Let them cry
On traveling with crying babies, Elon Musk's dreams of Mars, and the problem with anti-natalism
Occasionally a news article or social media post will put a spotlight on a story of how some young parent carrying a small child managed to placate the other passengers on an airplane with gift bags and earplugs. Pinterest is full of ideas for how earnest parents can make these "apology bags", a practice that has gone on for at least ten years in some circles.
■ Airplanes are a special case, of course, since they combine high stimulus intensity (most especially including sustained loud noises and uncomfortable pressure changes that can cause pain to little ears) with the impossibility of escape. But similar issues arise in churches with or without "cry rooms", in neighborhoods near playgrounds and schools, and in workplaces where parental responsibilities sometimes conflict with job needs.
■ If you don't reflectively respond to the presence of children with at least a slight air of joy, then you probably should join Elon Musk and find a different planet to live on. Some people can't have children, and other people don't want to have them. But as a species, we need them. And that means that unless you possess such a dim view of civilization that you want to see humans become extinct, then we all have to make some accommodations for children being present in our lives.
■ There may be more no more indefensible belief than adherence to negative population growth or anti-natalism. There has never been a better time, on average, for a child to have been born into this world than right now. If we have any of our wits about us, then that will remain true for every subsequent cohort of children to come.
■ Every public policy doesn't have to be written "for the children", as people so often say. The kinds of people who propose things "for the children" oftentimes have their own adult self-interest much higher in mind. But every policy should be aimed at assuring that the world will be a much better place 20 or 30 years from now.
■ The median age in America is about 38 years, and the actuarial tables give the average 38-year-old another 40 to 45 years to live. Thus, the majority of us have a vested self-interest in making sure the world of the future is better than the one of the present. What is actually good for children is good for the rest of us, too.
■ And there should be nothing even close to an apology needed for bringing children into the world. It should be the thing that we celebrate most: When people choose to show the optimism that they will see a better world ahead and into that world bring the hope of a new child. A few cries along the way are a trivial price to pay.