While there are few tangible perks to parenting (other than the sense of satisfaction you get from guiding a young mind through a perilous world) I experienced an unexpected and very much appreciated perk the other night. A much beloved café decided to extend a promotion of sorts allowing children under the age of 12 (as accompanied by their parents) to eat for free. Now this wasn’t chain food garbage, this was quality organic produce and meats prepared with some sophistication and was, in my mind, both a tremendous value and an uncynical way of welcoming families with young children to enjoy some of the finer things in life – namely a family meal enjoyed outside the home. Granted I am fortunate enough to have a child who has always been able to handle the social expectations of a restaurant (even some of the more formal restaurants out there) and I do understand that there are some children that are just not cut out for tasting menus and table etiquette. That said, if parents don’t have the opportunities to expose their children to some of the finer things in life, how are they ever going to grow accustomed to situations that require a bit more composure than Chucky Cheese?
Well two developments this week have indicated that children are becoming expressed and unwanted accessories in some sectors of the adult realm (I am not talking strip clubs and cigar bars). The owner of an “upscale, casual, and quiet” restaurant by the name of McDain’s in Monroeville, PA has announced a ban on children under the age of 6 in his establishment. “We feel that McDain’s is not a place for young children,” owner Mike Vuick emailed this week. “Their volume can’t be controlled and many, many times, they have disturbed other customers.” McDain’s (not to be confused with that other “Mc” franchise that seems to thrive on feasting children) will be a childfree zone and will hopefully attract a more dulcet tone-loving crowd than the sippy cup, goldfish-gobbling set. Some local Monroeville customers, namely parents of small children are pissed and feel the move is clearly discriminatory and in possible violation of rights of certain special needs children.
In another part of the world, Malaysia Airlines announced that they will ban babies from traveling first class on its Airbus A380 super jumbo jet, this comes after the similar decision to ban the little ones from the first class section of its fleet of Boeing 747-400 jets. Instead of babies enjoying the cushy convenience of the overflowing champagne flute and terrycloth eye masks, they will be relegated to business class and economy class. Now while you may have thought the first class section had traditionally been populated by demanding babies anyway (albeit of the adult variety) there will now be a distinction between the diaper-wearing set, and those who don’t like the flavor of their sorbet and can’t get their video on demand player to connect with CNN International.
Granted there are some places where the presence of young children is neither practical nor welcomed, but is the practice of banning children from sections of airplanes and/or entire restaurants discriminatory? Is it fair to expose fellow diners or passengers to the sometimes-rambunctious nature or audible tantrums of a young child, or should these children be segregated from the paying elite?