Child-free zones seem to be silently popping up everywhere. Are such kid-free zones practical in India? Are they hassle-free or discriminatory?
By Prerna Malik
First published at www.womensweb.in
“They’re kids. Let them be”, said a mother to me as we sat in the restaurant watching a bunch of kids literally tear the place down with their bare hands and their screams. At that moment, I thought how lovely it would be for a restaurant to have a no-kids policy.
Did I mention that, that was before I, too, was a mother. Today, when I read about child-free flights, events and restaurants, it makes me sad. Why?
No children allowed = No mothers allowed
In a country like India, where the mother is more often than not the primary caretaker of a child, excluding kids from a public place means excluding the mother as well. Let’s face it, not all of us have a maid to look after our kids while we can eat in a no-kids allowed restaurant. More importantly, not all of us would want that, right?
By keeping children out of flights, restaurants, cinema halls or any such public place, are we not really keeping mothers out as well?
Anamica Cannivady, a 37 year old mom to 3 year old, Rahul, is indignant at the thought. She says, “I cannot image a situation where one would need to ban kids from these places. How would I ever travel with my kid? Or eat in a restaurant?
We bring a child into this world, we cannot shun them out of situations where it’s easier for adults. Kids will be kids; they will make noise, run around – but yes, the parents / adults accompanying the kids should ensure that others using the service of the restaurant or airline aren’t bothered.”
Shutting kids out no way of dealing with bad behaviour
Honestly, eating in a restaurant while kids scream or run amok is not my idea of a dinner out. Yes, despite the fact that I am a mother. But leaving them at home is not the solution.
As Vandana Sudhakar Dutt, entrepreneur and mom to two kids, aged 3 and 6, says, “I have a 3 year old and a 6 year old; and they’re a handful. The first time I came across child free zones, I felt almost insulted. Like I am being penalized for having kids- or that my kids were not good enough to be somewhere.
But now I really feel that it’s better to have them,than be embarrassed of a kid throwing a tantrum in a restaurant: so that I can handle the child well rather than give in out of embarrassment of spoiling other guests’ meal or spoiling a mid night flight for so many other passengers. In some cases, however, it may be better for the kids and adults – parents or not, to leave the child at home. Pubs should be declared child free zones for practical purposes.”
Nandini Gulati, a Lifestyle and Wellness Coach, who doesn’t have kids however, feels, “I think movie halls and performance theatres could do that urgently except for children’s shows. I would love a child free zone in airlines/ trains like a few seats/ coaches for work travellers. There are some restaurants that are naturally kid friendly and there are some fine dining ones that have a minimum age. Having said that, I don’t like the phrase “ban” children.”
According to experts, kids behave badly when adults in their life let them. After all, it is a parent’s responsibility to teach a child how to behave. Children aren’t born with manners, they need to be taught and shutting them out of these places is no solution for creating well-behaved children.
Child-free zones limit a child’s scope for learning
Just imagine a world where children are only allowed into Pizza Huts and McDonalds. Do you think they would learn how to behave in a fine-dining restaurant as an adult?
Or picture a country where children below 6 can’t fly in planes. Will they ever learn travel etiquette? I believe not.
Creating child-free zones limit a child’s ability to learn important life skills that come only from experience. Moreover, are children always the badly behaved ones? Have we all not sat next to the nosy lady who wouldn’t stop asking questions about your personal life? Or the garrulous man in the movie hall whose cell phone wouldn’t stop ringing throughout the movie. And he’d answer it. Every time.
Yes, adults too can be badly behaved. We don’t stop them from entering hotels, restaurants, art galleries and movie halls, do we?
Creating child-free or no kids allowed zones in India may not be a practical option for a culture where mothers tend to accompany their children everywhere. It is not a healthy option for a country battling diabetes for kids to eat only at fast food joints.
What do you think?