Am I a Fuddy-Duddy?

The Social Q’s column in today’s Times includes this letter:

“Children 44 inches tall or shorter ride the subway free. But I don’t believe in giving an entire seat to someone who hasn’t paid a fare. Recently, I refused to let a small child take my seat when she asked for it herself. I would have been fine giving it up if the mother had asked and put the child in her lap. Was my subway etiquette incorrect?”

While the writer and respondent focused on the (bizarre) economics at play I was struck by the idea of a young child asking an adult to surrender her seat. I would be mortified if one of my kids did that. I   was taught and teach that children should almost never (there are exceptions) try to direct an adult’s conduct or exercise power over him or her (it’s why I never let my kids hand the check back to the  waiter and why I assume their teachers are right until I learn otherwise). They are not equals. But maybe they are, now. More’s the pity.

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