With a certain article in the New York Times Wednesday, it appears that the age-old debate about kids in bars has reared its ugly head out of a keg we thought we'd kicked back in 2008. Should kids be in bars? What if those bars are in Park Slope? What if the bars are actually 13,000-square-foot spaces, beer gardens even, called Greenwood Park, that may have just opened this June and to which the owner has made it a point to encourage parents to bring their kids? What if the kids aren't drinking (of course the kids aren't drinking) alcohol? What if the kids are better behaved than the adults?
Has anyone even asked the kids what they think? We imagine.
Montgomery [a girl, 8 years old, walking to school, her nose in an e-reader. She sees her friend and looks up]: "Oh, hello, Clifford. Did you read that piece in the New York Times last night? I found it derivative, at best, though I was amused by the stereotypical descriptions of 'babyless types' who are so terrified by children as to be forced to take to the Internet to complain about kids being present in one of the many bars available in the neighborhood. Also, the presumption that adults go to bars to get away from children seemed hopelessly myopic. If only my parents would leave me in peace at home when they went out to frolic!"
Clifford [a boy, 9]: "Of course I read it; I take in the Times City Room blog every night, along with the Style section, as you're well aware. Oh my, the household was in shambles! Father was quite perturbed about it, had a little tantrum of his own. His actual words—and I dare call them shouts—were, 'Every parent in Park Slope is not talking about this nonsense!' Then he stamped his foot and got on his iPad and proceeded to comment nastily on the article using the handle Seriously76, all the while simultaneously shouting to Mother that the 'Grey Lady' had done it again and that if she wasn't such a bleeding heart liberal with pretentious Northeastern roots despite her hippie-yoga facade he'd have canceled their subscription years ago. Sigh."
Montgomery: "I wonder if those editors have any idea of the trouble they make for us. What did your mother say?"
Clifford: "Well, you know she's something of a free spirit. They met in Williamsburg, you know, just before it was overrun with skinny jeans and the men and women who love them. She argued that Park Slope parents were known helicopter-ers and navel-gazers who all thought their own children were just perfect and didn't bother to attempt to control them in public places, bars or not. She really took a bit of an extreme view, I thought, bordering on slippery slope, and you know when an argument snowballs it becomes quite facile. In a moment of extreme passion she claimed that the future of New York City en toto, if not just Park Slope, may well be in severe peril if all of these bratty, undisciplined kids such moms and dads bring into this world were allowed to run free. I believe she even agreed with one of those childless Yelpers, claiming that nobody wants a 'Chuck-E-Cheese in South Slope!' Adults have such strange ideas about what children enjoy, don't they? Of course, she then added, 'If Clifford and Jemima weren't absolute angels and able to go anywhere with their 150-plus IQs and etiquette standards rivaling Emily Post, we'd be in a far different situation.'"
Jemima [a girl, 6, walking next to her brother Clifford, a backpack half her size strapped to her back]: "She does have rather high thoughts about us, doesn't she? I fear we'll only live to disappoint. Then again, why is anyone listening to what a bunch of yahoos have to complain about on Yelp?"
Montgomery and Clifford look at Jemima sadly.
Montgomery: "News cycle."
Clifford: "You'll understand when you're older. Basically, kids and 'gentrification trends' are gold. Remember the babyccinos incident?"
Montgomery nods: "God, that was dreadful. Truly, though, I think the two of you escaped a far greater trial. My parents insisted that we go to the bar immediately as a stance against letting the child-free interfere in our bucolic, acceptably gentrified lives. I was forced to leave my book, and you know I'm getting to the most thrilling parts of War and Peace, and drag myself out to that beer garden to sit and be bitten by mosquitos and 'be social' as Maureen sipped her one wine and Jerry put back a few beers and a couple of their friends came by and shook my hand and talked to me as if I were a toddler. They ordered me a hot pretzel and you know how I feel about gluten. Then we were forced to make conversation about 'school' and 'playdates' and 'the coolest toys out right now'—they'll never engage in an interesting political debate with me. It's disheartening."
Jemima: "Call me a cynic but I suspect the bar owners enjoy having us not for our looks and personalities, but because we eat and drink too, and if we're there, Mom and Dad will stay a bit longer, consume a bit more, and not have to pay a babysitter. It's a win-win for everyone but us. And they cover all that up by saying things like 'stroller friendly' and 'bocce courts.'"
Clifford: "The last time I played bocce I dropped the ball on my foot."
Montgomery: "I detect a bit of insecurity in the comments of the childless." She removes a folded paper from her back and reads: "'The whole appeal of the bar is to go there in the day and sit there in the sun and enjoy a beer,' Malcolm Kates, 31, who on Yelp called Greenwood Park 'unbearable' for nonparents, said in an interview. 'You almost feel like you’re the irresponsible one by showing up to drink around so many children.' Methinks the man doth protest too much! It's almost as though he's trying to deny his own adulthood."
Clifford: "His argument is spurious. Though I enjoyed the part where we was concerned that his language and that of his friends was too harsh for our wee ears, and also, that this would only happen in Park Slope, such behavior would be shut down in Bed-Stuy."
Jemima, sadly: "It would only be complained about and then written about in the New York Times if it happened in Park Slope."
Clifford and Montgomery smile ruefully. Clifford gives her a little hair tousle: "Now you're getting it, kiddo."
Bell rings; they separate for class.
Montgomery turns back: "Oh! Will I see you guys at the bar tonight?"
Jemima: "Yes, unless we can get out of it. I may feign a cold, though I do fear the karmic retribution of doing such."
Clifford: "Bring your copy of War and Peace. Maybe we can manage to get a little reading done if the adults aren't too boisterous. Perhaps they'll even nod off! Fingers crossed."
A second bell rings. The day begins. Somewhere in Park Slope, a Yelper complains anew.