Last weekend, while waiting for our flight in a nearly empty airport terminal, K-Man and a (I’m guessing) four-year-old girl started playing together. They were running around, playing tag, chasing each other, and for the most part, staying out of people’s way (with the occasional misstep). No surprise, but I really enjoyed watching him engage and interact with his new and fleeting friend. Needless to say, the feeling in the terminal wasn’t necessarily the same.
When kids play, it seems there are a few different kinds of adult gawkers. (Granted, this depends on how the kids are playing, but for the sake of argument, let’s just say kids are running around, but not screaming or anything like that.) In the case of K-Man and his little friend, the terminal was filled with a wide variety of preschool watchers:
- Parents: These people have kids who may be younger or older, but in any event, they know, or remember what it was like to have little kids running around in their houses (or on their own vacations). The parents tend to look upon eager, energetic kids with great affection. They aren’t bothered by a little energy and action. They may even engage the kids.
- Older Parents: These people have kids who are now likely grown up. They may or may not be grandparents yet. They are just glad to have hyper, yappy children out of their everyday lives. They couldn’t be less enamored with the sounds of laughter, or the occasional scream.
- Never-Been Parents: Ah, yes…the people who get annoyed by the sight of ANY kid of ANY age, but get especially pissed by the happy kid. These people react to kids the same way non-smokers react to a room full of smoke. You’d think these people thought being around happy, hyper kids had some kind of secondary-smoke-like effect that could damage their health. These folks go out of their way to make sure the kids stop having fun and also try their best death-stares on the parents.
- Wanna-Be Parents: You know the whimsical look that these people give. While K-Man was playing there was a woman (with her very mean-looking boyfriend/ husband/whatever who couldn’t be bothered by her or the kids running around) who just stared at the two kids. It was obvious she wanted to have one of her own (or so it seemed). These people, perhaps more than any of the others, really celebrate the play of young kids.
Like many parents, I wasn’t particularly fond of loud, unruly kids before K-Man came along. But, as you learn more about having kids and you experience the joy of watching your own kid run around without a care in the world, I think it’s fair to say that you gain a certain tolerance. (That isn’t to say that I’m a big fan of clearly misbehaving children whose parents have no interest in or control of their actions. But, that’s about the parents…not the kids.)
As a result, I’m always fairly surprised when kids' play (literally) leads to stares, dirty looks and even snide comments. (Again…because the world requires PC caveats, I’m talking about kids playing -- not doing any damage, not being overly aggressive and loud -- just playing.) And, I’m especially surprised when such looks and comments come in locations like airport terminals. We’re not talking libraries here. It’s not like the loud, booming announcements every 30 seconds aren’t causing enough distractions. (Oh, and let’s not forget about the self-important businessman on his cell phone, or the angry traveler guy. Those two make more noise than even the worst tantrums.)
It’s the holidays. And there are enough stresses already. Maybe the kids have it right. Play.