The “No Children” movement is getting a lot of coverage from my facebook friends. Apparently, certain airlines are banning children from first class, restaurants are going child-free, and the trend is continuing towards declaring entire places “child free” zones. The articles usually are quick to blame DINKs (Double Income, No Kids) for the shift. It personally reminds me of that episode of The Simpsons when Lindsey Naefle founded SSCCATAGAPP (Singles, Seniors, Childless Couples And Teens And Gays Against Parasitic Parents) But I guess DINK is less of a mouthful.
My facebook friends, mostly twentysomethings with no children, are very happy about this shift. Most of the rhetoric is along the lines of “You made your choice to have kids, why should the rest of us have to suffer for your bad choices?” and “If you can’t control your screaming brats, hire a babysitter!” and “Nobody else loves your disgusting little brats, keep them at home where they don’t bother innocent bystanders!”
Believe me, I can understand the frustration, as someone with sensory processing disorder. Children screaming hurts my ears really badly, and when parents do nothing to curb the screaming, it means a constant throbbing migraine and dizziness for me for the next few days.
But I know that legally, a child-free public space in Canada would probably not be realistic. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees that nobody shall be discriminated against in public spaces and businesses, which means that banning children without a good reason, such as it being a bar, a gentlemen’s club, or other places where kid-unfriendly activities are frequent, wouldn’t have much of a legal leg to stand on. Interestingly, I almost never see children in nicer restaurants in Victoria. The only place where I’ve had trouble with noisy kids is family restaurants, like Applebee’s, and really, they’re marketed as family restaurants, that’s expected.
But I think it is important for children to be allowed in certain restaurants and on outings. My parents took me to the theatre, to fine restaurants, and other places where kids may be banned in the future. It’s where I learned to listen and respond to adult conversation, how I learned table manners, to be quiet during a performance, appreciate food that I was unsure of the ingredients of, and how to treat waitstaff politely. Kids should learn these things, and I know many of the children that the child-free zones target weren’t like me in that respect, but banning them from these places just shoves the larger problem under the carpet and creates a bubble of ignorant bliss. Unfortunately, those kids will grow up into bratty adults who still don’t know how to act in restaurants and in good company, then what will be done?
On another level, beyond legal issues, this bothers me though. It bothers me because rather than thinking about what’s best for the children, the people rapidly endorsing this movement are thinking about what personally inconveniences, grosses out, or annoys them.
That bothers me because if people were banned from all restaurants and public places based on doing behaviour that was seen as socially immature or not up to the standard of societal norms, then it wouldn’t just be children that would be impacted. Cognitively and intellectually disabled adults with behaviours that are difficult for neurotypicals to interpret, or which are beyond their control would also possibly fall under the list of annoyances for these people. A lot of disabled people get very few chances to go out in the community, and yes, I’ve seen people give disgusted stares and muttering comments to their table-mates when I’ve gone to a restaurant with coworkers and friends with CP, Muscular Dystrophy and Tourette’s. They weren’t being noisy or rude, they just had difficulty controlling the volume of their voice or needed help managing a fork or spoon.
We all share this public. Children will not learn how to behave properly if they are kept shut away from the adult world all the time, and the entitled attitude that some people have where they believe their personal comfort outweighs the rights of others to participate equally has greater ramifications than a spike in hiring babysitters.