From the things one reads these days, one would think that children are being banned from everywhere. There is an article floating around my various circles discussing the trend of banning children from all manner of places: restaurants, airplanes, vacation spots, etc. And I try to get all worked up into a blather about this, but I just can’t. The truth is, I think Penguin and Owl are the most amazing little children on the planet. If you are a family member, I’d like to think that the boys rank in your top 5. If you are a close friend, I’d like to think you find the boys among the more charming that you’ve met. And if you are a stranger, just be nice to them, please. They’re quite lovely.

All that said, I get that people who do not know us would not want to be around us during their down time. Within reason. If you are giving me sourpuss face at a Panera or some such establishment, then you are, in fact, a Sour Puss. If we invade a restaurant where you’ll expect to pay at least $50 for a single meal, I would understand the preemptive sigh and an eyeroll. And you would be somewhat right to question my sanity. Why has this woman brought an infant and a three-year old in here? Does she not remember that the boychild will just take the most decadent gourmet meal and slather it front and fore with ketchup? Then complain about it? Then maybe eat it? Then insist that we leave RIGHT NOW to get a slice of pizza from Costco?

There is a reason we select the places that we select when we go out for a meal or in search of entertainment. We cater to our most impatient group members. The one most likely to fuss. No, not Papa Bird, though I’d not blame you for thinking that. He’s a close second. No, we plan an outing based on the interests and abilities of the three-year old Penguin. The thing is, most parents I know seem to have similar rules of engagement. So I am never quite sure who these articles are supposed to be chastising.  The takeaway message seems to be, “Unruly brats and clueless parents, please just stay home.” But overwhelmingly, I do not know unruly brats and clueless parents. Rather, I know parents who, heady from the rush of three successful outings in a row and perhaps, tempting fate, stepped it up a bit for the fourth outing only to find that their child colluded with karma  just that morning to plan a colossal meltdown that evening. No warnings that this would be in the works. No prescient knowledge of what was to be. You plan an outing with the delusional cockiness that comes from a few weeks of relative calm and then whammo. You remember. The tantrum forces you to remember. “Oh, yes. You’re three.”  Even your child is taken aback a bit as you all stand there, mouths agape, watching the verbal carnage unfold.

So, I find these articles and admonishments all a bit unfair. But I still understand them and I am not bothered by them. On a date night, I might patronize an establishment that would not want me there if I had my children in tow. I might consider a child-free flight if it was a business trip and I wanted to get some work done. I might select the coffeehouse that banned children from interrupting the stillness. Others have stated, correctly, that we don’t ban the obnoxiously loud adults among us in these establishments. Except that we do, sort of. Get belligerent on a plane and you might find yourself arrested by an air marshall. Get belligerent in a restaurant and the police may be called. For me, though, I can tune out the loudness of adults. I used to be able to tune out the loudness of children, too. Then I had some of my own and now I am hyper-attuned to them, for better or for worse. I am always conscious of the children in a room now. It’s a different form of distraction and one that I don’t easily overcome.

I’ll take a detached interest in these conversations as they unfold. But if the Costco ever makes this policy decision, we’ll need to talk. There is no greater place to bring an antsy child during a wintery mid-morning day than the massive aisles of the Costco. And that frozen yogurt! It’s really quite good.

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