'Can someone please get us some crayons over here? Please?"
The man was getting desperate. He waved his arms for service. Across the table, his wife opened a pot of raspberry jam and offered up a teaspoon. The infant boy, scrunch-faced and sleepy, was justifiably incensed. He takes a nap in his stroller, only to awake an hour later finding his parents -- a pair of fashionable, sophisticated New York film producers -- in the middle of abusiness meeting. With strangers. On a Sunday!
The boy stopped squirming to slurp up the proffered sweet and then, scanning the table, and seeing it filled with latte cups, omelettes, pens, notebooks and other boring grown-up paraphernalia, reasserted his high-volume outrage.
And who could blame him?
The baby was annoyed at the prospect of having his Sunday hijacked by other people's interests.
Funny thing, I know exactly how he feels.
There is, among members of my generation, a great cultural divide that is threatening to blossom into full-fledged social civil warfare. On one side are the people with children. On the other side are the childless.
In the middle are people like me: Childless people who quite like children and the prospect of having them but don't feel the need to do so any time soon. After watching a few of my friends reproduce in haste -- and the dire effect it had on their emotional and professional lives -- my own reproductive needs have cooled considerably. I'd like to have a baby. Just not right now.
The mounting dispute between the parents and the childless is territorial. As hipster Gen-Xers decide to reproduce in droves, they are refusing to give up the trappings of their unencumbered single lives. The technical term is "integration." They want to have their babies and eat out with them too.
My high-school friend Becca Brown is a case in point. After getting married and having a baby in her late 20s, Becca decided to start a company called Bunch, which she describes as "the brand for the new cosmopolitan family culture."
This cosmopolitan family culture involves cosmopolitans -- literally. Becca and her business partner (another new mom) founded a new monthly event called Family Dance Party. It's a licensed bash, held on a Saturday afternoon (there is one being held today, in fact, at the Drake Hotel in Toronto), which encourages children and parents to party down in an intergenerational manner, complete with cocktails for the grownups and a "milk bar" for the kiddies.
Yes, it's a bit cutesy, but, as Becca points out, "we can't be cloistered simply because we have children."
On the other end of the spectrum is Adrianne Frost. A New York-based comedian and actress, Frost is also the author of I Hate Other People's Kids, a book that describes itself as "a complete handbook for navigating a world filled with tiny terrors -- and their parents."
Frost is part of a growing vocal minority of grumpy grownups who are sick of having their world over run with the sticky offspring of strangers. As she puts it, "Sure children are the greatest gift of all -- but that doesn't mean you want to be seated next to one on an airplane."
In the book, Frost hilariously rails against what she sees as the unspeakably lame and self-indulgent trappings of modern parenthood: kiddie luggage, designer blankies, baby blogs, the use of months, instead of years, to describe another human's age. "Do the math," she quips, "a baby isn't 90 months old."
As the world fills with nanny-staffed restaurant playrooms and private clubs devoted strictly to posh mommies and their coiffed mini me's, it's easy to understand where Frost is coming from. Last weekend, for instance (exactly one week after my kid-jacked business meeting), I was out for brunch with three friends when we noticed something strange. Maybe it was the March Break effect, but the restaurant we were in was brimming with kids. This was not a family restaurant, but a downtown nightspot, complete with marble bar, smoking patio and sullen, black-clad wait staff. It is, in fact, the sort of place parents eventually warn their children not to go to, in the fear they will join the hordes of downtown artist loafer types who sit in cafés all day, swiping free wireless on their iBooks.
Well it appears these loafers have rolled over and reproduced. And like zombies returning to the land of the living, they are sticking to their old routines, come hell or high-smelling diapers.
As my friends and I sat trying to talk over the Romper Room din (complete with kiddie music on the stereo), I began to warm to Frost's cold-hearted point of view.
I might want to get married some day, but that doesn't mean I lust after other people's husbands. In fact, I find the idea of cozying up to married men lame.
So why should I warm to other people's kids just because I might want my own kids one day? Why should I have to put up with the headaches of other people's parenting issues before I have any parenting issues of my own? I am thinking all of this as a toddler at the table next to mine keeps time to Raffi by banging his sippy cup on the marble tabletop. (His mother takes no notice.)
Fleeing the restaurant, I realize Frost's campaign against other people's children is a lost cause. For one thing, the parents have numbers on their side. For another, there is a good chance many of us will eventually cross the field and join their ranks.
As Becca points out, "If there was a war, the people with kids would win hands down, and that's because we're just so much more sympathetic."
Parents should demand decent behaviour from their kids, she says, but the childless need to be tolerant as well. Having your eardrums damaged by a wailing baby in the next airplane seat? Too bad, so sad.
"The world isn't fair," she shrugs. "People who hate other people's kids should just stay home."