I see the look that you keep tossing my way, and I just want to take a moment to say: I’m not really sorry that I brought them here. I’m just not that parent who passes out earplugs and apologies when we climb onto an airplane, or worries when they make some noise in public.
Since my daughters were born, we’ve taken them to a lot of nice restaurants, and yes, we’ve been on more than a couple airplanes. We’ve also gone to art museums and readings, and even the ballet once in Philly.
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Most of those times we could have left them at home. It’s not like sitters are out of our price range. And, to be honest, we often do—but every so often, we decide it’s time to take them out. There are a few reasons for this.
It’s really special for them.
Though Lydia isn’t quite old enough to understand this, Aki does. And even for Lydia, it’s good exposure. Children’s museums, playgrounds, and restaurants with kid menus are all fine and good, but I want my children to see that there are places where different things are happening. When we took Aki to the ballet, she was four. Lydia hadn’t been born yet. She spoke in full volume several times during the performance, and we had to remind her to use her quiet voice, while people on either side of us kept looking over. But what she said was: "That’s beautiful! They look so pretty! I wish I could be down there doing that!"
We learn some pretty cool new things about our kids.
When we’re at home, we don’t cook a separate meal for our kids—they eat what we eat. But at most restaurants, there’s a kid’s menu, with a little pile of crayons next to it. And it’s almost always the same things: chicken fingers, mac and cheese, maybe a burger. Both kids like to get the mac and cheese. But occasionally, we take them somewhere that thwarts their admirable desire for consistency, and they have to try a dish they normally wouldn’t. I can’t say it always works out, but sometimes, interesting things happen: One time we had steamed mussels at a nice French restaurant, and to our surprise, Aki absolutely loved them. Now we occasionally make them at home.
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It helps them realize they’re not the center of the universe.
Yes, there are museums that are made for kids. The Please Touch Museum in Philly and the Children’s Museum in Brooklyn are just great, as are a bunch of science centers that are designed and run specifically to give kids great hands-on experiences. And here’s the thing: The Metropolitan Museum, or the Morgan Library, or even MOMA (which has a great, if slightly hidden little kid’s area) aren’t really made for children. But that’s why it’s so important to take them there. The world isn’t always made for, or all about, kids. And as much as I love them, I also want to teach them that there’s a big wide world out there, and they’re not the only important thing in it.
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Lastly, I want to take them places, because I don’t think it’s fair to ask—or assume—that public spaces can’t have a little chaos in them. You can keep having your date while my kids make some noise over at our table—you may have to talk a little louder, but their presence or absence certainly won’t make or break your night. Your appreciation of the Met’s Temple of Dendur won’t be diminished if my kids are laughing nearby. And you’ll make it through the plane ride, even if Lydia gets tired and starts to cry. That’s what ear buds are for, my friend. It makes their world a little wider to be introduced to things and places that aren’t specifically designed for them. And it makes everyone else’s world a little wider to have kids in it.
You can thank me later.