Just the other day, I sat at a coffee shop, sipping my mocha, alone for the first time in over a week. The day was bright and with all the windows surrounding me, my eyes hurt as I reviewed photos from our recent beachy vacation. I liked being free of four pairs of grabby hands and whiny voices. I liked that the only sounds I heard were the ’90s pop songs on the radio and the quiet chit-chat of others as in need of caffeine as I was.
And then I overheard the barista say to his customer, “I don’t like kids. Can’t really stand them. Maybe if they’re smart, they’re kind of okay. But they’re so rude, so disrespectful. I hate that.”
And maybe it’s that I’m the mom of four kids. Or that I’m just too sensitive in nature. Or that we had just returned from vacation and I was desperate for a good night of sleep. But the more that barista talked, the more his words got under my skin.
Because you know what? Kids are human beings, too. Just like you and me. Imagine that. And in what other situation would it ever be acceptable to walk up to someone and declare that you don’t like a certain part of the population? Start stating your hatred for groups of people and you’ll be called a bigot or judgmental prick. As you should be, I’ll add.
But speak ill of kids? Call them brats and make generalized statements about how all of them are rude and disrespectful and you get nods of understanding. Laughs.
I get it. Kind of. My kids can be rude and disrespectful. They never sit still and climb under the tables and refuse to listen to most of my rules and cry over ridiculous things and don’t always make sense. In some ways, they seem very non-human. Very alien. I don’t always understand them. But then, my husband will tell you he doesn’t always understand me. Because don’t we all behave in inexplicable ways at times?
Sometimes we’re silly. Sometimes we’re restless. Sometimes we’re bratty. We act on impulses we shouldn’t. We say things we don’t mean. We think things that are even worse and some of us learn to not say those things and some of us don’t. (I’m talking to you, Mr. Barista with the Curly Hair. And you, too, President Trump.) We’re all alike in that way. And we all crave love, attention, affection, approval, and connection. You, me, your boss, your frenemy, and that bratty kid next door.
Kids! They’re just like you and me! It’s a novel idea, isn’t it?
I’m not yet old. At least, not that old. But, one thing is for sure: I was once a child. And if I know anything about biology, I’m pretty sure that’s true of all of us. So how is it that some of our fellow neighbors, friends, and baristas can’t have a little compassion for the shorter, younger, more innocent humans among us? It seems like a no-brainer to me.
I doubt the curly-haired barista from that coffeehouse will ever read this. But it’s possible that someone like him will. And if not, maybe there is someone reading who kinda-sorta tolerates kids but with a lot of eye rolls, too. To those people, the ones who resent, despise, or roll their eyes at nearly every child they encounter, I say this: Please, the next time you want to speak ill of a child, think carefully who may be listening. It could be a mother like me. Or worst, it could be a child like one of my own.
If my oldest daughter had overheard the barista on that day, she would have been crushed and confused. Because here’s the wonderful thing about children: they have full confidence that they are beautiful, magical creatures worthy of being worshiped. They don’t dwell on their flaws. Or yours. Even though that barista was saying mean things, she would have looked at his head of wild hair and heard his loud laughter and seen the way he made pretty designs with the foam of the latte he was preparing and she would have been thoroughly impressed. She would have laughed with him. She would have thanked him for the whipped cream on her hot cocoa and told him she liked his blue apron. She would have forgiven him for his unkind words and loved him completely. Maybe she would have also crawled under the table or said something impolite, but I’ll take the bad along with the good. And maybe you should too. Because one thing is for certain, a kid is the fastest friend you will ever make.
When I finished with my photos, I packed up my stuff, went straight home, and hugged my kids. I told them what value they bring to my life, that they are just as important and vital to the turning of our world as every big person they look up to. And when the youngest of them cried later because she was upset that I wouldn’t let her fling dog food all over the room, I just held her and rocked her and kissed her soft, sweet cheek.
And I didn’t even roll my eyes.