Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

It Got Me Thinking…About Those People June 12, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

Last night I attended a production of Beauty and the Beast at an elementary school. First of all, I was knocked out by the stage presence, talents, and enthusiam of the young performers (mostly nine and ten-year-olds, I think). Second, it was a hoot being part of the audience. I was there as a supportive aunt, alongside parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins, and friends of all ages. We cheered every entrance, laughed and applauded mid-scene, gave the cast a thunderous standing ovation, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. It was riotous, rambunctious, and so much fun.

Considering the context, I found it interesting that the couple seated in front of us shot daggers at our row whenever my young nephew piped up. “That was HILARIOUS!” he’d say, in response to a character’s funny line or expression. “Did you see the salt and pepper?” he asked, during the big “Be Our Guest” musical number. It seemed each time he had something to say, Those People turned abruptly in their seats and shot us The Look.

Come on, people! We were surrounded by cranky babies, chatting adults, and distracted children (tantrum in the side aisle, anyone). It was noisy, it was chaotic, it was fun! This wasn’t a Shakespeare tragedy performed by revered actors. This was kids, doing the unexpected things kids do, surrounded by an audience of kids (young and old) who behaved…well…appropriately.

Shushing my nephew and occasionally covering his mouth didn’t diminish the noise around us, and also didn’t put an end to The Looks. I caught myself thinking, I wonder if they’re childfree? Certainly I’ve been at the receiving end of kicks to the back of my seat and been annoyed beyond reason when a screaming baby drowns out the pivotal speech of an Oscar-worthy performance. (Take the kid outside! Get a sitter!) I’ve given The Look, too. But not here, not now. I don’t want to be one of Those People, who give people-who-happen-to-be-childfree a bad rap, who perpetuate the stereotype that “childfree” is the equivalent of “child-hater.”

I feel sorry for them. Those People missed the point of the evening. While they grimaced and frowned, the rest of us created wonderful memories by getting swept up into the total chaos of a kids’ show, with all the goofs, good humor, and, yes, noisiness that comes with it. I wouldn’t have wanted any less.

Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She’s at work on a memoir about her journey to being childfree.


4 Responses to “It Got Me Thinking…About Those People”

  1. loribeth Says:

    As you said — “This wasn’t a Shakespeare tragedy performed by revered actors. This was kids, doing the unexpected things kids do.” I think that couple needs to lighten up a little.

  2. Maria Says:

    I don’t think they were childfree only because the same thing happenned to me recently at my nephew’s musical. I sat with my sister and we were talking about how I was always in the spring pageant, how insuffereable it was to mom, how much better this show was because the kids had talent and the teachers knew enough to lmiit it to 1 hour. A couple in front of us were shooting daggers at us too. I think they were one of those people who are so enamored with their children, so hyperfocused on every little achievement, that they treat them like gods and hate it when everyone around them is less than 100% thrilled.I work at a university and when the kids of these people get here they can’t function 5 minutes without their parents. So that’s my two cents on “those people” who have kids. I really don’t think they were childfree so don’t blame it on us.

    Now when kids are having a meltdown at 10:00 at night in a restaurant, I shoot daggers at their parents for being so selfish and dragging their kid out when he/she should be in bed.

    • Mali Says:

      I agree with Maria. I think they had a “little darling” in the show, and wanted 100% of everyone’s attention on him/her.

      I also doubt that a childfree couple would be at such an event. I’ve been to school plays – but as the aunt, or as the friend of the mother – but I don’t think we’ve been as a couple. But perhaps that’s simply because none of our nieces and nephews live here. Ok – scratch that idea that a childfree couple wouldn’t go together.

  3. Quasi-Momma Says:

    Having been involved with children’s theatre in a past life, I am a firm believer these events are meant for the children.It’s there to inspire and excite! Your nephew’s response is exaxtly appropriate. Stage parents don’t get that. It’s like walking through Disneyworld and shushing a child who got excited when Mickey Mouse made an appearence. They were obviously being unrealisitic. It’s all in context.

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