Over the years of running STFU, Parents I’ve noticed an interesting dichotomy in certain submissions. There is a shared attitude among parents that when adults are mean (or, perceived to be mean) to children, the children are victims of ageism. They aren’t treated like real people; they’re treated like half-people (or something). When you’re mean to a child, you’re breaking that child’s spirit — or at least, that’s the general line of thinking. But on the other extreme end of this debate are a bunch of parents who complain about “old people,” who are ironically the same folks parents are accusing of being mean to their children.
Maybe it’s because older people and kids tend to visit the same places around the same times of day. The library, the park, and even the McDonald’s Playplace are all popular hangouts among both children and geriatrics. And everyone’s always saying that once you get old (the exact definition of which I’m unsure of, since my 90-year-old grandmother has a more active social life than I do), you revert back to being a baby. But by “baby” people don’t mean you become a playful, inquisitive little person who enjoys bright colors. They mean you crap your pants, are whiny and eventually might need someone to take care of you.
The thing I’ve noticed about this dichotomy is that while most parents get very upset if you offend or hurt their child’s feelings in any way, they have no problem whatsoever trash talking all the old people. Sure, there’s a defense mechanism there, i.e. whoever does the offending (old people) will bear the brunt of a parent’s complaining, but sometimes I think the complaints go a little too far or are just plain unnecessary. If a person’s goal is to expect – nay, demand! – respect for their children by others, I think it’s only fair to respect everyone else in return. Or at least not wish terrible things on them. Here are some examples to give you an idea of what I mean.
1. Old People + Kids’ Toys
In this instance, I think it’s safe to say the older woman was probably saying what everyone else was thinking. Especially since another woman agreed with her once she spoke up. Electronics – or as some people call them, “technoligal gizmos” – have obviously changed the dynamic between how parents of an older generation engage with today’s younger parents and their kids, and I think that’s going to continue to happen for at least one more generation. The fact is, waiting in line at the post office is annoying enough without listening to a child’s high-pitched game, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out. It just takes an old lady with chutzpah to say it out loud.
2. Waste Of Oxygen
“Waste of oxygen” is a pretty nasty insult when it’s not aimed at a person who’s going to die in the next decade, but when it is, it’s downright cruel. We’ve all met some grumpy old people, and maybe this woman falls into that category. OR, maybe she just comes from a generation of people who always let the older riders exit an elevator before any antsy kids. Either way, we’re talking about a single ride on an elevator here. Wouldn’t it be easier for this mother to put it out of her mind and move on rather than maintain a fever pitch of hostility?
YIKES. Nora is not only indulging in a little Facebook trashing, but she’s tacked on a photo, as well! So that everyone can see the “old hag” who shouldn’t be “let out of her cage.” Again, this woman might be as mean and ignorant of “a child’s spirit” as an evil substitute teacher, but c’mon, cut the lady some slack. She’s out with her granddaughter, she’s old and she’s survived a lot more in this lifetime can one can possibly understand without knowing her. Sometimes kids grab things out of people’s hands and fuss, too. Why not just chalk it up to the woman not knowing any better (like you would a child), and relax? It’s just lunch.
5. Woe Is Mom
I don’t really know what to say about this one. Once you type the words “let her die” about a perfect stranger who, for medical reasons, bypassed your child in line at the ER, you should probably just cancel your Facebook account. Heather has officially strayed into “crazy” territory. Poor old lady with the possible heart attack. By age 172 I’m guessing life must be pretty unbearable even when you don’t have a 102.9°F fever. Let’s hope everyone made it out of this one alive.