Other cultures are so much more welcoming of children; what's wrong with America?
When Alex and I got married due to a lack of family planning (I was pregnant), we had the perfect excuse for doing no wedding planning. There was no time for invitations, guest lists or finding a venue, so we invited only a few people who could fit in our tiny New York City apartment. It was the perfect wedding for us — small and intimate.
But my mother was upset. After years of attending her friends' kids' weddings, buying gifts and throwing them showers, she was being denied payback. She wanted to throw a big wedding to invite everyone who had ever invited her to a wedding and deliberately snub those who hadn't.
Alex and I weren't interested, but since I'm an only child and I thought my mom would die of heartache otherwise, we agreed to a wedding reception in my hometown. I knew from the beginning that this reception had nothing to do with me and everything to do with my mother showing off her new son-in-law to all her friends and dozens of cousins.
Never mind that we didn't know who half the guests were or the fact that none of my mom's friends could even attempt to dance because it would void their new hips' warranty. We were supposed to enjoy the party that was ours in name only.
A few months later, I was faced with a cousin's upcoming wedding. Alex and I planned on going regardless of the cost, hassle, and inconvenience. Family is important to us and we don't often get to see them since we all live in different places now.
We always assumed our one-year-old son would come to the wedding with us, until we received the link to the wedding website. It dawned on me that the bride and groom were young hipsters wanting to throw the party of their lives. My clues: casino, "dress to impress," and hired paparazzi.
My better judgment got a hold of me and I asked which wedding events our son could come to rather than just showing up with him at the door. Turns out, he wasn't welcome at either the ceremony or the dinner reception but he was allowed to show off his gross motor skills and rear his head at the one-hour cocktail reception in between.
I was recommended to reserve a hotel room and a babysitter so I could enjoy the festivities. Well, finding a good babysitter is hard enough as it is without the complication of needing one in a foreign city. With all of my family busy that night because they would be at the wedding, leaving my baby in a hotel room with a complete stranger didn't appeal to me as an option.
Alex offered to look after our son so I could attend the ceremony. The two of them met up with me for the cocktail reception and then left together, forgoing the dinner and dancing. It certainly wasn't what I signed up for when I committed to go, but it's the bride and groom's prerogative how to spend the most expensive day of their lives.
Besides, the last thing I wanted to do was cause family drama because I know firsthand how awful that can turn out. I love these cousins, so we respected their wishes. However, I was quite perturbed when another mama showed up with her baby at the ceremony. I guess I should've asked for forgiveness rather than permission.
It seems that other cultures are so much more welcoming of children at restaurants, weddings, and public places. What has happened to our society that children are an afterthought at best, or seen as obnoxious uninvited guests at worst?
When we visited family in Argentina, every waiter played with our son and every taxi driver talked effusively about their own children. The airport reserved special lines for families with young kids, and we never received a single stink eye over a two-week period. Even at the British Royal Wedding, which was filled with gravitas and decorum, children weren't just invited — they were central figures in the celebration.
And yet, whereas most holidays and family get-togethers are celebrated with children as the main audience, weddings in North America seem peculiarly exempt.
Do we not have a special obligation to include children in our life cycle celebrations, especially one that honors the union of two people and blesses their creation of a new family?