Making Our Kids “World-Friendly”

I have mixed feelings about the term “kid-friendly.” I know that for many parents of young kids, these two words are a must. Now don’t get me wrong, I like going to the Play Cafe and I value restaurants that offer highchairs as much as the next person. I’m just not super interested in turning my life into something that’s totally “kid-friendly.”

Since I’m at home with my kiddos, plenty (and I mean plenty) of my life revolves around them- their nap schedules, their hunger, their playtime, etc. I’m glad to do this. I love them. I want their general daily experiences to be low stress and at least a little pleasant. But here’s the thing, I also want those things for myself! And by limiting our outings to only kid-friendly ones (or avoiding outings altogether), I am also limiting the chances that I’ll have a pleasant day. Hmmmm.

So how can we meet somewhere in the middle?

My thought has always been to make my kid(s) more world-friendly, rather than trying to mold the world to be more kid-friendly. All of us grown-ups know that it’s pretty difficult to change the world. It’s difficult to change atmospheres and environments and cultural norms. This isn’t to say that there isn’t room for a many-pronged movement to normalize breast-feeding in public or to make paid family leave a reality across the country- to make changes that are really family-friendly.

But on a much smaller scale, I want my kids to know that different places have different rules and not all of them will allow/encourage them to run around and let all of their energy out. Playgrounds are great for that! Museums are not. But that’s not a reason to skip museums. In the same vein, if we only ever eat at restaurants that have a kids’ menu or offer coloring supplies, we won’t be giving our kids a real sense of the world. At many restaurants, it’s our job to entertain ourselves while we wait for our food and to find something to eat/try something new! These same rules apply to us as grown-ups too.

Helping our kids see that the world is not going to change itself too much to accommodate them is an invaluable life lesson for them. In later life, due dates on schoolwork will have to be adhered to because why wouldn’t they be? If they don’t get the part they wanted in the school play, they’ll just have to live with it. Bummer. They’ll learn that their parents aren’t going to step in and “fix” things for them. There won’t be very much smoothing of the way for them. But they also won’t need it because they’ll be used to the world as it is…not the world as they’d like it to be.

Now some of you may say that taking your kids to places that aren’t explicitly “kid-friendly” means that parental stress levels go up exponentially, so why even put yourselves through that? My response to this is that sometime in the future, you will have to go somewhere that isn’t kid-friendly- a friend’s wedding, church, a doctor’s appointment, etc. When you do, you’ll want your kids to have had as much practice being “world-friendly” as possible. The more practice they get at behaving in places that don’t let them color on the walls, the better! If they never get the opportunity to show some self-control in public, then of course they’ll be bad at it! Give them that chance! Extend a little trust to them and to the general public! Help change the world a little bit by bringing your kids out into it! Make everywhere family-friendly!

Anybody want to join us out in the world? Well, after nap time of course.

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