What does it mean to be Child Friendly? Community, Conflict, and Mindful Action

I had an interaction at a local (and very hip) shopping market. My then 2 year old picked up a silicone Popsicle container and put the edge of it in his mouth.  They are on ground level– bottom shelf. I was turned away from him, right beside him, looking at the bread. His older brother was at the milk cabinet picking out yogurt. I looked down, saw E with the pop container, and replaced it in the bin.

When I got to the other side of the store, a manager came to me and asked me to purchase the silicone container as well as the other one that had been in the bin.

I am not good with conflict. And I was so surprised that all I could say was “but he only put one in his mouth.” I was told that because I had returned it to the bin I had contaminated them all and had to buy them.

They are not expensive– I think the 2 of them cost me $5 , but I was so offended and upset by the event. I ended up writing them an email about it, because the event taped into my general issue with the culture around children in public. My perspective was that the response to what happened was directly related to the fact that a child had done this.

I once broke a jar of pickles in the same store. I was carelessly racing to get in and out of the store and hit the jar with my bag. The manager told me it was fine, don’t worry. No problem. I was then, sort of appalled recently, that I was asked to purchase an item that is not perishable nor packaged because my son’s lips had touched it. In my mind, and to my understanding, any item not packed and used to put food in, will be washed once purchased and is not ruined by a mouth.

You see, my mind went this way (and I do not find it irrational): the moment was seen as a misbehaving child, or inattentive parent, who needed to be punished (whether consciously or not). My much more careless visit that resulted in a broken jar of pickles was treated with a sense of “it’s okay.” On one hand, I totally get the need to make sure parents don’t let their children disrespect a space. However, I have been in the store, at times, every day of the week with both children and nothing has happened. The one time one son puts a nonperishable item to his lips, I am asked to purchase it. It felt like a subconscious issue with children.

In our culture, sadly, even the most liberal and progressive of folks, often really only want a child present if he/she is well behaved. However, well behaved children are not necessarily good citizens. Children need to understand respect and respect for others and for community– that is the principle I cofounded a school on. But well behaved moments are not a measure of whether or not children are respectful members of society. Children can behave for many reasons– and sometimes not at all out of respect .


© Traci Childress, 2014


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