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There was semi-recently an internet kerfuffle on the topic of babies in bars in Brooklyn, which I have been thinking about a lot but, because I have one of these babies, have not had time to properly respond to until now.  Yes, I realize that the world has been clamoring for the response of me, an eminent Park Slope literary mama (by which I mean, of course, the author of an under-read novel, the mother of a one-year-old and yet NOT a member of the Park Slope Parents website and thus obviously not much of a mother at all, and a lowly renter rubbing elbows with the owners of million-dollar brownstones).  
 
And so I will tell you, dear readers, that there was something about the story and ongoing response to it that really got me.  What on earth is wrong with people? I thought every time I read some vitriolic comment from a non-breeder who no doubt had time to compose the perfect snarky retort after sleeping until noon and then reading the entire newspaper.  Babies are wonderful. Babies are the best things on Earth.  I take my baby everywhere, because what, am I meant to hole up in my apartment all day, everyday?  Thus is the joy of having a baby in Brooklyn, after all -– there are tons of entertaining places to go.  We can walk to any number of growing-brain-stimulating places, the baby and me.  I can plop her in the carrier or stroller and take her to a coffee shop, or an art museum, or even, yes, a bar.  And I have, a very few times – always in the middle of day, mind you – taken her to bars, the kind of bars that serve food and, you know, have high chairs.  (Holla, Bar Toto!)

After all, we were all babies once!  And babies are people too!  Adorable, lovey, magical, sweet-smelling tiny people!  What’s more, I maintain that adults who hate babies have something seriously, sociopathically wrong with them.  I mean, sure, it’s true, sometimes babies cry.  But the sound of a baby’s cry is about a tenth as annoying as most of the conversations you overhear in places like bars.  I mean!  What is wrong with people?
 
Anyway.  As awesome as my baby is, I admit that sometimes I need a break.  After all, I am with her all day every day without any childcare, and my husband often works late nights and weekends, which means, you know, A LOT of uninterrupted time, just babe and me.  So the other night after a particularly grueling bedtime, I excused myself for some mommy-me-time.  I strolled down the block, and threw some baby clothes in a machine over the laundromat (I’m not that self-indulgent after all!) and then wandered into my quiet neighborhood bar.  There was candlelight.  There was inoffensive indie rock.  I ordered a beer – a beer! – and settled in with a novel – a novel!  For a few amazing moments, it was just me and my pals Stella and Mary.  I could feel my shoulders untensing.  I hadn’t had a moment like this in months, and this moment would only last about thirty minutes before I had to retrieve my laundry and go back home.
 
And then I heard it. 

A giggly coo. 

A baby, I thought.  In the bar.  You have  got to be fucking kidding me
 
This baby was mega cute, and having just learned to walk was toddling around on her chubby legs with the drunken strut of a 13-month-old with places to go.  She sidled up to me and commenced to play peekaboo behind my table. 

The problem is, I love babies, always have, and have always been the one to, yes, entertain someone’s baby in a random public setting.  I wanted to indulge the little girl.  And I wanted to provide her parents a moment of peace as they ate their fancy meals.  But also, I really, really didn’t.
 
I was tempted to explain myself to her father who came to retrieve her once it became clear I wasn’t going to play.  It’s just that this is the one half-hour in like a year that I don’t have to entertain a baby, I wanted to say.  And anyway, also, what the CRAP man, it is 9pm! Why is your baby even up and out and nowhere near going to bed? A side note: I hate when people judge each other’s parenting.  I judge people who judge other people’s parenting.  But also, I was feeling very, very judgmental. “She’s so cute,” I managed, weakly.  I offered a very small smile.   She grabbed at my book.  “Oh, ha ha.  She likes Nabokov?”  NabAHkov, I said it.
 
The hipstery-facial-haired be-courderoyed father had a smile that resembled a wince.  “Oh, yes, she just loves her NaBOOkov,” he said, inflecting my beloved author’s name with an exaggerated Russiany pronunciation.
 
And then you better believe it was on.  No help for you, buddy!  I tugged my book away from the pretentio-tot and willed my smile to vanish.  I pulled out the big guns.  “Okay, bye-bye!” I said.  I covered my face with the book, like a bad spy in a movie.  “Bye-bye,” said bar-baby. 
 
