My husband and I decided to celebrate World Childfree Day on Sunday with a visit to Wicker Park. It started out as an outing to downtown proper, but we revised it once we got onto the train. Wicker Park is a very hipster neighborhood, filled with countless little boutiques and shops. And while those shops all seem to conform to another standard that makes me angry (no one carries over a size 16, and few go over 10-12), the neighborhood also boasts a ton of mostly childfree-by-chance independent coffeeshops and restaurants. It's not that kids aren't welcome -- they're just not around.
It was intriguing how many times yesterday we looked at each other and said "Happy Childfree Day!" We said it with almost every child (very few) who crossed our path that day, dragged behind a frustrated parent while whining "I don't wanna shop anymore!"; declaring they didn't want to walk anymore by stopping completely, motivating her mother to just pick her up (this was no small child) and carry her to the car in the parking garage; the teenager who spent the entire train ride (where we were hoping to relax -- the ride to our stop is usually quiet since it's near the end of the route) yapping on her cell phone LOUDLY.
We were just so happy to say "we won't have to deal with that". We got to enjoy our day, go where we wanted, linger in the stores we wanted to linger in, avoid the ones we didn't. When we went with my niece into the city, she got tired of walking and bored very quickly. She was completely disinterested in going into a store if she knew we couldn't afford to buy something for her. We had planned to spend the whole afternoon in the city with the reward at the end of the day being dinner at Grand Lux Cafe, but she didn't want to stay anymore, so we ended up going home and eating at the China Buffet. Instead of the day being at all about what *we* wanted to do, there was no compromise (unless we wanted to deal with a public display of "don't wanna be here") -- it revolved around her because we wanted to avoid a scene. It made me understand a bit why some parents just let their kid make a scene, but those never end up well either, because then the focus turns, more often than not, to appeasing the child and rewarding the scene. The mother who picks up her stubborn child who just won't walk the one remaining block to the car, the dad who buys his son whatever he's crying about just to make him stop crying. There's just no way around it, really.
Who wants to be in that position anyway, deciding if it's best for the child to give them what they want or to deny them and "make them stronger". Either way you face public ridicule, and I know I would constantly obsess about what would screw up my child less, how each action would affect the child in the future. Who needs that kind of stress? We don't.
So yesterday we celebrated, and I think we did the pseudo-holiday justice. We ate at a kitchy restaurant with no kid's menu and loud punk music playing, browsed too long in noisy and crowded Reckless Records, bought some artisan soaps and cleansers and chatted with the owner and her father for awhile, and sat outside a cafe eating delicious vegan zucchini bread. It was a great day and it really did serve to remind us of all we have, all that our lifestyle affords us. That's pretty special.