Some guidelines for bar-hopping with your baby (in better times).
Dear Athena: Is it OK to bring my baby to a bar? He’s 15 months old, and if I give him an iPad he’s good for like 2 hours – totally enough time for me and the wife to stop for a beer or two while out running errands or after visiting with friends in the evening. It’s not like we’re getting drunk, but we do seem to get random glares from strangers. Maybe they’re not so random, though. Are there rules about kids in bars we’re not aware of? This is our first baby. We don’t know. – Baffled Beer Lovers
Baffled: Your question has several answers, depending on what you mean by “is it OK.”
Health-wise, if/when society opens up again, bars will be as safe as any other public place now that that state law prohibits smoking in them. Legally in Pennsylvania, children of all ages are permitted into establishments that serve alcohol, as long as they’re accompanied by (adult) parents or guardians of course. These days, there’s often not much difference between a bar and a restaurant.
But is it… OK? “Should” kids be in bars? I think we can all agree that some bars are more kid-friendly than others – so use your best judgment. Look around the room: are you comfortable? Are there other parents with children? Are booster seats and high-chairs available? Is there a changing table in the restroom? Does the space feel open enough so your family (and baby gear) can comfortably spread out without dominating the room?
Timing makes a huge difference too. Obviously maybe not Happy Hour and you probably want to avoid Friday/Saturday nights in many establishments. If you have any doubts about whether your baby is welcome, ask a server.
Still. Babies in bars do tend to call attention, not always good. As you’ve discovered, people can be less than subtle with their social cues of disapproval. But so what?
You will find, as you raise your child, that people are constantly butting in with their unsolicited opinions: this is good, that’s bad, this is what you’re doing wrong, this is how you need to think/feel/speak/plan/behave…. Not just friends and family but often total randos: a lady in the grocery store, some dude in line at the bank. Most will be well-meaning – some will not – and pretty much all of them will rub you the wrong way if you don’t learn to take these other viewpoints with a grain of salt.
As your child’s parent, you absolutely are their best guardian and advocate. Regardless, you don’t know everything. Today’s world is a dizzying array of products, services and experiences that no parent can (or should) possibly navigate alone. Raising healthy kids isn’t just intuition, it’s science too. I urge you to stay open to new information, even if it feels a little judgy at first.
Which brings us to this question you didn’t ask me but I’m answering anyway because this my advice column and I have got to say this: No it is not OK for your 15 month old play on an iPad for 2 hours.
Your baby’s brain is still developing. Research shows that overstimulating babies with digital devices primes the brain for hyperactivity, attention deficit disorders and other learning & behavioral issues. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for kids under 18 months. But don’t take my word for it – talk your pediatrician about healthy guidelines for TV and video games.
Your baby might scream for your iPhone but what they really want (and need) is you. Yes it’s “OK” to take your baby to a bar, but that’s not an excuse to tune out as a parent while you’re there. Keep your little one close. Engage them. Use this time together to bond as a family, and let the looks of other patron’s bounce right off you.
Agree or Disagree? Please comment below.
ABOUT ATHENA When she’s not advising mortals, Athena spends her time on earth in NW Philly with her husband, two sons and a day job where she’s paid to tell important people what to do (naturally). Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.