She toddled back a few more times and I worked hard to ignore her every time.  I even tried not to notice her loitering near the bathroom door and almost getting knocked out every time someone came out, though the mother in me was dying to hop up and usher her away, or at least warn her parents, who were busy ordering dessert.  But the heartless bar-fly in me (she’s small, but she’s in there) enjoyed ignoring the baby in peril.  Even when she finally bit it and began to howl.  I didn’t even offer a sympathetic look!  In fact, I GLARED!  I can sort of hear that baby’s crying above the jukebox and chatter, I meant my mean look to say.  And I am not pleased!  The now-harried-looking parents scooped up their little drunken sailor and scooted.  I looked around for someone to toast, but no one else seemed to have noticed the whole drama at all.

In conclusion: babies in bars are totally fine and obviously everyone should be nice to them and their parents.  But only if they happen to be my baby.  All other babies should be tucked in bed and kept out of my goddamned sight.

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Amy Shearn AMY SHEARN is the author of the novel How Far Is the Ocean from Here. She lives in Brooklyn with a husband, a baby, and a dog. Visit her online at amyshearn.com.

31 Responses to “A Baby Walks into a Bar”

  1. zoe zolbrod says:

    Right there with ya. Just tonight–well, this pre-bedtime early evening– I was in a bar with my kids. They were adorable, as were all the other kids there, who would totally NOT have been if mine had been with a babysitter.

  2. Marni Grossman says:

    If you saw “Crazy Heart,” you’ll never think about children in bars the same way again, Amy.

    Also, I think YOUR baby is an exception. Exceptionally adorable. And thus, always wanted.

  3. Irene Zion says:

    Amy,

    There are bars and there are bars. I imagine in Brooklyn, my home town, there are plenty of places that are called bars, but simply serve food with a libation. I see no reason why you can’t have a baby in a bar that provides high chairs. The problem lies in the parent that doesn’t handle a baby who is crying or making a fuss, by removing them from the bar until they are under control again. When your kid is bothering someone trying to have a peaceful interlude, that is the parent’s wake-up call to get the kid out of the situation and keep him out unless he can be subdued and not be intrusive anymore.
    Therein lies the problem.

    • Alison Aucoin says:

      I’m with Irene. It all comes down to the parents. My daughter does exceptionally well in restaurants & bars. I’ve taught her to be pleasant in public but on the rare occasion that she’s having an off night, it’s my job to get my rear in gear and my kid out of there.

      Some people just ain’t raised right!

      Oh and what is this thing you mention, a novel? I have a vague recollection… It’s like riding a motorcycle or wearing fancy clothes – B.B. (before baby)

    • Amy Shearn says:

      Totally true. It’s not like we’re talking biker bars here. And it’s like, sure, an obnoxious kid is annoying in a public place, but no more so than an obnoxious adult! In fact, less so, if you ask me.

  4. Amanda says:

    Shearn, I love how this went to an unexpected place. Even this non-breeder is pleased. XO!

  5. You need to name the next novel BAR BABY! Park Slope Literary Mama Club here you come!

    But seriously everyone — Amy has written a wonderful novel — not all that under read from my informal survey — that you should all read. Right now. http://www.amazon.com/How-Far-Ocean-Here-Novel/dp/0307405346

  6. Slade Ham says:

    A lady brought her child into a bar while I was there. I don’t remember what I was watching, but one of the athletes screwed up, and I yelled “Fuck!”. The lady glared at me, as if I was polluting the child’s mind.

    Granted, bar or not, maybe I shouldn’t randomly be yelling curse words, but I’m that guy. I do that. Unapologetically. I felt bad for a second, then I realized that I just taught a three year old one of the most valuable words he’ll ever learn.

    My only regret was that I didn’t have the time to teach him to use it sparingly so as not to devalue it. There’s an art to that word. I feel like I handed that child a gun with no training.

    • Amy Shearn says:

      Ah yes, this was a major complaint of the anti-baby school of the online debate. But perhaps there is something you’re not seeing here — perhaps the tot was merely a fan of the opposing team, and you were hurting his feelings…?

  7. Simon Smithson says:

    Goddamn hipsters! Of course!

  8. Nathaniel Missildine says:

    Thanks for this, I’ve had this debate with new parents before. I never have really understood the taboo about a baby in a bar. I feel like the presence of a little one helps keep the adult patrons honest in some ways. Then again, I’ve been raising kids in France, where alcohol around children is deeply encouraged, so what do I know. They make sparkling apple juice in faux champagne bottles expressly for kids over here.

