Thursday, June 28, 2012

Momsensical: No-kids-allowed movement growing in popularity

Published on KSL (click HERE for the link)
Published on KTAR (click HERE for the link)
Published in Cross Timbers Gazette (click HERE for the link)

I ran into a grocery store with my three young kids. My youngest, a toddler whose mood changed with every passing box of cereal, was particularly volatile and I remember thinking that I would have to be quick about this.

He took advantage of me not buckling him into the cart (huge mistake) by hopping in and out of it at one second intervals. So I tried to wrestle him into the belt, which he resisted with body contortions, kicks, screams and various other unpleasantries. In the end, I hoisted him over my shoulder, secured my left arm around the back of his legs, and used my right arm to navigate the cart and my two other kids through the aisles.

At this point, I should have left my bread and eggs (completely overrated at times like these) and exited the store with a teeny shred of dignity. But I was young(er) and wonderfully optimistic and had not yet experienced — well, what I was about to experience.

So I stayed while both my son’s behavior and my optimism deteriorated at the speed of light. Feeling utterly defeated, I was finally ready to swipe my credit card — after which I planned on retreating to my car for a good cry.

But then, as with the most memorable learning experiences, things took a turn for the worse.

My son chose the very second I was swiping my card to try something brand new. Using a weapon I had left unsecured and readily available — his teeth — he clamped down as hard as he could on the back of my shoulder. A vise grip, if you will, that he seemed intent on holding until he reached his next birthday.

Cussing like a sailor (a bit out of character for me), I barely made it through the transaction.

I would never choose to repeat that experience. But here’s what made it bearable.

Although I am positive that there were people in the store who judged me or my son on various levels (before I had kids, I would have judged both me and my son), no one was openly critical. Moms gave me empathetic looks and wide berths in the aisles. Customers in my line were patient and helpful with my other two kids. The cashier was kind despite being somewhat alarmed at being in such close proximity to my son (for which I can hardly blame her).

An employee even opened the door and offered me assistance to the car — unprecedented for that store. This was very likely on account of wanting to get rid of us as quickly as possible, but the gesture was appreciated nonetheless.

Even though my kids are older now and I am no longer in danger of being bitten by one of them (knock on wood), I value the general sentiment of public support for what I’m doing as a mom. For the most part, the attitude I experience when I’m out and about with my children is that kids are pretty awesome and totally worth it — even at their most annoying.

So I am conflicted about the “no-kids-allowed” or “brat ban” policies that are growing in popularity (click HERE for an interesting article on the subject). Not surprisingly, it all began with adults-only resorts. But now, a wave of restaurants, movie theatres and even airlines have established policies that either ban kids altogether or stipulate times when kids are allowed and when they’re not.

This got my wheels turning. Should our kids (and, by definition, their parents) be banned from local movie theatres or grocery stores? In Texas, one cinema chain has even reversed the model and completely banned kids under six, except on specified “baby days.”

I understand that it is difficult for businesses to ignore revenue from the increasing number of childless adults, the group fueling this movement. But I hate to see society becoming less kid-friendly. What does this mean for the future?

Does this mean that my kids might be raising my grandkids in a society where their families are banned from as many (or more) places than they are welcomed? Does this put parents in danger of becoming second-class citizens?

There are certainly times when I’m on a date with my husband and would rather not be seated next to a screaming (or, heaven forbid, biting) child. And someday I hope to be able to confirm reports that vacationing at adults-only resorts can be quite lovely.

But I’ll more than tolerate — I’ll even be kind and helpful to the parents of — tantrum-throwing kids if the alternative is a society that doesn’t welcome them. The way I see it, all of us adults — even the ones who choose not to have children of their own — were once kids ourselves. And for the most part, we were totally awesome and completely worth it — even at our most annoying.

In your opinion, where (if anywhere) should businesses draw the line on these types of policies? What do you think about the growing number of “no-kids-allowed” bans? 


