What Really Grinds My Gears: Kid-friendly bars

Kathy Shaidle of Five Feet of Fury links to a report of an interesting phenomenon: Gen X and Millenial parents feel comfortable enough to drag their stroller-bound young ‘uns to bars:

Millennial and Gen X parents are changing child-rearing expectations to remain as close to pre-kid life as possible — so much so that meeting up with friends for drinks is low-key enough to bring the kids (NYTimes.com 2.10.08).

This is the sheerest sort of lunacy.  Let us all remind ourselves of what happens in bars.

  • People drink alcohol and eat food.
  • Sometimes they also listen loud music and play games.
  • In a drunken haze, people also try to solve the problems of the world and/or pick up somebody of the opposite sex.
  • With enough alcohol, some people can get loud, uncoordinated, belligerent, horny, or all of the above.

Parents considering dragging their kids to a bar should carefully consider the following questions:

  • Name one seemingly insurmountable problem facing the world that you solemnly swear your child will undertake to solve after said child has consumed no less than three pints of beer.  If the kid can’t hold their beer you may substitute three drams of single-malt scotch.
  • What is the maximum number of cuss words—and at what volume—your child will be permitted to hear before the bar ceases to be appropriate?
  • What is the maximum number (or nature) of sexual exploits—and at what volume—your child will be permitted to hear before the bar ceases to be appropriate?
  • What is the maximum number of poorly aimed darts, errant cue balls, or spilled drinks your child will be permitted to endure before the bar ceases to be appropriate?
  • How many times are you willing to get kicked in the nads by other patrons by telling them to “watch their language” or “pipe down” or “don’t launch the cue ball off the table” because your child is present—against all logic and reason—in the bar.  Where adults congregate.  And talk about adult things.  At adult volume.  Drinking things only adults are permitted to be served.

You get the basic idea.

Look, there is a place where adults and kids can gather together and the adults can enjoy a drink in a fully-controlled environment where the kid will not overhear undesired swear words, sexual content, or have any contact with random non-conscientious strangers.  It’s called Your Own Damn Living Room with Treehouse on the TV.  Learn to love it.

A few years ago I toured Spadina House, a grand old Edwardian mansion next door to Casa Loma.  The original owners, the Austin family, had some fairly strict rules about certain areas of the house.  Children and women were not permitted in the billiard room, because that is where the adult males smoked, cussed, consumed alcohol and—presumably—acted with typical lack of good judgment and graces, as men can do when they get sufficiently liquored up.  The one day the whole family was allowed in was Christmas morning, when dad would get all decked out in the Father Christmas outfit and distribute presents.

I tend to think that in some ways they got it right.  While this is not necessarily a good template for our gender-equal times, there is something to be said for keeping adult activities and child activities separated.  For most sensible people, never the twain shall meet, and wanting to mash the two together just seems absurd and pointless.

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8 Responses
  1. Alan says:

    So when you learn I take my kids to the Kingston Brew Pub are you going to go all Flaherty on me?

  2. Chris Taylor says:

    Not sure what is involved in a “Flaherty”… And I’m not sure I could add much more to what’s already been said. Bars are adult joints for adults to do adult things.

  3. Alan says:

    Well, that goes against the entire history of pubs but you will notice in the headline of the story you quoted the no doubt fine example of the upright citizen seemed only to be troubled by the brake on her own bad behaviours. Hardly the sort of thing one would based a moral stance upon.

  4. Chris Taylor says:

    If there are to be children in pubs, I would prefer that they be the offspring of the proprietor and engaged in appropriately back-breaking Dickensian labour.
    I’m not making a moral argument, only a practical one. I would not moderate drinking, cussing, playing, wooing or fighting in bars for the presence of kids. If for some crazy reason they are in the bar after work or close to midnight then they get whatever the experience offers up. Friday at 10 looks a lot different from Sunday at 2. There are times and places where it can work. But in general, bars are for adults. As they should be.

  5. Alan says:

    I think what I am missing is your appreciation for the grades of watering hole. You seem to be describing what once was called a tavern: a place for problem drinking of some degree or another to be done in the comfort of co-conspirators. A pub (or it’s modern bastardization the roadhouse) is a place with drink and food and family during the daytime hours including supper.
    I entirely agree that the evening is not the place for children as the only place for children in the evening is bed. But if an adult pretends that Sunday lunch is Friday midnight just because they are in a room with beer in front of them they deserve to be kicked out of the establishment.

  6. Chris Taylor says:

    It is true I do not draw any distinction between the two. To be fair, neither does the OED. It defines public house as being “2. a. A building whose principal business is the sale of alcoholic drinks to be consumed on the premises; a pub, a tavern.“… and tavern is similarly “1. In early use, A public house or tap-room where wine was retailed; a dram-shop; in current use = PUBLIC HOUSE 2b“.
    Again, practicality. Alcohol is a depressant drug, classed in the family of sedatives. It depresses a brain function that inhibits behaviours we normally consider inappropriate. While 2pm “family time” might be the norm any given Sunday, there is 1) no guarantee that any other patron shares arbitrary distinctions between pub and tavern, and the activities therein; and 2) each person’s body chemistry (and personality, and values) are different, and you have no idea of what inhibitions—and their manifestation—are going to be unleashed. Some are pleasant, some are not.
    For some of them you really need to have an adult’s understanding of human nature to be able to place it in context and not make it a bigger deal (or smaller deal) than it deserves. Young kids don’t have the brainpower or experience required to do that.
    Ed: I’m not saying it’s indicative of bad parenting or anything, see? Just that it is a little illogical to ask people to remember certain inhibitions at the very moment that they are taking drugs whose main effect is to lessen inhibitions.

  7. Kateland says:

    OMG – Pigs are flying again but I agree with Alan.

  8. Chris Taylor says:

    There’s all-round agreement that pub + evening + kids do not mix. On the rest we will just have to amicably disagree. =)
    Keeping in mind though that I am a childless person casting a fairly jaundiced eye on the permissiveness of modern child-rearing. I would not tolerate children in my own office at home (there is nothing in there that requires the application of drool and sticky fingers), so the idea of having them at the pub seems positively otherworldly.