It's hard to win these days. Kids watch too much TV, we're told. But the days when you can send your child outside to just play are long gone, even if you don't live in a state of constant paranoia. The solution for a lot of parents is some kind of organized activity. Say, for instance, youth sports, like the always-popular soccer program.
Welp, even that looks like it's off the table for one group of parents in Canada, who had their kids' toddler soccer program quashed when neighbors insisted that the laughing, happy children presented an unsafe environment at the park they practiced in.
Well, a parkette. Like lots of urban areas, Toronto has little green spaces or pocket parks that are open to the public, and Sportball, which runs a soccer program for kids up to 5 years old, had permission to use one. For about six hours a week, an hour at a time — one that began at 9 a.m. and one that ended by 7 p.m. — a group of toddlers would gather and do the adorable things that toddlers do with soccer balls. They even had little cones to try to dribble around.
The combination of the grating sound of child's laughter and the unspeakable hazard of a few plastic cones had neighbors so up in arms that they complained to the city, and the city kicked the group and the kids out.
Kids can be annoying. Anyone who has a child or two of their own will happily admit that kids can be annoying. It's one of the perks of being a child; it's socially acceptable until a certain age not to have volume control or repeat someone's name 50 times to get their attention. But honestly, kids aren't that annoying. Or at least we've all managed to build up a certain desensitization to their annoying qualities because like it or not, kids are people, and like other people, they have a right to inhabit the world.
We spend most of our lives telling our kids that they'd better learn how to settle their conflicts amicably because they will, one way or another, be required to work with or learn with or share space with people they do not like. Apparently, these folks have never gotten the message. And sure, shouts and giggles can be grating at all hours, but for one hour? Christmas must truly come in July if these neighbors are able to be grinchy about an hour of kids playing.
Kids don't even have the market cornered on irritating behavior. At least not compared to the other people that use public parks. There's the grunting Crossfit burpee crew, dry-humping teens and the occasional yappy dog to contend with. Yet, we let it all slide for the most part because these kinds of activities take place in a public park. Even without organized programs like Sportball, there will always be pickup games of flag football or even cricket if there's space for a pitch. Those also get loud — do these folks run out of their homes with a finger to their lips, shushing every person who uses a park for its intended purpose?
No one is required to like children. No one is obligated to find them cute or go out of their way to accommodate a child's every need. But we all do have to live together. There are ways to live so that you barely have to interact with someone under the age of 30, but buying property next to a public park isn't one of them.
It is one thing to be irritated at a screaming kid in a Michelin-starred restaurant. It's practically unhinged to be up in arms about one in a public park. And if that is the kind of thing that you find intolerable, you might consider keeping it to yourself. The rest of us are trying to teach our children to at least attempt to cohabitate with people they may find irritating, the fun police included.
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