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I understand your dilemma, most of us have been there or have wanted to help someone that is there. Unfortunately I feel that many in our society have "let their hair down" way too much in regards to our children, their manners, respect for parents and others, and old common courtesies that have been forgotten, which is different from a child just having a bad day here and there. The are wonderful positive reinforcements to teach children how to behave out in public - I love children and have a household of teenagers now, but I wonder if these "kid bans" are a message that people are a bit fed up with parents not helping their kids to learn to be courteous and helpful with the situation - age appropriate of course. Families are where it's at - parents can help greatly with taking a child out of a theatre or restaurant to show courtesy to those around also - we are apt to be more understanding when we see a parent trying -

    1. I completely agree with you, Jane. Thanks for your insightful comments.

    2. SAMs & Costco have business member hours before regular hours. When I was childless I would shop in the late evening, which is generally when kids and geriatrics sleep. Maybe stores could have certain hours when lds aren't welcome


  3. I completely agree with Jane.
    I have 4 children. I take them into public all of the time. I see these outings as a 'practice' of sorts and training that helps them become responsible, respectful, and respect'able' adults. We have left a certain venue, activity, or 'event' more times than I can count due to their poor behavior. (Movies, grocery stores, play dates, restaurants, etc.) I have often felt more like being selfish and enjoying wherever we're at and making the activity more about me then about my kids embarrassing behavior, but it's not about me right now. It's not about Me.
    When I see a child misbehaving, and a parent is doing nothing about it, I see a parent that needs training. If a parent is going to do nothing, why wouldn't a child freak out? (If I thought throwing myself on the ground or screaming at the top of my lungs for 10 minutes would get me what I want...I'd do it! Heck ya!) At some point this poorly trained parent caves a gives the child what he/she wants...the method of instanity is obviously working for the child and have been reinforced many times. However, when I see a parent pick up a screaming/tantruming child, call for the other children if there are any, and respect and admiration for that parent increases in a way that few other actions instigate. Bravo! to that parent. You've just made a believer out of your child and it may take 3 or 10 or 100 more times to get your point across but that child will get it.
    Point, do I blame businesses for restricting parents that refuse to teach and train their child? No. Will I ask for special treatment for my child? Yes. Mine will behave, or we will leave. They know what this means (due to many years of practice and training), they know we will leave, and they know that they will work off through chores any squandered time and money we forfeit due to their choice to behave poorly or inappropriately.

    1. Thanks for your comments, which are right down the line with my line of thinking. I have learned a lot since that incident in the store (I now have 5 kids, 16 to 6) and would handle the same situation today completely differently than I did way back then. However, I did appreciate the support I felt (instead of criticism). We're all on a different place on the road to being effective parents.

  4. I love your wit & humor!! Great read ;)

  5. The most offensive comment IMO is this: "The way I see it, all of us adults — even the ones who choose not to have children of their own — were once kids ourselves."

    I'm kind of bothered about how you go on and on about how people (especially those of us who don't have kids) ought to be patient with other people's screaming children. How dare we want to enjoy a movie without having to put up with tantrums from children we don't know? How selfish can we act by not wanting our dinners to include a side of diaper smell? What's wrong with us that we don't want children to be allowed in certain venues?

    It's called a babysitter. Adult-only venues/brat bans aren't a campaign against parents, they're an attempt to reestablish some social decorum. Parents used to know how to hire a sitter or stay home; what happened to knowing where/when it's inappropriate to have children? Yes, I was once a (very vocal) child myself, but my parents took a couple of years out of the social scene when they chose to become parents; when they were comfortable leaving us with sitters then the rejoined the movie-going restaurant-eating crowd. Not to mention, I knew there would be HELL to pay if I acted up in public; apparently it's not vogue to punish your tiny terrors anymore.

    For me, what it really comes down to is this: if parents really want to enjoy their evening, they shouldn't just ignore their screaming toddler for a few moments so they can eat their dinners warm or not miss that one scene in the movie; they should just leave him home altogether. That way, the rest of us (who haven't grown deaf to his wailing) can enjoy our evenings as well.

  6. Jocelyn,

    I appreciate your feedback -- it helps me understand whether or not I have clearly articulated my thoughts. In this case, yes and no I guess.

    There is no question that babysitters or staying at home are very often the answer, depending on the destination. I also openly acknowledge that I should have handled the situation in the grocery store differently (I would today because of what I have learned from experience). Lots of parents have to learn from experiences like mine before we figure things out (and even then, it's never perfect).

    It sounds like you're offended because I propose that "people ought to be patient with other people's screaming children." Well, I guess I do.

    The perfect world, of course, is where parents judge wisely where they take their kids & how they discipline them, and where non-parents understand that parents are doing their best and cut them a little slack when their kids aren't perfectly behaved.

