Wednesday, January 16, 2013
A few weeks ago at church, something happened that I found kind of upsetting.
Firstly, since I'm an atheist with bad experiences with religion, I go to church to support my parents and have contact with my community. I always wait downstairs until services are over, then chat with people afterwards.
Children who attend church also tend to hang out downstairs, because their need for activity and noise is less disruptive (though they still need to keep noise down so they can't be heard upstairs). Sometimes we have Sunday School activities for them, other times they just play freely. Sometimes no children show up at all (most of the congregation is over 65).
This particular time, there were three boys, two brothers and a cousin. One was 6, one was 5 and one was 4. I was quite enjoying watching them play hide-and-seek, because I'd noticed an intriguing difference between how the oldest boy played and how the younger two did. The younger two always hid in the same spot, and found it hard to avoid giggling as the older boy came looking. But when one of the younger boys was 'it', the older one would hide in a different spot, and would stay quiet. He also picked better hiding spots. This fascinated me because I'd just finished writing a paper that touched on theory of mind development, and I was speculating on what cognitive milestones affected hide-and-seek skill.
Then came the end of church. Relieved that they no longer had to make an effort to be quiet, the three boys began running in circles while shrieking, while the congregation drank coffee and chatted. I was talking to a couple of my friends in the congregation, trying to share my thoughts on child development, which didn't seem to be very interesting to them. Meanwhile, the noise was interfering with my ability to listen to their replies, and I was getting overloaded.
And then I made the mistake of commenting on this - saying that though I liked kids, I sometimes found the noise they made hurt my head. The guy I was talking to replied sympathetically, calling the kids 'little monsters'.
I was taken aback. Did he think I'd agree with that phrase, just because their sounds hurt my head? Had he failed to notice how happy I was, despite my overload, about the fact that these children were playing and enjoying themselves?
And this got me thinking. Why is it that our society is so negative towards children? Why is it considered permissible to make derogatory comments about children, simply because they need to move and make noise?
I get this kind of thing a lot. I have hypersensitive hearing, so I often find noise overloading. But when I make the mistake of identifying a child's noise as a source of overload, people assume I'm OK with anti-child statements.
The truth is, I love kids! I feel a sense of joy when I see a happy child. I find it really fun to play with a kid, or even just watch them play. Sure, when the noise level gets too high it starts to hurt, but if it's happy noises, that pain is tempered by happiness that the kid is happy.