Where To Draw The Line
July 31, 2010 § 5 Comments
One of the ways in which people frequently judge women is regarding parenting. Women are judged by whether or not they have children, how many children they have, how they raise and take care of said children, and there seems to be quite a few rules and regulations that must be followed in order to be a Good Mother. And, as posts like Mai’a’s views on “child-free spaces” show, feminists can be just as judgemental about how parents (especially mothers) raise their children.
I think a lot of people have a difficult time when they are in the same space as a child is misbehaving, and don’t know when it is appropriate to say something to a parent whose child is acting out/misbehaving/otherwise acting like a child in a room full of adults.
I think this “I don’t want to be impolite, so I can’t say anything” impulse can be harmful during times when a child isn’t just being fussy, but genuinely in harm’s way.
About a month ago, I was hanging out at a friend’s house, which she rents with several other roommates. We were on the porch, when we noticed something disturbing going on at the next door neighbors house: A little boy ways trying to climb out of a first-floor window, and we didn’t see anyone come over to pull him back in. My friend (who is majoring in social work) went over to say “Go inside” in an attempt to coax him back in. She then knocked on the front door, and after a while, someone answered. She explained that the window was open, and that the boy was trying to climb out of it. After walking back to the porch, we saw the little boy attempt to climb out of the window, again. When she said that she was going to call Child Protective Services the next day, she asked us “Is that okay? Am I doing the right thing?” We all responded that yes, calling CPS was the right thing because it didn’t seem like anyone was supervising the boy, and if we had not noticed what was going on, he could’ve gotten hurt, or ran off without anyone knowing, and that whoever was at the house didn’t seem to notice/care that something was wrong. And she, as a social work student, had the best understanding about when living situations can be harmful to children.
I get annoyed when people freak out about how Angelina Jolie is raising her children. (Do I have some mixed feelings about how she can “magically” change a child’s life by adopting them? Yes. Do I think this makes her a bad mother? No.) I’m also annoyed when people assume that when a child is crying in a public space, the mother of that child is bad/stupid/selfish/should’ve gotten a sitter. There are times when I’ve gotten annoyed with the children around me (airplanes are one of those times, though a dingbat honeymoon couple who wouldn’t stop whining about a flight delay takes the cake for me, and for every crying child in a theatre, there has also been the adult who blithely uses flash photography, even when the house manager tells them not to). However, most of those times, the children were not causing any harm to themselves or others, and the parents were trying their best to calm down their children.
We have to ask ourselves: Is this child going to harm themselves or others? Do the parents intervene to prevent that from happening? Are the children being abused (physically/sexually/emotionally)? Are the children abusing others? And in those situations where outside interference comes from a response to a dangerous situation, we should not have to apologize for our actions.