When my mother was asked if she liked children, she used to say carefully ”Well, I like mine (my sister is 13 years older than me)”.
So the way is clear (I hope) for me to say that children are people and you don’t like them all. Still less do you like what their parents make of them, power being an important component of adult/child relationships – as is made horribly clear by the rash of re-examined stories of child abuse, explicitly sexual and other.
As a child on a bus, I was taught to stand up for adults, especially the elderly, incapacitated or laden – but basically any adult had a greater right to a seat than me.
And I wonder when the changeover occurred because now it is standard for people to sit children down, to stand themselves (their privilege) but to leave them sitting even though entitled others may stand. Over the years I have seen a man offer a seat to a woman to be refused gracelessly,, ie “I’m as good as you !” though I fear that if you spend your life saying you’re as good as the other fellow, you probably aren’t.
I’ve stood up for an elderly man and been nicely refused, I have stood for an incapacitated man and been rewarded with a dazzling smile. (We then discussed what he was wearing – he was heartliftingly elegant.) Bus travellers come in all shapes, sizes and conditions and the bus is the modern day equivalent of steerage.
People can negotiate with each other, well or badly, and fashions change but in the past if you had a small child, for your own convenience and everybody else’s, your buggy was designed to fold.
It is no longer so.
Baby buggies have improved out of all recognition. They are a better height for the pushing person’s back, the child may face outward to see the world or inward at a better angle (see DW Winnicott “mirroring” where the baby or small person looks at the adult’s face and learns). There are double decker buggies, older child underneath in the equivalent of the lower bunk, younger child more easily accessible in the upper part. My favourite had a small child in the top and the most beautiful dogue de Bourdeaux (see Turner and Hooch) puppy in the bottom – dream contents.
The poor animal was called Prada!
But baby buggies have got bigger and there is a whole strand of consumerism based on “mine’s bigger than yours” so young parents vie with each other to have the most expensive expansive method of transporting their offspring – to the detriment of the rest of us. Some are so large they look as if they need a licence.
This is an extension of a really nasty trend which suggests that parents – sometimes male but mostly female – pushing offspring are The Most Important People in the World, “get out of my way, I am a Mother!” being their motto. Mumsnet has much to answer for. The bus companies have notices asking buggy pushers to make way for the disabled and of course, a nice buggy pusher is like any other pleasant person – they are considerate. But they are in the minority.
London’s new buses have less buggy room which may be some sort of convoluted effort to make room for wheelchair users but the net result is that two buggy users (three is I think the maximum allowed on a bus) will compete to pack themselves in to the detriment of anybody else in a five mile radius. Bus drivers are a fine example of one person doing the work of two: imagine driving a bus and dealing with the passengers. So the driver only knows that the buggies must be in their allotted space for safety. And yesterday for the first time while two terribly important people manoeuvred their buggies without much thought except getting the bus, I got off.
On one memorable occasion I did smilingly remark to a young woman that the most important but largely undiscussed environmental issue in the world was over population – but Christmas you know, good will etc.
So come January 1 2015, I shall be writing to London’s hugely publicised mayor Boris Johnson to tell him to preplan single decker buses with no seats and a large “B” prominently displayed fore and aft, for buggies only, so that the rest of us cam live, share the space with wheelchairs and shopping trolleys and behave like people.
Oh and a Happy New Year to you too.