It's Okay Not To Have Kids, But It's Not Okay To Treat Kids Like Crap

by Colleen Dilthey Thomas
Originally Published: 
Vlad Teodor/Shutterstock

Parenting is not for everyone. It just isn’t. Some people don’t want to have children, and they live a happy life without them. That is a perfectly valid choice — and if you don’t want to be a parent and you are living your best life, then you should absolutely do that. Right now, it’s on trend; the birth rate in the United States is declining. but people are going to continue to have children. That’s how this whole thing works.

I am a mother of four children. They range in age from 13 down to five. I have a little bit of everything in my parenting wheelhouse right now, less a baby or toddler. But if you count those years as zero to four, then I have a collective sixteen years of experience in those ages — some of which overlapped — and I can tell you that the world is not kind to those children, or those parents. But it doesn’t stop at toddlerhood; some people just don’t like kids at all. And as a parent, that is really hard.

Adults who do not have children can sometimes have a distorted expectation of how those children are supposed to act. They assume that all children are just tiny adults, minus the 40-hour workweek and grande lattes. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Kids are kids. We cannot expect them to be adults. We cannot hold them to standards that are not developmentally appropriate. We cannot expect them to not participate in society because some people believe they should never be bothered.

When they are babies, they are loud. And they cry. Whether they are at home, or the grocery store, on an airplane, or at church. Babies cry. A woman at church once told me that I needed to take my 14-month-old out because he was disturbing her with his happy babbling. Instead, I stayed, informed the pastor and wrote a lengthy blog post about why people like her should go to hell. It felt good. But I was still sad. How can someone be intolerant to an innocent baby?

As children get older, we expect more from them. Kids will sit still for longer periods of time. They can be quiet for greater stretches. They are a bit calmer. They are easier to console. But, that isn’t true for all kids – only some. And if you have one of those? Good for you. If you don’t? That’s OK too. No one should be telling you how your child should be acting. Unless it is a doctor, teacher, or behavioral specialist that is working with your child, whose advice you are actively seeking, other opinions don’t matter. They just don’t. And as parents, we have to remember that. But sometimes, growing that thick skin is tough.

Please understand, I am not saying that every person who has chosen not to have children is a villain or is intolerant of kids. That is simply not true. I am speaking to a specific set of people who have somehow forgotten the fact that at one point in time, they were themselves children. No one sprouts from the womb a 38-year-old real estate tycoon with a fancy degree from a prestigious university. We all came from the same place. No one could talk. We all pooped and peed and cried all day. Our ears all popped when we got on a plane. Everyone got sad when they lost their lovey. And each and every one one of us made too much noise when we were supposed to be quiet and pissed off an uptight adult. All. Of. Us. We have to remember that.

I am respectful of people who do not have children. I try my best to be sure that my children behave around them and do not offend them. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t — because when you’re not used to being around kids, it can be a lot. But I shouldn’t have to thwart my child’s personality to make an adult happy. I always want them to be on their best behavior, but sometimes shit happens. That is where grace comes in. And it isn’t me asking for grace from an adult; it is that adult taking a deep breath, realizing that a kid is a kid, and giving that grace naturally.

Just like I am not allowed to make judgement on how you should be living your child-free life and what you should be doing with your money or your time or anything else, you have no right to step in and judge me or my parenting. If you have never had a child, you cannot tell a parent how to raise them. We are all out here trying to navigate a crazy world for ourselves while being 100% responsible for the life or lives of other people. Do not tell us how to do that. Parenting is not for the faint of heart. Or for those with a weak gag reflex. I promise with everything in my being, we are doing our best.

We cannot eradicate children; they will always be among us. Thank God, or the world would literally cease to exist! Adults are the ones who need to grow up. A child’s brain simply isn’t fully developed. That takes until you are about 25 years old. You know, when you are an adult? So why do we have such high expectations for young kids? It simply isn’t fair. Not fair to the child, or to the parent who feels that they are being looked down upon because of their child’s behavior.

To the adults who have chosen not to have children: When you see a parent who is struggling with a child, whether it is a baby or a teen, take a second to think about yourself. Put yourself in their position. No, not the adult, put yourself in the position of that child. You may not remember a specific day, but know that without a doubt you were that child at one point. You are not now, and were not then, a perfect human being. It took time and experience and patience from a lot of adults to make you into the person who you are today.

When you see a child, don’t judge or dismiss them. Instead, respect them and treat them the way that you want to be treated. And if you can’t remember anything else, remember what the T-shirt says, “Be Kind.” Kids are kids. They will be adults soon enough, and they are always watching and taking the lead of those around them. As an adult, you had better always be on your best behavior — you never know who might be taking notes.

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