In our North American society, children are often considered to be annoyances in air travel, restaurants, grocery stores, and even when they are quietly feeding. I think that as a parent, now used to life with young children, I have far more tolerance than I might have had when I was child-less. In fact, it barely even registers with me that a child is making loud crying noises unless it is the specific crying that I recognize as one of my children. But even still, I freely admit that I can empathize with some of the sentiment behind these movements.
So a piece in Saturday’s Globe & Mail by Bruce Kirby caught my attention. Kirby’s writing is almost poetic, and describes why traveling with young children is a rewarding experience. It was this one section that really struck me:
Take an infant to Buenos Aires, or Kathmandu, or Siem Reap, or any foreign land where children are woven through the strands of daily life. Here strangers will ceaselessly approach — poking, tickling and whispering to the baby — without so much as a sideways glance at you. [...] Within days, the infant has learned to seek the attention of strangers, basking in their affection.
To watch the process in reverse is heartbreaking. Board a plane bound for Canada with an infant, and the collective aversion of eyes is obvious. Ditto for walking into a restaurant once home. The child, of course, will continue to wave and coo at strangers in cafes and supermarkets, although far fewer will return the attention. Eventually, the baby gives up.
Isn’t this perspective, from the point of view of the infant, interesting?
Even though most of us will never be — or even aspire to be — the intrepid travellers that the Kirby family is, the article is definitely worth a read. You can access it in full here.