    Anyway, hope you went back to that bar the next night for another round and another breather.

  9. Amanda says:

    HAHAHA…I passed this along to my brother, who pretty much feels the same about his son, lack of boundaries, and the notion of “other people’s children”. heh…

  10. Matt says:

    The only problem I have with babies in bars is they never buy a round when it’s their turn; they always conveniently need a diaper change or a breastfeeding right then. Little jerks.

  11. Judy Prince says:

    Babies should be allowed in bars only if they’re bartending.

    My uber-sympathy with you, Amy. Never do I recall a more constant
    claustrophobia than those early years raising my son. All of the
    positives that leap to mind, yes, of course. But primary caregivers
    need to be FREED regularly and for several hours at a time.

  12. Jim says:

    We took our two-year-old (who’s now 12) to an Irish pub and she fell asleep under our table while we sang bawdy Irish drinking songs. We’re all pretty fine now.

    • Amy Shearn says:

      Were they bawdy Irish lullabies? Because that would make a lot of sense.

    • Judy Prince says:

      Aha, Jim—-there’s the distinction! A USAmerican bar is … just a place to drink and p’raps make liaisons. But a pub in the UK—-p’raps especially an Irish one—-is a place to talk and a place for the entire family. Closest I ever came to it in the USA was on tiny Beaver Island, Michigan, run by an Irish family from whom we also had rented a little lakeside cottage. I was 12 years old and loved the idea that our family could eat, drink, play darts or billiards/pool or pinball. Nothing in my hometown had all those delights in one place.

      Thanks for the reminder.

      Judy a pub bore

  13. Paul Clayton says:

    Amy,

    I enjoyed your post. And I think you’re right to keep your own baby out of bars. Once they get a taste of the booze (through osmosis) they will come back when you’re not looking. Next thing you know they’re joining little baby gangs and shaking down old people on walkers. Good one!

  14. My kids are 20 and 18. I still want to take control of wayward kids wherever I see them. Just a habit.

    In an unrelated note, I was taking a walk today and there was this little kid, maybe three years old, who was wearing giant Buzz Lightyear wings while his dad raked. I wanted to go play with him. He looked like he was having the raddest time. I was walking, feeling a bit disconnected from everything. But that kid. He was connected to his world.

    I guess it depends on the bar as far as the baby thing. A California sports bar? (I live in Cali). Sure. A dive bar. No.

  15. Amy Shearn says:

    I love when little kids are randomly wearing bits of costumes — wings, mermaid tails, super hero capes. It’s how we would all dress, if we could, I think.

    • Judy Prince says:

      You’re on to something, Amy!

      Time to update my wardrobe with “wings, mermaid tails, super hero capes”!

      The usual “nonconformist” clothing such as Goth or baggy-trousers is actually conformist within a particular noncomformist group, whereas someone wearing a wing, or a superhero cape, or a sparkly pig foot hat is an individualist—–and comitting a lovely positive act, to boot!

  16. Carl D'Agostino says:

    I’m 60. Recovering alcoholic 8 yrs clean/sober. Now the first thing I said as an infant was “goog-gook” which is baby for “cookie.” The second thing I picked up to say was “Hey Harry. Lemme run a tab for drinks till payday, Friday.” Started early didn’t I? I wonder from where I picked that up? All the very little kids at grandma’s on Sunday were able to have 1/2 glass of wine. As adult men started to get hammered we could always beg and get that second 1/2 glass of wine which was now a full glass. I knew immediately early on this was the stuff for me. Even developed the drugsters manipulation art at four . “Uncle Mike, Mary Ann knocked over my glass and i didn’t get any.” Hey a lie of course but touch
    down.!Some more wine. Started early I think.

    Judy Prince’s (above) family bars(bar-b-Q, horseshoes, darts, pool, softball and a kids play area are all gone in Miami now. It’s either the too expensive glitz of South Beach or the raggedy dope holes.

  17. I used to be recommended this blog through my cousin. I’m not certain whether this put up is written by way of him as no one else understand such specified about my trouble. You’re wonderful! Thank you!

  18. [...] Anyway, yesterday in the unnamed other pub, was particularly bad with screaming babies and tired (awful) parents. Parents, please think twice about bringing babies to bars. [...]

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