Saturday, October 6, 2012


The other day, I was lying on the couch in my living room reading. In the apartment above me I heard the characteristic thumping and chatter of children.

"Cool," I thought. "Kids in the building. Maybe I can play with them."

Let me qualify that statement by first saying that I am not really a lover of children. I am not really....maternal. I like my own siblings - I am mildly obsessed with my baby brother, even though he hates me - and sometimes the children of close friends grab my heart strings a little.

But I am not one of those women who looks at a child and gets a throb in the general direction of her womb and goes "OHMYGOSH....I WANT THAT TINY HUMAN."

No. Mostly, I think of how terrified I am of night feedings and explosive diapers and the the boundless energy that little people seem to have. 

And let's face it. The children of other people are generally brats. No one raises their child as you yourself would raise him, and so behaviour that, to another person is completely normal, might be utterly abhorrent to you. THAT'S frustrating. But it's more a problem of the parents, then of the children themselves.

However, I would agree that children are a somewhat necessary part of life and I hope that, if I have one of my own someday, the oxytocin kicks in majorly, and I come to love Minime as as much or slightly more than I like quiet and chocolate.

By all accounts this is possible.

But back to my upstairs neighbours. While I might not be utterly enthralled with the majority of children, I am very used to having them around. After a certain period of not really being exposed to any, I get this vague feeling of imbalance. There really is something about how young children view the world, and how they put words together, and how unconditionally they love you - or hate you - that I find fascinating.

Hence - after a month with no children - my desire to go play with the thumpers and squealers upstairs. But how to make that happen? Go knock on the door?

"I just moved in downstairs. May I take your kids to the bakery, and then to the river to practice skipping stones? Maybe we could also play hide and seek in the woods?"


An opportunity presented itself later that day, when the cleaning lady dropped off some extra bedding for me. 

"So.....are there kids upstairs?"

"Oh no no no."

"Oh! I thought I heard..."

"No! Don't panic! That was the electrician. He came to fix some things, and had to bring his kids as he had just picked them up from school."

"Oh! Ok."

"No. You don't have to worry at all. Not about THAT. No children in this building. Don't worry your head."

"Oh, but I wasn't....."

"I know. At your age you're not going to want children around."

"At my age....?"

"Well, ring me if you need anything. Bye!"

I was slightly taken aback. But guess what? If I had not been raised in an environment where children flowed at the same rate as Niagara Falls, I would almost certainly have the attitude which desires a complete segregation from children. 

I would not know them as occasionally interesting little beings who are fun to be around. I would not see them as a normal and necessary part of life, in spite of the chaos that swims around them.

I would hear them upstairs and groan, and I would think of myself as needing to be separate from them until such time as I deemed myself ready to somehow join their world with mine.

Having always moved in an an environment where the presence of children is taken for granted and accepted, I now wonder: what must it be like to grow up in an environment consistently hostile to you, simply because of your stage of development?

As a child - today, in this world -  a quarter of your siblings and friends have been aborted, when you appear in public people moan, and your own parents and every other magazine and latest study discuss quite freely the burden of raising you. And don't think that children don't, on some level, know this. They are scarily intuitive little beings. Of course they feel environment surrounding them.

All this at a stage when what you need is love and complete security. No wonder there are ever increasing rates of childhood depression and anxiety. Wouldn't you be sad and scared in a world that seemed to hate you?

In short: Give a kid a hug. Smile as you pass one on the street. Let them know that the world needs them and loves them. Sure, many of them might be brats, sure they can pains in the hiney, but in the end, it's not their fault. And a little love goes a long way.


  1. Isn't there something adorable about a man taking his kids to work?

  2. Why yes. Yes there is.

    Why do you say this?

  3. Somehow you always manage to put into words ideas I mull over yet can never concretely state.

  4. HAHA! "Where children flowed at the same rate as Niagara Falls." What a great line. Just to let you know. John just said he misses you and that we need to give you a chocolate chip cookie when you come home. He really is the cutest three year-old going. Great post Mary:)

  5. "Children are the seeds our days plant."-Anne Voskamp
    Happy Thanksgiving Mary. I am thankful for all children!

  6. Lovely. Had a wonderful chat with your mom (last Saturday) at a wedding where there were dozens of delightful babies and toddlers gamboling about.