A Reader Writes in Defense of Kids

Published December 9, 1982. Susan was right. A few columns back I wrote an article suggesting that children in Utah sometimes become unruly in public places. My wife said I would get a lot of response from the mail, and I did. Everyone agreed with me. Everyone, that is, except Gloria Hubble from Bountiful. Gloria was the only one who took exception with what I wrote.

So in the name of journalistic fairness, here is what she wrote in behalf of the children.
“DEAR DR. BARLOW:  I was interested in your concern that Utah is becoming infamous for its unruly children. My husband and I have lived in a number of different places, and our conclusion is that kids misbehave in other areas as much as they do in Utah.

“I don’t think it is really too hard to understand why children misbehave in public, especially when such places are meant mainly for adults. After all, what is in it for them? Take, for example, the church dinners you referred to. Visualize this scenario.

“You and your family are invited to a ‘family’ dinner at your church. As you enter the room where the dinner is to be served, you notice that all of the tables are low, just right for your children. The chairs are also small. The food served is peanut butter sandwiches and Jell-O. The children will set the table manners standard. And the entertainment for the evening is Big Bird and Cookie Monster.

“You are very uncomfortable sitting on the little chair under the low table. But you are expected to sit still and enjoy your food even though you really do not like it. Above all, you are not to complain. Of course, it is understood that you should not talk to other adults and especially not try to have a good time with them. After all, it might disturb the children and spoil their fun even though you are bored to death.

“It would, however, be rewarding for your children to tell you how well you behaved and what a good Mom or Dad you were. The only problem is you thought it was supposed to be a ‘family’ dinner and you thought you were part of the family. Obviously, it turned out to be just for the children. Each church dinner you were invited to turned out just the same way. I wonder how long you would tolerate it before you misbehaved.

“I would agree with you that if a function is meant only for adults, children should probably not attend. If, however, the function is meant for families, then it should be geared toward the children in the family at least as much as it is for the adults. Actually, they should be geared more toward the children because adults hopefully have a higher level of tolerance. While adults can generally understand something given on a child’s level, children very often cannot understand much of what is presented on an adult level.

“The real issue here, I believe, is this: Are children really human? Are they important? Do their feelings count? I am convinced that the world will be a better place when we finally listen to them as we expect them to listen to us. In addition, we should make an effort to understand them just as we expect them to try to understand us.

“And perhaps we should try and get down on their level a little more. I have observed that when we bend down to a child, the child is still reaching up to us. Maybe we could bend just a little bit more.”
Gloria’s point is well stated, and she gives a balance to our perspective. I have no argument with her. Come to think of it, Big Bird, Cookie Monster, and peanut butter sandwiches really might add an exciting dimension to our next church dinner.

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