While American culture in the year 2012 has certainly moved past the notion that children should be seen and not heard, not everyone can agree on the places and situations in which the presence of children is inappropriate. Recently, Greenwood Park, a Brooklyn beergarden, banned children after 4pm. Yuna Weiss, a mother of four, told the New York Daily News, “It pretty much means that they don’t want us here with the kids.” I’d say that’s an accurate insight.
Even though I like children, there are a lot of places I would rather not see them. These places include bars, walking at a glacial pace on a crowded Upper East Side sidewalk, in double strollers when I am trying to get on or off the 6 train, and at graphic, R-rated movies about phone sex. Yesterday my sister and I were equally horrified to see a mother bring her son, who couldn’t have been older than six years old, to see For a Good Time, Call…
The boy was a few seats away from his mother playing a noisy video game on an iPad and ignored her when she snapped her fingers at him to turn off the sound. Nevermind that digital courtesy is still in rare form at the movies these days. Nevermind that there are still people who have the audacity to take a call in a theater despite the five-minute public service announcements asking patrons to shut off their phones. Nevermind that the light from cell phones and iPads is distracting and blinding to surrounding moviegoers. Taking a small child to a movie in the middle of the afternoon that is rated R for “strong sexual content throughout, language and some drug use” is off-the-charts horrible parenting.
After the shooting massacre at a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado, much of the internet collectively wondered what some of the parents were thinking when they brought their three-month-old babies or six-year-old children to such a movie. Stacy DeBroff, CEO and founder of MomCentral.com, told The Daily Beast that more parents bring their children to the movies as a result of a shift towards a child-centric culture. “Even at young ages we include kids in lots of activities that we ourselves growing up would never have been included in.”
“You’ll understand when you have kids”
A common line that parents like to give non-parents is that they cannot possibly understand what having a child is like. To a degree, I’m sure that’s true. I don’t understand completely. However, being childless doesn’t mean that a person doesn’t have maternal instincts and the common sense of a moose. To say that I’m a better mother to my cat than this woman is to her son is not so much of a stretch.
So, no, I will not understand why anyone would not choose to stay home rather than expose their child to sex and foul language once I have given birth, because I’m pretty sure that the birth process does not involve the removal of my brain.
Ever since Time magazine ran its controversial cover story on breastfeeding and attachment parenting, I’ve noticed a common sentiment popping up on parenting websites and blogs everywhere: parent how you want, no judgment. Breastfeeding your four-year-old? No judgment. Formula for your infant? No judgment. Ice cream for lunch? No judgment.
As a general rule, parents should be able to make what they feel are the proper decisions regarding their children. No, it is not polite to loudly suggest to a mother that maybe her baby is crying because he is hungry/tired/constipated or to otherwise offer advice to a stranger when it has not been solicited. But what happens when a parent makes a choice that is clearly not in the child’s best interest?
I’ll judge you if I want to
My sister spoke to the manager, who unfortunately did not have the power to ask the mother and child to leave, but did offer us free movie passes. The free tickets are a nice gesture, but unfortunately they don’t solve the real problem: that a movie theater does not have the power to prevent parents from behaving like epic boneheads. I say we bring judging back.
Another theater employee remarked that sitters these days are expensive and hiring one would have cost, like $80! Sorry, but people with $500 iPads lose the right to complain about the expense of anything. Allow me to do a little simple math: on the high end of the pay scale, a babysitter can earn $20 per hour, so instead of buying an iPad, this woman could have purchased 25 hours to do as she pleased, child-free.
When my older sister was born, my parents couldn’t afford to hire a sitter, so instead they took turns caring for her and seeing movies. While this may not be a viable option for single parents, the reality is that once you have a child your life is no longer completely about you.
Any way you spin it, the presence of a six-year-old child at a graphic sexual movie is not appropriate or healthy.
For a good time at the movies, consider hiring a babysitter.
This article also appeared on Huffington Post Women.