In the past few weeks the talk over “banning children” from public places has been heating up. Numerous articles and news stories have been popping up all over the web and they have begun to cause quite a stir. Kids being banned from planes, restaurants, movies – it is happening all over. “No Kids Allowed” seems to be an accepted part of American life.
My friend Justin Mussler is OK with banning children from public places. I on the other hand, feel the majority of kids are being punished because of the actions of a few (and their parents.) While we both seem to be saying basically the same thing, we’ve come to different conclusions. It seems Justin and I are at an impasse on this subject and are asking for some level-headed folks to chime in.
Here you will find my arguments against the banning, or suggested removal of children, from restaurants and planes. Over at Justin’s site, The Great Family Escape, you will find his arguments in support of the bans. Please feel free to engage. I am a tough person to budge, and so is Justin, but maybe with enough ideas from you guys we can come up with some happy solutions.
“It was so totally cool to see the Statue of Liberty! I still can’t believe it!”
“I know – I’ve seen pictures my whole life, but to actually stand there and see it for real…”
“And Ellis Island! To think I was standing right there where my great great grandmother stood when she came to the USA…”
I was riding the 5:00 train from New York City to Connecticut. The vast majority of travelers were business men and women on their way home after a long day at work in the city. A few had laptops balanced on their knees; others quietly read a book or napped. The train was eerily quiet – until a group of three teen girls got on chattering gaily about their experiences in New York City.
I sat behind the girls listening to their chatter and the teacher in me started to grin a bit – this was learning in action. The girls had seen a part of their nation’s history up close and personal. They had connected. The lessons they learned that day were a part of them forever. I was thrilled.
For the next fifteen minutes I listened in on the conversation as the teens babbled about all they had seen and done. I loved listening to them – to their exuberance and cheerfulness and… life.
And then, all of a sudden, that life came to an abrupt halt.
“Would you girls just shut up?” shouted a grumpy woman from a few rows back. Then she put her head back and continued napping.
I was stunned. I couldn’t believe my ears. Had that woman really just yelled at these girls for making too much noise? Their chatter was music to my ears – and she had yelled at them for it? Wow.
I have to admit I’m baffled by this baby-banning movement. Malaysia Air banned babies from the first class sections of many planes. Restaurants and movie theaters in several cities are also banning kids. One neighborhood in Florida is even trying to ban kids from playing outside! I find this trend scary.
I understand the rationale. People want to be away from all kids except those who act like perfect little angels and don’t utter a peep – and they’re willing to pay for it. They’ll pay extra for a baby-free first class seat or a fancy restaurant where they are guaranteed to meet no kids.
Where there is money, there will be businesses ready to cater to them.
But I can’t help but feel this is a sad commentary on the direction our society is going. We’re heading down the path to the point of no return – where not only kids have been segregated, but everyone else who bothers us as well.
See, this really isn’t about screaming babies. It’s about tolerance. It’s about understanding that we’re all in this together and being willing to work with each other to make our world a little bit better. It’s about cooperation and getting along and being civil toward each other even if we don’t want to be friends. It’s about thinking beyond “me” and realizing that we’re not walking on this planet alone.
This sign on a restaurant in North Carolina is what I’m talking about:
I would be OK with it if they changed it to this:
I mean – fair is fair. I don’t mind asking parents to step outside if their child is screaming. But what about screaming drunk college kids? Will we ask them to leave the restaurant as well?
I was pleased when I read about the smelly adult who was removed from an airplane because his odor offended others. I was also happy to read about the woman who was kicked off a plane because she was crying after her father died. Not that I’m happy about her crying or that she lost her father, but if they’ll kick kids off for making a ruckus, it’s only fair that they kick adults off too.
The problem here is that kids are deemed guilty simply by virtue of their age. Blanket statements incriminate ALL kids and even the best behaved kids are being denied entrance to certain places. We take adults on a case-by-case basis, but kids are presumed to cause trouble. They’re guilty until proven innocent – but they’re never given the opportunity to prove themselves innocent.
Just because you don’t like something doesn’t mean everybody doesn’t like it. Dare I say there are those of us who truly enjoy having babies around? Or chattering teenagers? One of the reasons I enjoy many other cultures so much is the fact that all ages work together – you’ll find granddaughters helping their grandmas in the markets, young kids taking care of younger siblings, young and old alike hanging out together shooting the breeze. Strangers step up to the plate to help a harried mother who’s trying to do the family’s grocery shopping while her baby is demanding attention. They’ve figured out it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been on this planet – you’re still a valued human being.
In the USA, it’s becoming more and more ME. Me, me, me. And it scares me
Is it pleasant to be on a plane with a screaming baby? No. Try being that screaming baby’s mother – trust me, it’s WAY worse. But still – it’s life. Babies are a fact of life and, I like to think, we would all grant them a bit of leeway because they are… well, they’re babies!
“That’s true,” some will say. “The babies don’t bother me so much because they are babies and crying is their only means of communication. It’s the older kids who kick my seat or run around the restaurant or climb over the seats in the movie theater – those are the ones who bother me.”
(I’ll share a secret with you – they bother me too)
But here’s the thing: kids learn what’s expected of them by being in the situation. When they are climbing over seats in the movie theater and you (yes, you – the person being bothered by it) say, “Excuse me – could you please stop climbing those seats? It’s making it really hard for me to watch the movie” That’s when the kid learns climbing the seats isn’t OK. And 90% of them will sit down and be still for the rest of the movie – you’ve just taught them societal norms.
Or if you turn around on the plane and talk gently to the kid behind you and say, “Did you know that when you kick the seat you’re jabbing me in the back? It makes it really hard for me to relax – could you please keep your legs down? Here – come sit in my seat for a minute and I’ll kick the seat so you can see what it feels like.” I’d bet you anything that kid had absolutely no idea that his kicking the seat was bothering anybody.
When you’re in a restaurant where a large group of drunk college kids are raising a ruckus, probably your best bet is to simply head out the door. Maybe if someone had taught those kids appropriate behavior when they were young, that wouldn’t have happened.
It’s that “takes a village” thing going on. It’s not ONLY the parents’ responsibility to teach kids right and wrong, it’s society’s.
So when a group of teenage girls are chattering on a train and Grumpy Old Woman yells at them to be quiet, they learn to think of those around them. When Exasperated Business Traveler tells a seat kicker his actions are bothering him, the child learns his actions affect others.
And when we ban kids from public places, they learn they are second class citizens not worthy of any of our time. They don’t have the opportunity to learn what’s expected.
How the heck do you expect ‘em to learn those societal rules if they can’t be part of society?
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