Let’s be honest, parenting is neither easy nor for the birds. It takes work, energy, humor and, as the old adage states, “a village.” However, what happens when your particular village is not so keen on kids? Enter the life of the warmly regarded Bush-Ridge parent community, a group of people who continue to be, um, well, cool, regardless of having kids yet find our own community a bit bereft of congeniality towards the wee nips our village is supposed to embrace.
This could be awfully opinionated of me but after raising my nearly-six-year-old daughter in London, I found our move back to NYC a bit on the disappointing side. When you are accustomed to a culture where children are raised as a part of the society, the unexpected onslaught of taboos on where, when and how children should be seen and heard hit me smack dab in the face. I’ve been throwing a mini-fit ever since.
To be fair, even London is considered to be behind in the European scheme of child-friendliness (and I’m not talking about how many restaurants give out balloons at the end of a meal). However, it is still a world away from what I have experienced thus far in not just the States, but what is meant to be one of the most open-minded areas of Brooklyn.
Abroad, children are expected to join society in order to learn how to be apart of it. Thus, children are everywhere; from festivals like Glastonbury and Lovebox to pub-gardens, birthday parties, BBQs, art openings, gigs, yoga classes, Pride, and even on-set for film and stills shoots. I’ve seen them in every nook and cranny, including nursing mothers on large-scale campaign photo shoots.
As a mother myself, I felt this not only a welcome relief from the fright of a million parental concerns when leaving children for almost any reason, but also an enjoyable way to incorporate this little person I adore so much into my life. Her attendance in social settings has allowed her to grasp a range of different experiences that give her the space and insight to expand and not be shocked when she is meant to enter the world at large.
But the approach to children, especially in our neighborhood, is simply not as warm and welcoming. I have a stack of invitations (albeit spoken and/or Facebook invitations) to events where children just aren’t permitted. From early evening birthday dinners to sunset BBQs – who wants a kid there to spoil all the “fun,” right?
From the cold response to many a query of child attendance, I have acquired the idea that kids are essentially one of two things. Either crazy, screaming, pooping, puking machines that are completely uncontrollable and will probably break your most valuable item within five minutes of entering your home, or they are fragile items themselves with the necessity to be swaddled in a little white, purity blanket that serves to halt them from experiencing anything from beer drinking to any music other than Barney & Friends being rung in their tender little ears.
As comical as it sounds, I’ve had such things said from both single friends and parent friends alike.
But what does dis-involving the mini-me aspect of our society actually do? In another sense, isn’t it more beautiful to raise children to be aware of their surroundings and brought up with a naturally accepting appreciation of humanity than to be raised swaddled and uninvited?
For example, quiz my hetero-household-non-television-watching daughter on love and bearing children, and she will tell you that as long as they are in love, anyone can be married and have children together regardless of gender. She will state matter-of-factly, “Boys can love girls and boys can love boys and girls can love girls.” Further, any parenting scenario is a plausible parenting scenario, as long as there is love. She, my darling readers, has known this since the ripe age of three.
The families that have chosen to live in a community where most anything goes – from paint covered artists roaming the streets and bodegas, to bare bum meditations and often awkward performance art installations – have chosen to bring their kids along too. To experience, nurture and grow into their own little creative beings from which they probably were borne. So why is it they seem to be the last sect to make it into what is socially acceptable?
To be clear, this is not a rant to be able to bring children to questionable scenarios, after all parents generally want the best for their children in any situation. The thought is simply, with all the families that are moving into the hood, wouldn’t be nice if we weren’t so perpetually given the over-the-shoulder followed by daft exclamation, “Omigod, there’s a child in here,” treatment anytime we decide to head to local favorite spots, openings and events? After all, my child hasn’t puked on someone since she was a newborn and she’s only likely to pull your hair or bop you on the nose if you do it first…