Friday, August 26, 2011

Children should be seen! And heard!

The Internet has been flaring up about the current trend of making restaurants and other public places child-free. It may come as a surprise that I fully support child-free restaurants. I would much rather know the expectations ahead of time than show up unaware and get the stink-eye from staff and customers for the entire meal. What concerns me is that there are some who expect a child-free experience everywhere--even in places where families are generally expected.

I have shared my opinion about the issue on a few Facebook discussions, but I had never had personal experience until today. Today I was reprimanded by the staff at a particular fast food Italian restaurant for my 2-year-old daughter's behavior. Yes, you read that right. A fast food place!

I had just spent the morning shopping at rummage sales with my friend and her little girl. We decided to eat at this particular restaurant, where we have eaten numerous times over the past ten years. We ordered our food, sat down, and enjoyed our meal as usual. Throughout the meal, my daughter chattered and laughed. When she is happy, she tends to repeatedly say something that sounds like "heeeeeeeey" (think Fat Albert, only cuter). She was very happy today. Could she work on regulating her volume? Sure, but what 2-year-old couldn't? She never left the table, ran around the restaurant, or made a mess.

Still, when we had almost finished our meal, an employee approached us and told us, "Everyone can hear him." (Yes, he guessed the incorrect sex. Because we know that all girls are quiet, demure little princesses, right?) I got the distinct impression that we were no longer welcome. Perhaps he was just responding to a complaint from another customer, but I am just as concerned about what that implies. What does it mean when someone is disturbed enough by a toddler's happy vocalizations to complain?

If we concede, and support some child-free options, isn't it only fair that we welcome children into other areas of society? Where do we draw that line? Casual restaurants? Grocery stores? Or do people with young children just have to hole themselves away in their homes? I say NO! Let's get our kids out and about! Let them be seen, heard, and hopefully, one day, accepted as important members of our society.


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