Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Invasion of Space

Let's get something straight. You may think your kids are the cutest creatures on the planet and I won't argue with you, but please don't assume that I share the same thoughts. Why do some parents think that everyone sees their kids through the same adoring eyes that they do? Lot's of people tell me that my kids are cute. Strangers give my kids compliments all the time, but I never assume that those people actually want to hang out with my kids. From a distance my kids are cute, but up close they are just gross little germ infested kids. I love them and I don't mind their sweat and snot, but I would never assume anyone else wants to be subjected to that. I've seen and recognized the horrified look in my child-less brother and his wife's eyes when my filthy children come racing towards them to give them a big sticky hug. I get it, but why do so many parents not get it?

A case in point: My husband, my 3 year old, and I were sitting by ourselves watching my 5 year old's t-ball game. A little boy we've never seen before toddled over to my 3 year old's chair and stood there staring at him. At first, we all said "Hi", trying to be polite, but my 3 year old was not interested in this kid being so close to him. The toddler crept into my 3 year old's personal space and started leaning on his chair. My 3 year old said "No" a few times and looked horrified. Then, I noticed the stream of snot rolling out of this kid's nose. A second later the coughing began. My husband and I looked around to see who this little monster belonged to and we located the dad sitting a short distance away watching with delight that his little boy was "making a friend". The snot kept rolling and the little boy started grabbing for my 3 year old's water bottle. By this point, my husband and I were staring down the dad hoping he took a hint that maybe we weren't enjoying his kid's company. When my 3 year old started crying because the snotty little boy wouldn't stop trying to take his water bottle, we finally had to take action. We had to ask the dad to please take his son back over to his area. We shouldn't have to ask, should we?

It seems to me there are certain "social rules" regarding how we interact in public and the general respect of personal space. As adults, if a stranger approached us and stood staring at us or grabbed for our food, this would not be okay. We would ask them to leave, walk away, or maybe even call security. So, why would we allow our children to bother strangers, even if they are other children? Sure, children don't know any better. They don't understand that the whole world isn't actually their playground and that not everyone is their friend. I'm not suggesting that we strip children of their innocence, but parents do need to set up some boundaries. Your children may be social invalids, but as parents (and adults) you should not be. If your child is obviously bothering someone, it is time to step in.

This past weekend my 3 year old was accosted again. Maybe he is just that cute? The four of us were sitting by the Art Museum steps listening to free live music and eating water ice when another little toddler came waddling up to us. The mother was following close behind, but made no attempt to steer him out of our direction. He went right for my 3 year old. The child's mother actually said, "Oh, you're making some new friends", as the toddler tried grabbing my 3 year old's water ice. Yuck! My 3 year old was visibly upset. The mother finally grabbed the toddler, but only after he tried for a second time to get his drool covered hands on the water ice. Did it really need to go that far? I do think that this should just be an understanding among parents. Am I wrong?

So, just to be clear, personal space surrounds all people, big and small. If I see your child and I invite them to come sit with us, or offer them some of our food, then we're cool. If your child toddles over to us and we say "Oh, its okay", then you can let your kid hang out with us. But really, unless there is an invitation, please reel your child back in. In return, I promise to continue to do the same. You will not be subjected to my kid's dirty hands, snot, or general invasion of space. I will continue to keep them on a short leash. Yes, there is a grace period because kids can be fast. But please know, that I never assume that you are as happy to see them as we are.

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