05 August 2008

Won't Someone Think of the Children?

Ken Jennings, the Wonder Boy, has a new post on his blog about an impending trip he and his family are about to embark upon. Most of the post is posted below:

"I hereby apologize to anyone flying an afternoon Delta flight from Sea-Tac to Salt Lake City today. It’s right during Caitlin’s usual naptime, and I predict trouble. Squirming if not squeaking. Hopefully no squawking or squealing. Something that starts with “s-q” anyway.

"Which reminds me: how people react to a screaming baby on a plane is, I sometimes think, a perfect mirror of the human soul. People who smile ruefully and try to help out the poor bedraggled parents are The Good. (Guess what, genius: the parents are typically more unhappy and stressed than you are about the situation, not less.) People who make a big show of scowling and rolling their eyes and otherwise venting at the parents are The Bad.

"People who stop the poor parents on the way off the plane and tell them what terrible people they are, as once happened to my sister-in-law, are The Ugly."

What do you call people who only scowl to themselves, offer no help at all, and alternate thoughts between "I'm so glad that's not me and my kid" and "Please kill me now before I take an innocent child's life"? Moderately attractive and vaguely unhelpful?

Children perplex me. Even growing up I was never a fan of kids. Babysitting was torture. Babysitting jobs usually wound up with me pretending a lethal intruder had broken in and was ransacking the children's homes. If I liked the kids, I finally let them in on the joke before I left. I didn't typically like the kids.

Since having obtained children of my own, I've relaxed somewhat around their kind. I have a vague idea of what they want, but even that is fleeting at times. I still have no idea what to talk to them about. After taking a cursory inventory of their immediate interests and pets, my mind is thoroughly depleted of ideas and I turn the topic towards the economy (which usually results in the outcome I'd initially prayed for: that they'd go away and play by themselves). "Playtime" with a child feels oddly like how I imagine waterboarding to feel like. Any positive opinion of any of the children I presently know has been gradually earned on a strictly case-by-case basis; absolutely no free passes allowed just because a creature is short and cute. I barely tolerate my own children for crying out loud and Society demands that I love everyone else's too? That's just asking too much.

Naturally, I know enough to keep children out of danger and have their physical and medical needs met. I am surprisingly patient when it comes to teaching them and other academic-like endeavours. Aside from that, I know that children in general are plotting and conspiring against me to drive me towards new levels of crazy. The perfect child, to me, is one who doesn't demand that I entertain him or her constantly (or at all, but I know that's impossible), keeps to himself, doesn't destroy anything, and asks as few questions as possible. Essentially what I'm looking for is a middle-aged midget.

So watching parents struggling with their own children on a flight doesn't bring out the kindest thoughts in me, but I don't hate them for it. I pity them with all I can muster, but I pity myself even more. Unless a parent asked me directly, or unless the child was in danger in some way, I cannot even fathom offering to help in a situation like that. The most you would ever get out of me would be a polite smile followed by me going back to whatever it is I was doing before your child kicked me. If I've ever helped you willingly with your child, without being asked (and even when I have been asked come to think of it), it is because I adore you and I'm willing to sacrifice every shred of sanity to see to your happiness.

You're welcome.


Trina said...

Interestingly, I also posted on my blog about children on flights ...

I've been meaning to post some comments on your blog for forever, but just haven't had the chance. Your commentary on the Twilight stuff has made me laugh SO hard, and made me even more firm in my resolve to never read those books just on principle.

Misty D. said...

Essentially what I'm looking for is a middle-aged midget.

LITTLE PEOPLE, Abby. They like to be called "little people."

But I love you enough to never ask you to tend to my kids.

Abby said...

Right, because what I'm going for here is PC-ness. Dork.

And thank you for not asking me to babysit your non-existent kids.

And your post Trina, and my post are still in harmony. I don't mind if they're on my flight. I just don't want anything to do with them.

Abby said...

Oh, and you wouldn't read Twilight ever? Even for Spegs? 'Cause I know how totally tight you two guys were.... :)

Anonymous said...

I think people who take their children on a flight (during their normal naptimes) are selfish.

There should be rules about flying with children, Ugh!

Abby said...

And what would those rules be?

Ryann said...

I so agree on many levels here. But I'll focus on not knowing what to do with the kids. I do not like playing with kids-there I said it. Not mine , not any one else's. Like you said, I just want them to go off and play by themselves. Thank goodness I have three so that they play with each other rather than me!

Danny and Rachel said...

well well well, so you adore me abby? i am so touched! and how do i know that you adore me? b/c you willingly offered to let aurora come to your house and play when we were in the big moving process. i feel so priviledged to be in your good graces and i appreciate you giving up your sanity to help with mine :) i miss you my friend.

Abby said...

I do adore you, and I miss you as well.

I never, ever offer to watch a kid unless I absolutely mean it. You shoulda taken me up on my offer. :)

Alyson (New England Living) said...

Ha, you totally captured my view of kids too. I think God knows this too well, but I'm constantly being called to be a primary teacher. He's trying to teach me something!

Reminds me of a Denis Leary line: "Living with children, is like living with drunken midgets". I could not agree more!