Sarah Myles

"Sarah Myles is a freelance writer. Originally from London, Sarah now lives in North Yorkshire with her husband, two children and two cats."

Every parent has been there. It’s a busy day, you’re desperate for groceries of one kind or another, and you have to go the supermarket. The kids have to go with you. It’s not ideal – they’re good kids, but you know they’ll get bored and you’ll end up forgetting something important in your haste to get in and out quickly, but they need milk for their cereal, or bread for their packed lunch. There’s no way around it.

You’re halfway round the shop and they start getting antsy. Your attempts to get them involved in the task at hand, and keep them engaged by assigning them items to search for and asking them about fruits and vegetables, begin to fail. They’re voices are getting louder, and so is yours.

By the time you’re nearing the end of your mission, the ‘looks’ have started. The ‘tut-tuts’ and audible heavy sighs from your fellow shoppers as you try to navigate the aisles and grab your essentials with your brood in tow. You can feel each and every judgemental hairy eyeball as you try to keep an eye on where your kids are, while whizzing everything through the checkout and bagging it all up. Often, there’ll be a fellow parent struggling in a similar fashion, and you’ll give each other a sympathetic, understanding smile. Sometimes, there’ll be one or two kindly old folk that smile and nod, as if to say, “Don’t you worry sweetie – I’ve been there too,” and that’s lovely. But, it’s the children-loathers that ruin your day.

The children-loathers: people that would prefer it if children were seen and not heard, as long as they don’t get in their way at all. People that don’t think children should be allowed in the same supermarket as them, or in the same restaurant, or on the same aeroplane – because they’re only going to make noise, cause a fuss or create hassle. People that consider the very existence of other people’s children to be a massive inconvenience to their own lives – you’re the one that chose to have kids so why should they have to deal with their presence?

There are people that just don’t like children – I understand that fact, and I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with it. Just because I disagree, doesn’t mean that viewpoint isn’t perfectly valid for another person. That’s the difference, you see. I am tolerant of people that have a different point of view. Personally, I have a particular distaste for seafood, but I don’t stand behind people buying it, noisily judging their life choices and making them feel bad about themselves, and their fish, for getting in my way that day.

Yes, I have two children and yes, I have had to bring them to the supermarket. It’s not ideal, but why shouldn’t they have to come with me to buy groceries? They’re going to eat them as much as I am – they should see what is involved in their purchase. Choosing produce, budgeting, meal planning – these are vital skills to learn. But, apart from the practical benefits for my child’s development, there is the basic fact that they are human beings, and should be respected as such.

At the end of the day, my child has as much right to be in that supermarket, or restaurant, or aeroplane as anyone. In fact, a parent with one or more children is GUARANTEED to be the fastest person in the shop, and children-loathers would do well to remember that as they hover over the tomatoes, with the wonderful luxury of taking 15 minutes to choose the perfect one.

But, beyond simple and basic common courtesy, the reason even child-loathers should be respecting children is this: They may be children now, but they will one day be grown. They will vote for the governments that will determine your finances and care in old age. They may even be a part of those governments. They will train to be the doctors that tend to your medical problems, and the nurses that care for you when you need it. They will be the teachers that educate the generation that follows them. They will be the service providers, the law enforcers, the farmers, the shop workers, the engineers and the scientists that make it possible for society to function. Every aspect of the world in which we will grow into old, old age will be shaped and affected by the contributions and decisions of those that are children today.

Children are shaped by their environment and experiences. If they are met with negativity every time they leave the house – just for being children – what kind of view of the world will they have, and how will that shape their contributions to society in future? Why on earth would they want to help other people, when other people are just mean?

Don’t get me wrong, if I’m out and about with my children, I don’t expect the world to parent them for me. I spend every minute of every day doing that job, thanks, and that was my choice. But, I expect the world not to dismiss them just because they are children. I expect the world not to think the worst of them just because they are children. Yes, there are troublesome children in the world, just as there are troublesome adults – but don’t assume my child is one of them. You may, after all, find yourself needing their help one day.

Over the past nine years, I have honed and perfected a standard response to the kind of person that gives me a dirty look for having the sheer audacity to take a child to the supermarket.

“Don’t worry,” I say with a warm smile, “I’m busy raising these children to be much more tolerant than you are, so your future is in safe hands. You’re welcome.”

What do you think?

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