Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Kids: Cage vs. Free Range

I love my kids. They are super wonderful little human beings. The hub and I made them. I think we did a pretty good job. I enjoy hanging out with my kids and teaching them stuff. I think my kids are very good looking. I think they are smart and witty. My kids make me laugh a lot. My kids are smart asses and I like that quality. My kids are compassionate and loving. I'm going to be honest with you. I love my kids more than your kids. Please, don't be offended. I'm pretty sure you love your kids more than my kids. I'm sure you believe your kids are the coolest, smartest, most awesome human beings on the planet. I bet there are a few people who would agree with you. But even then, I bet they are glad your kids go home to your house instead of their house at the end of the day.

I think one of the hardest things for a parent to comprehend is the fact that some people don't really want to be around your kids. To you, your child is the best thing ever and you love being around them. That is good. You are supposed to think that... I think it has something to do with biology or keeping you from eating your own young or something. For the most part, others can agree with you. Your child is cute and it's pretty cool that he can do whatever he did on that video that you posted on YouTube. The problem is when parents are so enamored with their own children that they become blind to the fact that their children are not perfect. Their children can act up and be loud, rude, gross, smelly, mean, or weird. They might not see it, but the rest of the world does. I know that my eldest daughter, S, is crazy sensitive and emotional. She also has a flare for the dramatic and everything is a crisis.  My younger daughter, B, is a dare devil monkey with a temper. She is also a bull in a china shop and gets into everything. Both have little patience and nag a lot. They are unpredictable and sometimes blow up despite my best attempts to defuse them. See: How to Defuse a Bomb. I know this very well. It still hurts to hear it come from other people. No one wants to hear that their kid is not perfect or that their presence is undesirable.

I'm not sure if this is new or I'm just aware of it now that I'm a parent of young kids but I'm hearing that more and more businesses are not putting up with screaming babies anymore. Airlines are kicking cranky kids off of flights. Restaurants have kid-free hours or nights or are seating families with children as far away as possible from kid-free patrons. People sans kids are getting tired of our kids being everywhere and want public places to offer kid-free zones, similar to the smoking and non-smoking sections of yore. Believe it or not, I am okay with kid-free zones in certain public places. Yes, I think there should be rules about dining out with children under the age of 4. When I am out on a date with the hub, the last thing I want to hear is your Little Billy screaming his head off at the next table over. We go on dates to get away from our kids. We didn't want to be around yours. I've only been a parent for six and a half years. I still remember what it was like NOT to be a mom.

Now before anyone starts with, parents are people too, I don't have the luxury to get a babysitter every time I go out, or babies cry and sometimes there is nothing we can do about it, or stop being an ageist,  please understand, I am in your shoes. Hear me out because I think I have a pretty good argument here:

If public places like restaurants* offered kid-friendly sections or kid-free times, then:

  • Parents could relax knowing they were not being judged by the sans-kid patrons if they are in a section for kids or they are there when kids are welcome. So what if your kid is singing the Barney theme song on repeat at full volume if you are among other families? These are your people. They understand you and your situation. They have more patience and therefore, can tolerate a little more noise than your average sans-kid person. You don't have to spend your dinner-out pleading with your child to sit down or be quiet. You don't have to be embarrassed when your kid proudly announces they have to poop mid meal. But most importantly, you can have more choices in restaurants. You won't be shunned to family friendly restaurants only, where the staff wears pieces of flair and every dish comes with french fries. 
  • It turns the tables on the sans-kids people who are very vocal about banning kids from public places. They can't complain about your kids if they don't have to be around them. If you don't like being around my kids, then sit in the kid-free zone. Or don't come on nights where we are allowed to be here. It gives us parents some leverage in the Should You Take your Kids Out debate.
  • If you are going out on a date without your kids, you can go to kid free-places or sit in the kid-free zone and enjoy being totally kid-free. It would be like the time you finally moved from the kids' table to the main table for Thanksgiving dinner. Remember how cool that felt? That feeling could be yours again.

I don't remember going out much when I was a child. I think my parents knew my two sisters and I were a bit too unstable for the structured adult world. My sisters and I would get into heated debates about seating arrangements or if one sibling was breathing on or looking at or touching the other. One of us would throw a tantrum or have "an accident." I grew up with the understanding that there are kid places and there are grown-up places. If you embarrassed your parents by misbehaving whilst in a grown-up place, it was pretty much guaranteed that you would never see the inside of a grown-up place again. That stuck with me. That's why the hub and I don't take the girls out very much. I don't want to be THAT mom with THAT screaming kid sitting next to you. I don't want to have to worry about what it looks like to other people when B is crawling under the table or crying because I won't allow her to run around the restaurant or look at the fish tank by the hostess station while we are eating dinner. I can try to restrain her or distract her, but once B figures out that she can't get her way, she throws a tantrum. (We're still working with her on that... ah, the lovely terrible two's.) So knowing there is a good possibility that she will act up in a public place, I often chose not to put her in that situation. But, I am also not a hermit and I need to get out sometimes and I don't always have a babysitter. My girls love sushi and other exotic cuisine but most of those places are too nice for my kids right now. If a nice restaurant offered kid-friendly seating, we'd probably go out more. Until then, it's either take out, date night, or wait for the girls to mature some more.

Kids are really getting a bad rap and maybe because we don't see them for what they are... newbies to society. We are taking them to nice sit down restaurants and movie theaters** so we can enjoy all the things we used to do before we had kids. Maybe, they are not ready to be everywhere just yet. Maybe we have not taught them enough etiquette to handle the adult sector of the world.  Or maybe we have and they are just not old enough to remember to use that etiquette when they are in an exciting new place. They are still learning the rules of the road. There are a lot of rules, too. (I assume everyone is trying to teach those rules to their children. One can hope.) But, honestly, how are children going to understand the rules of the road if they are not allowed on the road? At least give them training wheels to the adult world. Not every restaurant is a Chuck E. Cheese and introducing your child to the adult world is part of raising a well rounded person but it shouldn't be at the expense of other people's enjoyment. So having kid friendly areas and times at nice places could be part of the transition from your dining room table to the restaurant table. Once your child is accustomed to fine dining rules, they can move over to the general public area. If more people witnessed well mannered children in public, I believe the general public would be more accepting of little people and might actually like your kids as much as you do. Hey, it could happen.

* When I say "restaurants," I mean fancy sit-down places that are not advertised as family friendly. If they do not immediately offer crayons and a kid's menu when you are seated, it is a fancy restaurant. If you decide to take your date to a family friendly restaurant like IHOP or TGI Fridays, you've pretty much forfeited the right to bitch about being around other people's kids. 

**An R-rated movie is no place for a baby. Period. If you can't find a babysitter, you'll just have to wait for the DVD. If you do bring a baby into an R-rated movie, just know that everyone already hates you and your child. They will think you are a lousy parent. You probably shouldn't bring a baby to a bar, either. It's just tacky.


  1. I know some adults who could be retrained to eat out...that is worst than a kid..good advice.

  2. in my opinion, any restaurant is fair game until 8pm. If you go eat dinner at 9pm with your young children (especially, dear god, on a school night) you are setting yourself up for judgement.

    On the same vein, I also believe that non-parents don't have the right to judge until the 8pm bedtime curfew.


I'd love to hear what you thought of this post. Leaving a comment for a blogger is like tossing a buck in a tip jar.