I’m not a cultural anthropologist or a psychologist or any other “ist.” I’m a mom, and something struck me today and I’d like to run it by you and get your input. I have an opinion (almost always! hahaha), but I’d love to hear what others think about this.
I’ve been hearing about this growing trend of places that don’t allow children and I’m hearing how many folks are thrilled to know that there are kid-free restaurants, theaters, airplanes and more.
My thought is that it would be to the betterment of our society as a whole if the people who seem to be so terribly upset by the mere sight of a runny nose or sticky hand would suck it up and move on with their lives.
Please allow me to share a story:
When Sweet Hippie Daughter was four years old we took her to the symphony. Before we went we spoke with her at length about appropriate behavior. ”This is the quietest of quiet places,” we told her. ”People really want to hear every single note of the music, so it’s important that you don’t even whisper or wiggle in your chair or click your shoes together because we don’t want to ruin it for anyone.” She told us she understood and off to the performance we went.
At the door, the usher didn’t want to let us in. ”This is an important performance. They are recording.” We assured him that we understood. ”There can’t be any noise.” We assured him again that we understood. Finally, reluctantly, he let us in. Once we reached our seat the woman behind us stage whispered to her husband, “Oh, GREAT! I’m glad we paid good money to listen to their kid.”
Our daughter sat perfectly still and listened with wide eyes to the music. She perched on the edge of her seat when the violin soloist came out, but she didn’t rustle or say a word… which is more than I can say for the chatty whisperers behind us.
Now, four years later, she has been to several other performances, but she still remembers that one. She was chomping at the bit to be allowed to learn an instrument for herself. She was bursting with pride when she played her first concert.
A second story: We took my 1 1/2 year old son to a movie theater recently. (Our girl could have done it at that age, lest you think we’re crazy.) He was restless about 10 minutes in. He started to cry. We took him out. When he’s a little older we’ll try again. If it doesn’t work we’ll wait a while and try again. And we’ll keep trying until he learns to sit nicely and then we’ll try something a little trickier. Like maybe the symphony.
Young children need to have the chance to try and fail and try again. When we ban them from public places, we rob them of vital experiences that will make them better mannered, better educated, more well-rounded adults.
Now, I totally get that no one wants to go out for an expensive, long-awaited, romantic dinner only to have it ruined by the screaming baby at the next table or the kid that’s running all over the restaurant picking food off other people’s plates. But may I suggest that, as this article highlights, it is not the child that you have an issue with, it’s the parent. Many times I have taken my children to restaurants and they have sat quietly and eaten politely. A few times we’ve dragged them out to the car and they’ve cried in the parking lot while everyone else finished eating. Yes, that meant we paid for a dinner that was eaten later out of a box, but our fellow diners weren’t disturbed for more than a few seconds and our child (hopefully) learned an important lesson.
Along the same lines, parents need to know their children’s’ limits. Even as a baby my daughter could sit quietly for long periods. My son… not so much. We’re working up to it. He will get the same experiences, but perhaps a year or two later than his sister.
And, parents need to exercise a little discretion I realize the line isn’t always perfectly clear… can a 4th grader watch Twilight or not? But some things are clearly over the line. No child needs to see The Freddy Kruger Halloween Chainsaw Massacre. Then again, no adult really needs to see that, either.
To those who complain about kids in public places I ask you: who do you want taking care of you when you are old? A man or woman who was brought up to act politely and learn about many different parts of life from an early age? Or a man or woman who was allowed to run wild in a “child-only” environment 24/7 and then set loose on the world at age 18? Regardless of whether or not you have children, the facts of life are that, some day, these kids WILL be running the country you live in. May I suggest that, instead of hiding them away for the 1st 1/4 of their lives you participate in creating a culture in which they can learn and grow and develop into mature, productive citizens.
As the old proverb suggests, it take a village to raise a child. YOU (I’m talking to you, chatty whisperer from the symphony) are part of the village.
Parents need to take their kids to nice restaurants. Children need to see the beauty of live ballet and hear the miracle of a real symphony. Children need to sit through boring meetings and civic debates. Children need to be challenged and be bored and be nurtured.
What do you think? Should restaurants, theaters, airlines, etc ban well-behaved children?