17 May 2010

Apparently, I Hate You All

Originally Uploaded to flickr by InspirationDC

So, a few weeks ago, I got a call from a Washington Post reporter, Annys Shin, regarding some comments I had made on a Greater Greater Washington post regarding strollers on the Circulator. We chatted briefly about the challenges and rewards of urban parenting and then I more or less forgot about the conversation until yesterday morning, when I checked my e-mail and found a good dozen or so messages. At 6:30 am. On a Sunday. It appears that my quote from the interview not only made it into the Post, but the article was on the front page, if perhaps below the fold. With the baby boom in the city, and in my case on Capitol Hill, the uses of public spaces are being redefined, as they do from time to time. It’s an interesting article, but I think some nuance and elaboration is called for.

To start with, let me clear up a little of the language. Ms. Shin quoted me correctly when I said, “I remember really hating people with kids before I had kids,” but I should have been more careful with the word “hate.” It’s a strong word, meant in humor that didn’t convey in the written piece. At most I have been mildly annoyed by the occasional loud kid in an airplane or by a double-wide stroller clipping my ankles in a museum, hardly the stuff of actual passion. I can’t even recall doing, or even saying, anything about it, much less writing a poorly-argued, self-indulgent screed that would make me hang my head in shame and embarrassment should anyone associate my name with it.

But I stand by my underlying point. It’s a boring, old cliche, but quite true: there is no substitute for experience. You know parenthood is going to be work, that you will be physically and emotionally drained, that there will be no let up; but no words can truly describe how much all of this changes your life. Let me simply say that nothing else in your life requires the total abandonment of self as parenthood does. Your life, your wants, even at times your basic needs are subordinate to this other being whom you are totally responsible for and who communicates her wants poorly. Nothing illustrates the naivete of your stereotypical (and hopefully atypical) childless single as Kriston Capps, the author of the DCist piece, who was quoted in the Post article with this gem:

“I don’t hate kids,” Capps said in an interview. “But you know, just like in totally reasonable moderation. Lots of adults can make a great scene at a bar. . . . Lots of kids cannot make a great scene at a bar.”

That’s entirely the point, young Kriston, there is no moderation in child care. Reasonableness is dead for you once your child arrives. Being a parent never ends. Ever. What I wouldn’t give for the luxury and total self-involvement to worry about the “scene” at a bar. Personally, I’m just grateful for a beer and little human interaction with another adult. I wouldn’t trade being a father for anything in the world but I won’t pretend it’s anything but hard work. And like many others, I like to relax with a beer and socialize with my co-workers at the end of the day. Of course, unlike most folks there, my day isn’t over yet.

But for all this, does it really matter? Is this singles versus parents or dog versus children stuff really affecting our existence that much? Highlighting divisions makes a good story, good enough to end up on the front page of the Sunday Washington Post, but it feels somewhat manufactured. Where is all this angst, really? Finding angry comments on blog posts is about as difficult as finding sand on the beach. I can’t speak for all of DC, but in nearly six years of child rearing on Capitol Hill I’ve seen a little of the behavior described in the article, but it’s hardly the norm. Sure, I had some guy make a smart ass comment when I had my oldest in a Snugli at a bar before the smoking ban, but you’re really going to have to turn down that collar before I take you seriously, okay buddy? And my kids have been jumped on by dogs that have been carelessly unattended, but they’re fine and its hardly fair to blame all dog owners for their behavior. By and large, I just don’t see that, “skirmishes have erupted on buses, in parks, on playing fields and in bars”.

The vast majority of us, kids or no kids, dogs or no dogs, beer drinkers or philistines, are just trying to get by in this world and enjoy life as we do so. With a little bit of courtesy and empathy, the overwhelming majority of our interactions will not be as described in the article. Just because it’s on the front page of the Post doesn’t change that.

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  • MZH

    I love this: “What I wouldn’t give for the luxury and total self-involvement to worry about the “scene” at a bar.”

