The next time you’re at the store, I want you to count how many times you apologize for your children.
That “I’m sorry” is powerful. It says, “Children don’t belong here. The natural child is bad. One completely unnecessary unit of shame for both of us please.”
I run down grocery aisles sometimes. “Oh, I’ll be right back babe, I forgot the avocados.” (Silly example, I would never forget avocados.) When I run down that produce aisle you know what happens? Absolutely nothing. No scene is created. No one cares. No apologies are given. “Excuse me. Could you pass me a bag please? Thank you.” (See, I am polite.)
When a child runs down a grocery aisle, I hear a whole lotta, “Sorry! Oh gosh, I’m so sorry. Sorry. Sweetie, there are other people here.” So let’s get some things straight:
- The world belongs to all of us – children included. In other words, children have every right to exist in public space. When you apologize for their presence, you tell them and everyone around you that it is not acceptable for children to be here.
- The natural child is perfectly okay. In other words, skipping, giggling, crying, questioning, touching, falling, dropping, resting, etc. are all normal, healthy, and good. When you apologize for the normal, healthy way children are, you tell them and everyone around you that it is not acceptable for children to be who they are, which is different in some ways from adults.
- People cannot hold space and realistic expectations for children if we apologize for their existence at every turn. People will be open and accepting of children when we are – as parents we have to lead here.
You have nothing to be sorry for. You do a great disservice to your children, yourself, and society when you apologize for them. Following this to its logical end, what would society’s ideal be? If everything a child naturally does is bad and unwelcome, including merely existing, then children just shouldn’t exist. This is obviously not going to happen. One big word for you here: Childism. This phenomenon of apologizing for children in public at every turn is a manifestation of childism: “a prejudice against children on the ground of a belief that they are property and can (or even should) be controlled, enslaved, or removed to serve adult needs.”
Don’t want to change the world for the better for your children? Then don’t shift for that. Do it because your children will be happier, you will be happier, all the people around you will be happier, and your days will be easier. You see, shaming them and yourself doesn’t make them older, it just makes life harder. Your focus shifts from trying to control and diminish your children for fear of judgment to trying to be happy with them.
And wouldn’t you know it, I’ve discovered that that is actually the key to everyone’s happiness: Be confident and be happy. Boom. That’s it. That’s all the magic you need. When I skip through an airport with my kids singing, no one is snarling – they are smiling. They are smiling because I am smiling and my children are smiling. Joy is contagious.
If a spill happens, calmly and slowly work with your child, teaching them how to clean it – what a perfect learning opportunity. If your baby cries on an airplane, love on them proudly. If your child squeals so loudly it hurts people’s ears, build some empathy by saying, “Oh that was so loud it hurt my ears. Let’s be excited a little quieter until we get back outside.” You see, being accepting of children is not the same thing as being permissive and raising selfish assholes. I can show them how to be considerate without shaming them.
Is an apology evil? Of course not. I do apologize for things sometimes. The other day I walked backward into someone while studying the contents of a shelf too intensely. “Oh sorry, are you okay?” I apologize for accidentally hurting someone or unintentionally impeding on their rights. People don’t have the right to not be in the presence of children, so that doesn’t qualify. My favorite example is breastfeeding in public. I would never apologize for feeding my child. People don’t have the right to never be uncomfortable (and nursing in public normalizes it – making more people comfortable around it).
Still need a more concrete filter? Ask yourself, would a man apologize if he did this (women and our god damn over apologizing, right?)? If a man had a brilliant idea he would walk right up to a group of people and share it – no apology necessary. If your child does that do you apologize? Hint: No. “Oh you have a big idea and I’m so excited to hear it. This woman is almost done telling me which way to go and then I want to hear all about it.”
So how many times did you apologize for your children in public today? Let’s not. Let’s choose confidence and happiness instead. We’ll send the message that children belong here just as they are and life will be easier.
“I took my kids to Costco today. I caught myself saying sorry 3 freaking times! My kids were playful, running, and even, gasp, being curious. I shifted gears and wore my confidence and dared to be great today. I left skipping and my kids were a 1,000xs happier.”
“Tried this yesterday. At Target with they’re massive wide isles. My 3y old wanted to run up/down the isles, kind of circling around me. His dialogue was “I’m an express subway train! I’m a fast runner!” I felt such joy hearing what was going on inside him. “Allowing” him the freedom to do that, also gave him the freedom to say what he felt. Thanks for this post.”