I ran into a grocery store with my three young kids. My youngest, a toddler whose mood changed with every passing box of cereal, was particularly volatile and I remember thinking that I would have to be quick about this.
He took advantage of my mistake of not buckling him in by hopping in and out of the cart in one second intervals. So I tried to wrangle him into the belt, which he resisted with body contortions, kicks, screams and various other unpleasantries. Eventually, I hoisted him over my shoulder, secured my left arm around the back of his legs, and used my right arm to navigate the cart and my two other kids through the aisles.
With all of his kicking, screaming and hitting, why I didn’t leave my half-filled cart and hightail it out of there remains a mystery -- milk and bread are certainly overrated. But I remained in the store. Finally, feeling completely humiliated, I took one last deep breath and figured that all I had left was the credit card swipe, after which I could retreat to my car for a good cry.
But then, things actually took a turn for the worse.
My son chose the very second I was swiping my card to try something brand new. Using the one weapon I had left unsecured and readily available, he clamped down as hard as he could on the back of my shoulder with his teeth. A vice grip, if you will, that he seemed intent on holding until he reached his next birthday.
Cussing like a sailor (shockingly out of character for me), I barely made it through the transaction.
That particular grocery store visit was an experience I would never choose to repeat. But here’s what made it bearable.
Although I have no doubt that some people in the store judged me or my son on various levels (before I had kids, I would have judged both me and my son), no one voiced their opinions. Moms gave me empathetic looks and wide berths in the aisles. Customers in my line were patient and helpful with my other two kids. The cashier was kind despite being somewhat alarmed at being in such close proximity to my son (for which I can hardly blame her).
A store employee even opened the door for me and offered assistance to the car (not normal procedure for that store). This was very likely on account of wanting to get me and my out-of-control kid out of there as quickly as possible, but the gesture was appreciated nonetheless.
Even though my kids are older now and I no longer live in fear of being bitten by them (knock on wood), I always appreciate the general sentiment of public support for what I’m doing as a mom. For the most part, the attitude I experience when I’m out and about is that kids are pretty awesome and that they are totally worth it -- even at their most annoying.
And so I was conflicted when I read an article that described “no kids allowed” or “brat ban” policies growing in popularity. Not surprisingly, it all began with adults-only resorts. This I can understand. But recently, a wave of restaurants, movie theatres and even airlines have instituted policies that either ban kids altogether or stipulate times when kids are allowed and when they’re not.
This got my wheels turning. Should our kids (and, by definition, their parents) be banned from local movie theatres or grocery stores (both industries have implemented kid-free policies)? Here in Texas, one cinema chain has even flipped the model and banned kids under six altogether, except on specified “baby days.”
I get that it is difficult for businesses to ignore money from the increasing number of childless adults, the group fueling this movement. But I hate to see the public becoming less kid-friendly. Does this mean that my kids may be raising my grandkids in a society where their families are banned from as many or more places than they are welcomed? Does this put parents in danger of becoming second-class citizens?
There are definitely times when I’m on a date with my husband and would rather not be seated next to a screaming (or, heaven forbid, biting) child. And someday I hope to be able to confirm reports that vacationing at adults-only resorts can be quite lovely.
But I’ll tolerate (and even help the parents of) tantrum-throwing kids if the alternative is a society that doesn’t welcome them. The way I see it, all adults – even the ones who choose not to have their own children – were once kids themselves. And for the most part, we were totally awesome and completely worth it – even at our most annoying.
I would be interested to understand where other people stand on this issue. In your opinion, where (if anywhere) should businesses draw the line? What do you think about the growing number of “no-kids-allowed” bans?
Time to weigh in . . .
Susie Boyce is a freelance writer based in Highland Village. Read her column each month in The Cross Timbers Gazette. Contact Boyce at
or visit her website at www.seriousmomsense.com