Friday, July 29, 2011

Don't Call It a Brat Ban

There is a lot of buzz about this movement to provide child-free experiences in places like airplanes, restaurants, and grocery stores. I have lots of issues with it, but by far the most upsetting thing is that some people have started calling these restrictions Brat Bans.

I can't stand the word brat in general. While I suppose I can picture what people are talking about when they use the word, I can honestly say that I don't use it myself. What upsets me about the term brat bans is how the word brat is being used as a substitute for the word child. That is unfair.

Let's get one thing straight here, people: this movement is not about brats. It's not about a group of people whose behavior in public is disturbing to others. If it were, then many adults would also have to be included in the bans. This movement is about people under a certain age, most of whom are perfectly fine in public, most of the time.

This movement is about all children, who also happen to be people. People, like us, who have good days and bad days. People, like us, who aren't always aware of the effects their "behavior" has on the people around them.

It's not so shocking that this is where we are headed, creating these artificial kid-free places and times. In our society, parents are constantly warned about how dangerous it is to treat our children like friends. Adults are discouraged from making friends or being friendly with children in general, for fear of pedophilia or other ill-intentions. It's easy to imagine why many adults have trouble enjoying children under these circumstances.

Children are a separate class of people. Until, of course, they inevitably grow up to be adults, and then magically they can be included as full members of society, simply because they have taken the proper number of trips around the sun, even if they have been excluded from the real world for most of that time.

Most of us spend a good portion of our childhoods hanging out with people exactly the same age as ourselves (in school). We start to band together with the beliefs that younger people aren't cool, older people aren't cool, and our parents especially aren't cool. A lot of us go to college, where a child is a very rare sight, and the only "old people" are some of the professors. Otherwise, almost everyone is within a four-year age range. It is like a different planet from the regular Earth. We get used to only dealing with "bad behavior" from our age-peers.

Somehow, we forget how we felt as children. We forget that we are still the same people as we once were, only now we are the ones with the power to control our environments. And now we feel entitled to our child-free environments. We start to notice the children who are disturbing us. We notice there are plenty of adults who bother us too, but realize there isn't much we can do about them. So we come to the conclusion that it's easier just to restrict everyone under a certain age from going to certain places, rather than face any potential interruptions of our adult lives by these small, foreign people.

One thing is for sure: If the word brat applies to all children, then it applies to all people. Especially the ones who feel that the "right" of an adult to go grocery shopping without the possibility of hearing a child cry (or even laugh) too loud is more important than the right of a parent to bring her child to the grocery store when it's most convenient.

I plan to put my money where my mouth is. I will not support a business that enacts arbitrary age restrictions, even if my children are not with me.* Will you join me? Let's show these businesses that people who like children are powerful consumers. Even more powerful than those who complain about the children. Let's make sure that our children are not marginalized any further, and that our children grow up to be tolerant and accepting of each other's differences.


*I know someone is going to ask the obvious question about bars that don't allow people under 21. Not that I go to them very often, but I would say that since bars are not places where I already bring my children, they don't count in my proposed boycott. But don't get me started on the drinking age...