them.

To begin with, our shifting attitude towards children. The Indian society, where children were a natural consequence of marriage, is giving way to couples who are postponing and even deciding not to have children. “Too much responsibility”, “They’ll ruin our freedom”, “Financial burden”, or “Later, not now”, when later never really happens.

At a recent party, which also had several chidlren, a lady told me, “There’s just too much noise and running around when it comes to children. I find it very disturbing.” And one frustrated parent told me that a school denied her child admission because she was born in a certain month, which made her ineligible through age! “Do I have to start planning children based on which school I want them to study in?!” She exclaimed.

And maybe, just maybe all this is leading to our civic and extended society, not considering children in the larger scheme of things. How else would your explain shrinking open spaces for children and adults alike to enjoy or the poorly managed parks? Or the fact that there are not enough movies that are suitable for chidlren. A friend of mine recently complained to me how her weekend movies have been drastically curtailed, because many of the movies were not appropriate for children – to vulgar with crass jokes, she explained. Most restaurants are not child-friendly, have you noticed how they bump into the corner of the table! The places are cramped and kids begin to get cranky quickly, ruining what you thought would be lovely evening spent with friends. And even if you take them to a friend’s place for dinner (who you’ll find out later do not have a child-friendly house), you are more worried about what they’ll ruin – maybe spill something on the plush sofa or the ‘expensive’ carpet or scribble on the wall, that you are far too worried to really enjoy the evening! The ubiquitous malls and shopping centers are definitely not child-friendly, despite the ‘fun centers’ --- for one, the crowd really puts them off and once they sense you’re shopping, their tantrums begin!

So where do you take your kids, here I am talking about places where you both can enjoy as parent and child and how do you integrate them into your so-called adult world, even as people and spaces begin to show their intolerance?

Have you experienced intelorance towards children? Share your experience.


  1. I guess acceptance helps, but really tough to do that sometimes. Somethings that you might have realised will help is tough to get it across to your wife and vice versa. But on a macro level this journey is great.

    We should leave the fears aside, fear of change is the biggest.
    Have an attitude that you can handle what ever come by ! This should help

  2. I would not say 'sacrifice' …. It’s more a change of priorities! With that comes a change in your life as well. Who you hang out with (do they have kids, how old are they, are they well behaved or will they negatively influence mine), where you hang out (Obviously the pubs are out! are there activities for the kids, kid friendly food and the list goes on) changes a great deal. And the change is constant. As the kids grow older, their school and extracurricular activities consume a lot of your time and again, they people you socialize with. But oh! Do they make you proud!!! And those other people were right! Parenting is a huge responsibility and kids do take up a lot of your time and a LOT of your money. And I think, are right in making the choice to wait. Because if this is not something you want and sign up for, it will seem like a ‘sacrifice’.
    But through all of this, there is one thing that the parents must take care not to sacrifice – the marriage and the care of each other.