Culture At Large

Do too many places ban kids?

Monica Selby

Last June, Malaysia Airlines listened to grumpy travelers worldwide and banned children from first class. Does your family have the money to actually fly first class? You will have to settle for economy. Do you and your children need to get home quickly from Malaysia and the only seats available are in first class? You’ll have to wait for the next flight.

Kid-free travel has been around for some time, but it’s not just luxury destinations that are banning kids. Restaurants, movie theaters, even some grocery stores are introducing bans on children - and their parents. There is even a Twitter hashtag: #youngkidsshouldbebannedfrom.

Admittedly, there are few such outright bans in the United States. However, there are plenty of examples of businesses trying to push kids out. Recently I loaded my boys up for a trip to the local bookstore. With not one, but two train tables for the boys to play with, it’s a popular spot for indoor fun. We hadn’t been there in a few weeks, so the boys were excited. We spent the ride discussing the name of the bookstore, as it was now under new ownership.

When we arrived, the store was in complete disarray. Shelves pushed into aisles, books misplaced and hurried employees flashing half-smiles. I followed the boys back to the kids’ section, taking in all the new changes. I was admiring the new YA section when I heard the cries.

“Mom! The train tables aren’t here!”

We weren’t the only family standing there, confused and disoriented. Several other moms tried to distract the kids with books as we whispered amongst ourselves and tried to get answers from rushed employees.

“Yes, we took them down,” one lady finally said. “We MIGHT put another one back up later.” Her emphasis made her opinion on the subject obvious.

Just around the corner sits a national grocery that specializes in “whole food.” Despite a small kids table with a wagon of fruit for the taking, I rarely take my boys in there. We get stares from the other patrons, usually accompanied by rolled eyes as I maneuver my kids through the store.

Americans are having fewer kids, according to the 2010 census. As young professionals return to the cities, get married later and have few - if any - kids, it often seems that children are no longer a welcome part of society. Or, if they are included, it is in a way that segregates both them and their parents from the rest of the world. Often even our churches are segregated by age and life stage.

Of course, this isn’t everyone’s experience. Many people feel that our culture is dominated, even controlled, by children. There are kids’ menus at some upscale restaurants and kids’ productions of popular plays and concerts. The story-time lady at the above-mentioned bookstore is a local celebrity and our triple-A baseball stadium boasts a playground to attract bored kids.

In 2010 there were at least 3.9 million mommy bloggers focusing on all things parenting. Toy sections at stores are larger and larger; Etsy is full of homemade products for infants and kids. There are even entire brick-and-mortar stores devoted to various baby “necessities.” With the rise of stay-at-home moms, homeschooling and children’s sports, it often seems as though our parenting is more kid-centric than in the past.

So where should our focus be? Is there a Biblical standard? None of the writers of Scripture directly say, “Thou shalt put children at the center of all.” In ancient cultures the children were there, all the time, everywhere. They worked alongside the parents and went to temple to study God’s word with them, too. Rabbis - i.e. celebrity pastors - would often take young boys and train them in Torah.

I don’t want to head back to ancient Israel any time soon, but the inclusion of children, adults and old people in the fabric of life is something worth emulating. When we embrace and include all segments of culture - including their separate joys and responsibilities - we more fully show the body of Christ to the world.

What is your experience with the place of children in your community: is it kid-centric or are kids not allowed? Should Christians take one side over the other?

(Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.)

Topics: Culture At Large, News & Politics, Home & Family, Parenting