    I guess I was simply trying to have us consider the long-term implications to our society of a growing number of anti-kid policies. In other words, where is the compromise, the happy medium? Where parents aren't discriminated against, but where non-parents can still enjoy going out (and maybe even being around kids occasionally)?

    Your last paragraph is very well said -- the trick, of course, is getting more people on board . . .

    1. The line for me seems incredibly simple: if I'm at McDonald's or watching the latest kid movie, I know to expect kids. However, if I'm paying to be somewhere or receive a service in a location that isn't geared towards the younger set (at a restaurant that don't have play equipment, at a non-animated movie, at my hair dresser's, etc.), I am not only paying for the product (the food, the movie and popcorn, the haircut), I'm also paying for the experience. And if I'm at, say, the grocery store, I'm not paying for an experience. I think what these "brat ban" policies are trying to do is preserve the experience for those of us who don't want to try to enjoy a scalp massage while a two-year-old runs up and down the aisle as his mum can gets her hair cut.

      Before I continue, let me say that I've seen really fantastic parents who take their children out and fantastic children who I would call well-behaved even though they do have the occasional melt-down, so I don't want to sound like I'm judging all parents or children as horrible, moment-ruining monsters. I am more than willing to "put up with" the frazzled-looking mother who is just trying to get some milk and bread and get home.

      Choosing to become a parent (whether through keeping your own child, adopting someone else's, or partnering with someone who has a child) means choosing to make sacrifices. We can empathize with you when things aren't as perfectly blissful as a Gerber commercial. We can try to be understanding when you need a night to be "not just a parent" and go out. But when you start trying to find ways to get around making the sacrifices you agreed by choosing parenthood, it's difficult to be all that sympathetic because generally it means having to put up with being seriously inconvenienced ourselves as your refusal to sacrifice means that we have to shoulder the burden. (Having your steak taste like smelly diaper because of the odor wafting from the next table is an experience not soon forgotten.) AND, we're expected to do so silently and without complaint, lest we seem like evil, child-hating demons.

      So for me, these two ideas (paying for an experience and the sacrifices of parenthood) come to a head in venues where owners are forced to make a choice. I don't think it's a matter of society becoming less kid friendly at all (I would argue, in fact, that we're quite a bit more child friendly than even a couple of generations ago). I think it's a matter of expecting respect for others. If people were being loudly racist, or wearing inappropriate attire, or smoking indoors/in the nonsmoking section, or shouting drunkenly, or disrespecting other customers in some other way then management would likely refuse them service or remove them from the venue. What constantly boggles my mind is how parents think their disruptive children are any different for those of us who have chosen to not have children or at least to leave them home.

      It's unfortunate that the bad behavior of some (possibly even the many) reflects poorly on the whole group. But if we made exceptions for every parent that claimed to be the exception we'd be stuck in the same boat we're in now. I've definitely held my fair share of children while their mother frantically dug through her purse at the check out. I'm even probably more tolerant than many when it comes to disruptive children. But sometimes I just want to enjoy my evening out in peace.

      Instead of looking at a "brat ban" as anti-kid, I challenge you to see it for what it is: a ban against *parents* who aren't as well-behaved as you appear to be. It's sad that society has come to this, but like any stereotyped group with a bunch of bad examples, sometimes it's just easier to ban the whole bunch.

  7. Excellent points.

    I recognize the parents' role in all of this, and it's become clear to me as I've read comments on this column that, overwhelmingly, most people point at parents as the problem.

    I get it. And I don't know how to change it. I have often thought that every parent should be required to go through extensive parenting classes before being discharged from the hospital with a new baby. Unrealistic & wouldn't change much in the long run (upbringing is usually so much more powerful), but a nice thought. I'm sure it would have helped me -- parents need all the training and help and support we can get.

    Thanks for your insights.

  8. There was a time in this country that certain groups of people were not allowed in some establishments based solely on the color of their skin. It is truly sad to see this type of bigotry starting again!!

    Yes, it is bigotry. People used to be judged, and still are sometimes, based on their skin color. They were considered inferior to others. This new trend automatically assumes that all children will act out and their parents will not control them, so let's ban them all and create segregation between those with children and those without.

    Stereotyping is stereotyping, and bigotry is bigotry! It's disgusting to see how many people are willing to support this discrimination!