Kid Free Zones?

Are there particular places that should always be free of juvenile presence? I came across this article about Kid Free Zones on the National Post news site.

Demand for Child Free Zones Grows…

What do you think?

Have we reached a place as a society where people are too prudish to tolerate the activity of children around them?

Or is this primarily a case of parents no longer having relative control of our kids, and the on-lookers saying “enough is enough”?

Brittany and I have had two different experiences while out to eating establishments with our daughter.

Twice, when Gracie was quite young, upon arriving at the restaurant we had people offer to care for her while we ate so that we could enjoy our meal. On both occasions  she was a little fussy, and these folks wanted to help out. The first time it was a waitress when the restaurant was not terribly busy. On the other occasion, it was some folks from town with whom we are slightly acquainted. Both times, the offer of help was much appreciated. Graciousness was extended and we truly did enjoy our evening out a little more.

There was another time when we dropped by the Black Dog Village Pub and Bistro in Bayfield (home of the Huron Burger – which is top 3 in my books!). Gracie was about 2.5 months old at the time, and we had her in tow. Brittany was not yet at the point of leaving Gracie for an extended period of time. When we stepped in, the pub was 75% empty. However, upon greeting us the waitress stated that they were full for the evening, booked up with reservations. This was a chilly, November evening in a town that is driven by summer tourism. My hunch is that they were not booked full. Instead, this was a polite way of informing us that we were in a child-free zone. I’m not certain, but that was my impression.

This got me thinking about kid-free zones. What is acceptable? What is over the top?

The Black Dog is a nice establishment with a quaint atmosphere, but certainly not specifically for “hoity toity” folks. I could understand the cold shoulder if we had brought along a crew of multiple Kids under the age of 4, but this was an infant who still needed to remain with her mother. Anyhow, that’s how it went and you need to respect the wishes of others.

One place we did take Gracie that was probably out of bounds was a live performance of Handel’s Messiah last Christmas. Gracie was a little over 3 months old at the time. It was in a beautiful cathedral in nearby London. Grandpa and I spent much of the performance pacing at the back with Gracie working hard to keep a smile on her face so she would not be disruptive to the audience. In that particular setting, many people seemed very appreciative that while still in infancy this little girl was being steeped in “high culture”.

On the other hand, about 2 weeks back, we had Gracie (15 months old) at a Remembrance Day ceremony here in town. The ceremony was long, and Gracie was getting restless and was making this known audibly. She wanted to walk around and say “hi” to the many people. A young fellow standing in front of us glared back several times as Gracie protested slightly to us holding her in one place. We were disturbing this somber moment of reflection for him. Eventually Gracie won out, and we needed to take her to the back of the crowd, where she could roam freely. Again in this situation, I think a little more consideration could have been extended.

So, I’m still trying to figure this all out. What’s appropriate as far as little kids go, and what’s over the line? My hunch is that it is something that you just need to figure out as you go. I don’t think there are hard and fast rules, but rather constant evaluation depending on the context and what your kid(s) is capable of.  I do believe there needs to be much grace and respect all around. Grace extended toward parents struggling to keep the kids from being disruptive, and respect from the parents regarding others’ enjoyment of that shared space and event.

So, what are your thoughts? Any stories to share, either positive or negative? Any advice? I’ve got a good number of years ahead of me of figuring this all out and any insight would be appreciated.

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4 Responses to Kid Free Zones?

  1. gail says:

    It has been my experience over the years that those people who have children tend to be more tolerant of children in social situations. We know generally what our children can handle, how long they can ‘behave’ in a particular situation by experience. We took our children everywhere. There were times when we had to leave before we would have liked to. As we took them places they learned what was appropriate and also learned respect for others and then we could take them more places. It is wonderful the grace you have had extended to you in the situations you mentioned. My advice would be look around and find children that you love to be with and then talk to their parents about how they got there:)

  2. Oh Ryan as I read this SO many incidents from our years of parenting came back to my memory. I remember the year Phil lifted our eldest to his shoulders to occupy her, only to hit her head on a big branch from the tree above … Imagine how her response disturbed that Remembrance Day! Or the flight that our two youngest were experiencing a stomach virus on an airplane flight (an illustration of what Lepers must live with). There are also the graceful moments when an older couple came to our table to say how delightful our family was. Or the time our meal was paid for be a stranger wanted to “treat us”. The ying and yang of parenting … And society. May you be surrounded by more child-friendly folks than the alternative!
    Love to you and your,

  3. Charisa says:

    We’re still trying to navigate all this too. For example, we try hard to keep our kids sitting with us in church each week. We sit near the front so they can see well, and so we risk being a distraction to the many people behind us. Some weeks Stew or I end up in the back of the room, pacing with a child, or worse, in the lobby pacing. Other weeks the kids do great and make it through the service without any major disturbances. I try to use the glaces from those around us a gauge. If no one seems bothered, I try to let their noises not bother me, either. If people are starting to look around, we try to make a swift move to the back so they can move around more freely without being a bother. However, we’ve had a middle-aged couple that we don’t really know come up to us several times now and comment that it’s a blessing to them to see us interacting with our kids in church. It feels like such a juggling act — trying to balance being respectful to those around us, and teaching our kids to participate in a typically quiet, calm setting. I feel like when they are little they need practice to improve and learn to behave in such settings, but it’s not always easy to give them that practice!

    • Ryan Jantzi says:

      Thanks for your feedback Charisa. It certainly is an interesting line to walk… trying to gauge the reactions/feelings of those around you. Your reply fits well with a post I’d like to write in a few weeks about kids and gathering for worship. Heaven forbid that church services should ever be Kid-Free-Zones! I fear that some are that way, as there is an expectation that they be shuttled off to nursery for fear they might distract from the ‘worship experience’. I’ll stop there… it’s a post to come!

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