I Always Feel Like... Somebody's Watching Me!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Brat Ban

 I am more than a little disturbed by a new business trend. No kids allowed. Which in essence, also means no parents allowed for many, many parents in the world who do not have reliable babysitters.

 In response to the apparent deconstruction and overthrow of stable society (sarcasm) that babies and toddlers present in America: many business owners are banning children entirely from their establishments.  They've had too many "complaints" from other patrons that loud, crying children have ruined their dinners (or movies or flight).

  A friend posted this article last night, and I went to bed angry about the state of the world. And the state of child-less adults in America. And the empty nesters who are now arrogant and have forgotten what their lives were like thirty years ago. And the parents in support of banning kids, who say that they love kids but think every other parent is doing a terrible job and don't "manage" their children in public.

 First of all, if you are the parent of a single child who is under one year old: your opinion is not yet valid. Just as my opinion about dealing with teenagers isn't valid yet - I haven't fought that battle yet. Babies loves to go out to eat before they realize they can walk. They sit happily in their chairs, swoon at the bright lights and yes, make messes under the table - but that's why vacuums were invented. Then your precious little baby can't sit still for more than five seconds and every trip to a restaurant is a battle between constant toddler entertainment and tiredly, hungrily trying to feed yourself.

 I am so tired of the judgemental, know-it-all parents that act like they are doing a superior job to every other parent out there. Especially when those said parents have the luxury of leaving their kids with grandparents, friends, neighbors that they trust. We have lived in Buffalo now for six months and have only managed ONE date night. And we brought Elliot. Gregory's cousins were kind enough to babysit for a few hours - but we still don't feel okay leaving all three kids with someone. It's just too much to handle. We went to a nice restaurant, ordered a bottle of wine and perhaps he made a peep that upset another patron. For the most part, though, people were waving and smiling at him unprompted. No one's night was ruined and we were certainly valued as customers even though we had one of those ghastly babies in our presence.

  It's not so much the "brat ban" that upsets me (sure, it is nice to have peace and quiet at dinner), but the sentiment behind it. What is wrong with our society that we hate families so much? Coupled adults that choose to not have children - good for you, that is a valid choice. But you are not better than me. You are not more enlightened and you are not more privileged. Sorry. When you leave your childless, pristine home and enter the public: you are going to encounter people under the age of six. They are messy and loud, but a part of society nonetheless. You run the risk of being annoyed in a public place, be it a movie theatre, airplane, restaurant or sidewalk.

 I think this is bad business. I would avoid a restaurant that banned children even if I were going out without them (a vision! an impossible dream!). It's rude. I would think smart restaurant owners would welcome the business of new parents, in the hope they would make a life-long customer. Because, in fact, who needs a meal more than a tired parent who just can't take another mess under their own kitchen table? This is a slippery slope. It's not just kids that make venturing out into public an annoyance. I despise anyone who talks loudly during a movie, or yells at their waitress in a restaurant or is, ahem, too large to fit in their own seat on the airplane. Who's banning them? My kids are learning early how to behave in a public forum, not perfectly of course, but I still think they have better manners than most adults.

 I could go on and on about this for many a paragraph, but will stop with this sentiment. Why do businesses always cater to the loudest complainer? My years in the hotel industry proved that managers will cave under the pressure of irrational complaints. This ban on kids may gain steam for awhile, but my guess is that smart businesses will push back and recognize that while parents might not be the ones complaining like real adult brats (and getting their way for the moment), their spending power will be missed. 


  1. As a CBC (Childless By Choice) couple, I'm sorry that SOME child-free people are so selfish. We love playing with other people's babies in public places. We were with a friend and her infant (in NYC) when we were denied lunch at a not-so-trendy restaurant because they had a "no-babies policy"...this was almost 30 years ago. I was appalled. So, this is nothing new. You're right, businesses often "cater to the loudest complainer." Unfair but true.

  2. Bleck. Ever heard of providing a couple crayons or bringing the kids' meals out right away? Come on people.

  3. Cathy, you play with other people's babies because you are an awesome person! I know restaurants have been "banning" babies for many years, but it seems that these feelings about kids are expanding. A lot of airlines don't let passengers with young children board first because so many grumpy businessmen complained. That's shitty. Flying with a baby is hard work and that rule was in place not only to get parents on quickly and out of the way, but for flight attendants to better do their jobs. I just find it so gross that people have this attitude towards kids. I know I am biased... but I also never complained about other people's kids before I had my own!

    Bring on the crayons!!! :)

  4. This is a truly annoying trend. Really, if we want to start banning things that might annoy us, why don't we raise the driving age to 18, or better yet, send all teenagers to distant islands where they can fight it out amongst themselves Lord of the Flies style.

    What's ironic here is that in many European countries--most of which have even lower birth rates than the US and thus more childless adults--none of this would ever occur. One of my favorite things about living in Germany is how the society accepts the presence and nature of children. When there's a problem (child out of control in an inappropriate place), that one problem is dealt with without overreaching and creating silly bans. It's worth pointing out that anyone, at any age, can be annoying, and when they are, they should be admonished to knock it off. Children certainly have no special skills when it comes to being annoying and should not be treated like do.

  5. I am slightly for the brat ban for one reason - too many a time has a screaming child in the booth next to me gone unattended. I don't understand why it's so hard to remove yourself and take care of the baby. Every time I go out to eat and an unruly child is near me, I want children less and less.