  • Bguz

    Bravo!!! Very well written.

  • Mordecai

    Nicely put. For years I’ve enjoyed reading about the Park Slope stroller wars but can’t help but think it’s all a lot of nothing.

    Plenty of Gen Xers used to frequent hip indie clubs and bars too. I don’t regret spending time with my kid over doing that into my 40s. Even my hipper single friends aren’t much into that. Most of them are too busy working, which is largely why they’re still single.

  • mee moo

    awesome post krepp

    i am single no kids though and i don’t hate the little buggers in fact, i almost WANT one!

  • Tim Krepp

    Thanks, mee moo.

    And any time you want, swing by Peregrine and grab her in the morning.

    Kidding folks! I wouldn’t give my kids away. Not when the resale value is so high…

  • What exactly is the meaning of his quote, anyway?

    Because children can make such great scenes as to cause patrons to actively hate them when they are out and about, obviously.

  • Kyra Deblaker-Gebhard

    Well done, Tim.

    Instead of dogs vs. kids vs. singles, can the new battle be between kick-ass bloggers vs. holier than thou schmucks at the Post vs. idiot bloggers?

  • Tim Krepp

    Maria, damned if I know. Perhaps it’s simply “Because misbehaving children annoy other patrons”? Or is it “Because the kid scene is so awesome that other patrons are jealous of them”?

    Honestly, deconstructing Kriston Capps is so not in the job description.

  • SusieRod

    You may hate me, Tim, but I luuuuuuuv you.

  • Sounds good, Suz, but then again I’m fairly drunk right now.

  • “With a little bit of courtesy and empathy, the overwhelming majority of our interactions will not be as described in the article.”

    Courtesy and empathy, what a concept! I hang out at what I consider a “family friendly” bar – it’s near the Zoo, so families stop in after a day there all the time. I think people at the bar don’t mind the kids unless they are misbehaving inordinately — and then they “hate” the parents, not the kids. Of course, the reverse is true too – parents “hate” the patrons if they’re misbehaving inordinately too! But then, so do the other bar patrons… 😉

  • topher
  • I feel your pain! Several years ago, I was interviewed at an Earth Day event. I was a bit disappointed at the event, as there wasn’t really anything new there, and just about everyone at the event was like me, a good, green hippie–I mean, that’s why we were there, right? So I expressed my disappointment, gave lots of constructive criticism about what I’d like to see there, acknowledged that there were folks who did, indeed, need to know about city recycling and flourescent bulbs and all that, and expressed my overall support of the concept, if not the particular implementation, of Earth Day. Included in my words was something to the effect of “I mean, it’s not like I don’t have anything better to do then come out and get all depressed on a Saturday.” Guess which part made it into the paper?

  • James Standish

    Tim, your piece is substantially better written than the Post piece – and a lot more amusing. Keep on writing in all your spare time…

  • Kirsten

    all this talk really just reinforces the idea that we need to reverse the landmark decision of separation of alcohol and public space. the beauty of traveling through Europe is that you can have a beer anywhere! at the park, along the river, on a bench, and yes, even at the playground. in fact the lack of separation is so pronounced that most bars and restaurants that have any outdoor seating even have a little play area (often nothing more than a slide), where the kids all gravitate towards and therefore leave the rest of the establishment alone! we traveled through austria for 3 weeks and experience total parental bliss. it couldn’t be easier to travel with kids there. kids always had a designated area for play, we could sit and enjoy our meal or beer in peace (yes, even we want to do so without being bothered by the rugrats- even if we adore them), and so could everyone else. We also spent way more money because we stayed way longer, and none of the seats were wasted on high chairs and such- all just adult fully eating/ drinking seats. i know there is a biergarten opening on H street, but i fear it really is just a biergarten in the sense of what adults usually do there, and not in the REAL sense of what all age groups do there… please, please, how do we reverse this terrible separation plaguing our country? Then everyone would be happy, kids, parents, AND singles.

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