In fantasy stories a child pure of heart can detect evil in those around them. Real children can do the same, it’s just that the signal for “darkness within the breast of man” is the exact same as the signals for “my nappy is full”, “I’m thirsty”, and “I want something as yet to be determined.” But you can use the same power yourself by taking your child outside, anywhere, and suddenly the deepest truth of everyone around you is plain to see.
The first and best in any grouping of humans are the happy ones. People smiling to see a parent and child, a friendly nod, a cute reminder of their own childhood or parenting, all kinds of slight but sweet social contact as the child generates a wonderful field of anti-friction smoothing everyone’s progress through the day.
The second and still brilliant are the nothings, because nothing means no problems. People walking past without notice, acknowledgement, or any other kind of interaction. Social neutrinos wending their way through the world without ever impacting any strangers, and that’s just fine because that’s the way they like it. If everyone acted like that the world would have far fewer problems.
The third, and this isn’t so much stepping down to bronze but off the podium and falling into a septic tank, are the evil eyes. Any parent has experienced these. The ones who glare at you daring to exist in a way which doesn’t directly benefit them. It cannot be overstated how much you haven’t bothered these people. I’m not a delusionally defensive parent blaming strangers for getting upset that their wedding dress stole some of my screaming angel’s cherry juice. I’m walking down the street with a smiling kid and sometimes strangers stare like I’m carrying their parents’ corpses over the shoulders of my “Bob’s Cheap Dog Food Deliveries” T-shirt.
Obviously these assholes aren’t a problem for me either. I’m over six foot tall and a hundred kilos so people don’t start shit for little things like having a child or mixing measurement systems. I have a whiter skin and smile than Count Dracula travelling with diplomatic immunity, and am just as unappealing a target for bullies. But talking to other parents tells me that many mothers endure abuse from these shitheads, dressed up as “advice” or “warnings” or the other kinds of wisdom some assholes think they have because they’re old now. True insight isn’t a smell of urine, you don’t get it automatically just by sitting around long enough. And anyone hassling a stranger specifically because they have a small child is the worst sort of enemy. It’s how Disney movies tell everyone who’s the asshole when they can’t be bothered to draw horns and a flaming pitchfork.
I remember all this when I see their angry glares. Which I traditionally counter with a grin broader and brighter than the Arecibo radio telescope dish in broadcast mode. And all I can think is: you’re being awfully snooty to a child for someone so much lower in anyone’s priorities if something goes wrong. Should a buffalo herd stampede down Oxford’s shopping street, a low but no longer zero probability given 2020’s progress so far, any emergency responders are going to save that kid first. Then any identifiable parents. Then anyone else who needs help. Then, if there’s time, they might hang around and dig out the dessicated mummies in case archaeologists can learn something from the fact their eyes have apparently been replaced with glinting crystals of piss.