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Child-free zones are growing in popularity

How would you like to sit next to

How would you like to sit next to this cutie on your next overnight flight? Credit: Fotolia

Some people love to live in a child’s world. Others avoid little ones like the plague. To appease the latter, there are adults-only resorts all around the world, adults-only sections on cruise ships (Even Disney Cruise Line has an adults-only "Quiet Cove" pool) and some high-end designer stores frown upon family shopping sprees. The practice is sometimes referred to as a “brat ban."

More and more businesses are catering to the peace-and-quiet set, and this trend is growing, both here and overseas. Just last week, it was reported that Scoot Airlines, a subsidiary of Singapore Airlines, is selling seats in its new "ScootinSilence" child-free cabin for a $14 surcharge. The section bans children ages 12 and under.

And some U.S. restaurants are banning kids during dinner hours. Time magazine reported earlier this month that the Mexican restaurant La Fisheria in Houston “put the kibosh on little munchkins who insist on wreaking havoc on fellow patrons” with a new no-kids-under-8-after-7 p.m. rule. And reports that, closer to home, two German biergarten restaurants in Brooklyn, Radegast and Spritzenhaus, have begun holding adults-only evenings.

As a mother of two nearly grown daughters, I’ve had the displeasure of standing on both sides of this fence. When my oldest daughter was a toddler, a cousin with a same-aged son and I went out for a casual weekday lunch at the now-defunct Swenson’s in Manhasset. For the record, Swenson’s was an ice-cream-parlor-burger-and-salad type of place, frequented mostly by ladies who lunch, not a white-tablecloth, caviar-and-escargot type of place catering to the business crowd. Still, on that particular day, the kids were sowing their vocal oats. Sitting in their highchairs (provided, ironically, by the establishment,) the two 18-month-olds delighted in mimicking animal noises and laughing at each other as we ate our Cobb salads. It’s important to point out there was absolutely no whining, crying or tantrum throwing going on that day.

After about five minutes of this, we were approached by the manager who asked us to quiet the children. We apologized and tried to shush them, but how does one silence an 18-month-old? When the kids continued laughing, management approached our table again, telling us that we had to keep the children quiet. Nineteen years later, I’m still not sure what he had in mind: Were we to hold our hands over their mouths? Beat them?

During his third visit to our table, Mr. Manager offered to move us to the back dining room — which was empty and not in use at the time. We refused, took our food to go and never returned.

Fast-forward eleven years: It's November 2006, and I’m flying on the redeye from Seattle with my husband, my by-then 14-year-old daughter and another daughter who was 9. It’s Sunday night, and we’re returning from a family Thanksgiving visit. My plan is for everyone to sleep on the plane so the kids can go straight to school, and my husband and I can return to work. Except a woman with an infant is seated two rows ahead, and the baby begins to cry immediately, before the plane even takes off, and continues nonstop all the way to the east coast.

The flight attendant tried to appease what she likely felt could become an angry mob, and began offering to move passengers to seats at the back of the plane. I might have taken her up on it, but the available seats were singles scattered in various rows, and the thought of my fourth grader sleeping next to a stranger did not appeal to me. As the hours went by and the crying continued, the flight attendant wheeled out the beverage cart and poured unlimited free alcoholic drinks to passengers in the area. I passed on that, too: If there was any hope of getting to work in the morning, I needed coffee, not tequila.

Sure, I felt badly for the mother. It wasn’t her fault that her baby was wreaking havoc on a planeful of sleep-deprived travelers. I knew there was nothing she could do to quiet the child, but my sympathy and distant memory of that day at Swenson's didn’t help me feel any better when the sun came up. I decided during that long, long night that small children should not be permitted on overnight flights, and I’d be first in line to snag a “ScootinSilence" seat. At $14, it would be quite a bargain.

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