The original title of today’s blog post was “Winning the fight against children”—which made the photo caption a lot funnier—and I was having a lot of fun writing it until about 30 seconds ago. It all started when I saw this article in the Huffington Post, about a restaurant in Pennsylvania that has banned children under age 6. I love that kind of thing, as you know, and it happened to dovetail nicely with an article about US marriage and childrearing trends I found while reading the footnotes to The Marriage Vow yesterday. So I wrote this fun intro paragraph:
Despite powerful influence from the likes of Bob Vander Plaats and Bil Keane, American society is gradually reducing the number of children in our midst. Okay, the actual number of children nears an all-time high and grows larger every year, but that’s because there’s also so many of us. By some stroke of luck, long-term growth in the number of adults has kept pace with the growth of children—even exceeded it in some cases, I think, although I’m having trouble finding statistics. So although kids clog our streets and animal-themed pizza arcades, the percentage of children in society has stayed low. According to CBS News, the proportion of American households occupied by married couples with children has dropped to 25%, a development they felt merited the rarely-seen six-deck headline.
Then I wrote this next one:
I’m also going to completely derail the discussion for a moment to quote the lead to this CBS story about census data on American households in its entirety: “The latest Census Bureau figures indicate that baby boomers finally are settling down after two decades of social revolution that saw American families undergo dramatic changes.” Really? The baby boomers are finally settling down, now that they’ve turned 60? Maybe it’s possible, CBS News, that some other generation is responsible for trends in American childrearing now. Sorry—I’ll just shut up and wait for that weeklong miniseries about 1968.
Then I was like, “where is the total percentage of households with children in them for 2010? Why does all the census data stop at 1995?” I reread the article twice before I realized that Bob Vander Plaats and his Marriage Vow has cited as “the latest census data” a CBS News item from 1997. You got me again, Vander Plaats—first the Iowa Supreme Court, and now this. Anyway, the whole post is irreparably bifurcated now, so I’m just going to move on to the second part and say, man, I kind of wish that CBS were still putting all social trends in terms of the baby boomers just so I could get angry about it. I have psychological problems.
Okay, now the second part: a restaurant in Pennsylvania has announced that it will no longer admit children under age six. Mike Vuick, owner of McDain’s Restaurant and Golf Center—welcome to Pennsylvania!—sent an email to loyal customers explaining that “we feel that McDain’s is not a place for young children. Their volume can’t be controlled and many, many times, they have disturbed other customers.” Periodically, a restaurant will do this, and I write a blog post in support of them every time. The other thing that happens every time is that the parents of a toddler become outraged, allowing me to put a specific name to the normally generalized category of Whoever Brought the Toddler. This time, it’s Stephanie Kelly, mother of 13 month-old Jameson Kelley.
After Vuick remarked that there is “nothing wrong with babies, but the fact is you can’t control their volume,” Kelley said that she was “offended” and the policy was “ignorant.” “If they’re so concerned about noise,” she told WTAE, “what do they plan to do about the loud people at the bar?” To which I reply: of course there’s a bar. Why would you bring your 13 month-old child if there’s no bar? His name is Jameson, for Christ’s sake.
So it turns out that we started winning the fight against children 15 years ago, although along the way we have accumulated a certain number of quislings. The war on children has always been against an enemy in our midst—a civil war, if you will, even though it hasn’t been a tremendously civil war. Also, always read the dateline first. One’s observations are so much more timely when they are made about the present time.