Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Banning Babies?

For the last few months, I've heard a lot of talk about banning babies children from different places - restaurants, airplanes, stores. I'm sitting here now watching the Dr. Phil show, which happens to be on the topic. Guests on the show are spouting off their opinions like diarrhea of the mouth... and there seems to be a very obvious similarity between the people who believe in limiting the places where babies and children are allowed to go - none of them have children. One is a restaurant owner who has banned children under the age of 6 from his establishment. One is a waiter who thinks it's annoying to have children sit at his tables because they are messy (specifically citing Cheerios as a major point of annoyance). And the other two guests are a couple who compared children to second hand smoke. Nice. So do you think people who don't have children should be allowed to dictate what you should do with yours?

This may be surprising to some, but I am not 100% opposed to the idea of banning children from certain restaurants. Before you start thinking that I've lost my mind, let me explain. I do not agree with the practice of banning children in any way, shape or form, but I feel like it is that business owner's right to set the rules for his/her establishment. If he wants to make it "adults-only" then I think he should have that right. However, I think it is a very slippery slope. Also, by banning my kids, you are essentially banning families - and I can't imagine that would be good for business. My biggest issue with the concept is this: where does the "banning" end? We had rules and laws like this at a point in time and it was called segregation.

As far as the waiter who doesn't like cleaning up Cheerios? I would ask him: Did you enjoy putting the tip in your pocket? I obviously can't speak for all parents, but I try really hard to clean up after my kids when we go to a restaurant. I don't think it's fair to trash the place and then have someone else clean up after you. But if we had a particularly messy dinner and a rather large pile of crumbs is sitting under Miss Paige's highchair when it's time to go (tortilla chips, anyone??), then we'll leave a few extra dollars on the tip. I'm guessing this is common practice for most parents. It's not easy accommodating children at a restaurant, and I make sure the tip I leave for the waiter reflects that. But - after being a waitress through out high school and much of college - I can tell you that there are adults who are MUCH MORE OBNOXIOUS than any child I've seen in a restaurant. I say we ban the loud cell phone talkers, the people who yell at the waiter, the overly-demanding people, the people who spill the salad dressing all over the salad bar, the ones who "forget" to flush the toilets in public bathrooms - babies and children are the least of the problem in restaurants.

And then there is the childless couple who wants children banned. Maybe I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure they were both babies at some point in their lives. And when they were babies, I'd bet money on the fact that they cried on occasion. And if we asked their mothers, I'm sure we would find out that some of those fits of crying were in public. GASP!!! Children are going to cry. They are going to get upset. Sometimes even though a fit in a public place like a restaurant or airplane - but I don't think the solution is banning them from entering those spaces. The solution is better parenting and teaching our children how to behave in those spaces and places. If we can't take our children out, then how will they ever learn how to behave in public? You can role play with them, read them books on the topic and tell them until you are blue in the face, but until they are sitting strapped into a booster seat in a restaurant with white table clothes, they really won't get it. It's the experiences our children have that really mold them and their behavior. When Paige acts up in a restaurant, we tell her to stop. If she doesn't listen, we take her outside for a "time out". A few weeks ago Daniel brought her outside at least 5 times during one meal. And it was frustrating. But the next time went a lot smoother. And I'm sure each time we go, she will behave better and better. If we had been banned from entering a restaurant, Paige never would have had the experience of learning to control herself in that space.

And then there is behaviors that can't really be controlled or taught or cured with a "ban" on children. Because children are just that - children. Sometimes they are just going to be loud, cry or so happy that they can't contain themselves. In my opinion, it just needs to be accepted as part of life. We accept everyone else's quirks - how about we give kids a break sometimes too and stop expecting them to be 100% perfect 100% of the time.

So last weekend I met my sister and niece at a Fall Festival the next town over. After about an hour or so of being her normal playful self, Paige had a meltdown. A major meltdown. A fall on the ground, kick her feet, scream and cry like I'm abusing her type of meltdown. My first reaction? Oh my gosh - what just happened? Did she get stung by a bee or something? And then I realized she was throwing a tantrum and so I had another thought - absolute mortification. As I struggled to strap a screaming, kicking toddler into her stroller, people turned and looked at me like I was the worst parent in the world. I'm sure they were thinking - "Wow. She really needs to control her child." or "She needs to discipline her child." And after I got Miss Paige strapped in her stroller, I gave a quick wave to my sister and made a beeline for the car. Before we even left the parking lot, Paige was asleep in her car seat. The tantrum was because she was tired - not because she is out of control or a bad kid or for lack of discipline on my part. It's because she is a child and acts childishly. She cries when she is upset or doesn't feel right. And I think that is ok. There's no amount of discipline in the world that can change that when she is just 20 months old.

Dealing with children is part of the world we live in... whether you have children or not, you have to accept things for what they are. If it truly is a discipline problem, then of course it is annoying and should be dealt with by the parents. But if a child starts crying on a plane, laughing loudly in a restaurant or throwing a tantrum because they don't feel well - it's just part of life. We were all babies at one point in time. We all cried and did the same exact things. And then we grew up and were better able to control our emotions and actions. The answer isn't banning children - it's adjusting our expectations slightly, being patient and kind, and supporting the parents who are trying their best to raise happy, healthy, well-adjusted children.