This is our chance, folks.
For the past century, give or take, institutions all over the world have been doing their best to make everything more kid-friendly. I feel it’s no coincidence this gradual child-ization started after the U.S. congress passed the Keating-Owen Child Labor Act of 1916.
Granted, that wasn’t the be-all and end-all of child labor protections. In fact, it barely covered enough surface to light a match on. But it marked when the government started to value children of all classes, and when they became serious about keeping them safe.
It’s a jungle in there
Prior to the 20th century, the closest any government came to “protecting” child workers was through a series of deliberate Factory Acts. These tone-deaf laws popped up in the United Kingdom during the early and mid-1800s. The only problem with them was: they forgot to protect the kids. Instead, these laws kept rugrats indentured to factories for their entire lives.
One of the earliest acts from 1833 allowed for minimal concessions such as:
· Children under nine years of age were no longer permitted to work.
· Children aged 9–13 could only work a maximum of nine hours a day and forty-eight hours a week.
· Children aged 14–18 could only work a maximum of twelve hours a day.
· Children were no longer allowed to work at night.
· Each child was required to have two hours of schooling each day.
I know what some of you are thinking. “How could a fifteen-year-old work a twelve-hour shift when they’re not allowed to work at night and need two hours of schooling every day?”
But the rest of you sane folks likely find these acts rather oppressive.
Even with the minimal concessions, many factory owners ignored these laws for years, and ran their businesses as usual. Then they continued using avoidance tactics when subsequent acts demanded such novelties as ten-hour workdays and sixty-minute mandatory lunch breaks for any child working at least eight hours.
There’s no denying that the world’s poorer children used to live rough lives, especially in the UK (you monsters!). But as soon as two Great Wars and an equally Great Depression swallowed us and spit us out, kids have had things pretty easy.
Okay, so the poorest children are still not living their best lives, and that’s a shame. But middle-class and rich children are doted on by their over-affectionate parents to such an exaggerated degree, it’s a wonder the entire concept of nurturing hasn’t been put under intense scrutiny and deemed ineffective.
We’re sorry, already! Can we please move on?
It may be a “bad example,” and I don’t necessarily “feel good” about using it, but children have proved they’re tough enough to survive textile mills — which were the worst of the workhouse mills. If that doesn’t provide a proven history of the durability of our children, I don’t think anything can. It makes me wonder if coddling children in the modern era is too far a swing in the opposite direction.
Anyway, I’m not against parents providing for their kids while trying to afford them the best life possible. But must they be so damn supportive everywhere they go? Let’s face it, some places would work and be better if they didn’t allow kids and their fawning parents.
I’m sorry, but museums are meant for quiet reflection, designed so certain adults can feel morally superior to their friends and neighbors. You know what museums don’t need? They don’t need kids running around smearing their peanut-buttered and jellied hands all over works of art. And they especially don’t need those brats breaking interactive science exhibits for their own amusement. Since carefree tots love breaking things, I’m sure their doting parents bought them plenty of toys they can destroy in the privacy of their own homes.
And let’s not forget about restaurants. How much do your spirits drop whenever a server seats you adjacent to a table full of children? I’m sure we’ve all suffered this exchange:
You: “Are there any other seats — preferably on the other side of the restaurant?”
Server: “Sorry, we’re full-up tonight, and there’s a long wait.”
Then she looks at you with those apologetic eyes, letting you know she doesn’t want those kids in her orbit any more than you do. They may start out sweet, ordering straight from the menu like good boys and girls. But before long, the crying, fighting, and tantrums begin. And those scumbag parents eat in silence, pretending nothing is out of the ordinary.
The same goes for coffee houses, grocery stores, theaters, libraries, and sporting events. It’s impossible to curse out an opposing quarterback when a set of eight-year-old twins are in the seats right next to you. Or how about when you want to read the newest Louis Sachar book (which is a normal thing for an adult to do, since it’s for ages eight and up)? How much does it suck when you find a chocolate doughnut smeared between pages nineteen and twenty?
Well, like-minded adults, this might be our only chance. With businesses slowly starting to reopen, who’ll join me in chanting: “No Kids Allowed,” “Adults Only,” and “Reserved for Mature Parties”?
Where are my heroes at?
An idea this great can’t be considered discrimination. Plus, they’re minors. They don’t have the same innumerable rights as we adults. And hey, let’s be fair. Kids and parents can keep playgrounds, zoos, and amusement parks all to themselves. Except during holiday weekends; we need amusement parks on those rare occasions. But that’s just common sense.