Are we all familiar with the kids-free movement? I guess it’s a movement now, although almost all of the people I see talking about it seem to be opposed, which makes me think it’s mostly a straw man. But if we grant its existence it’s a movement all about banning kids from privately-owned public spaces like shops and restaurants. Controversial, no?
There’s a lot you can say about this idea. It’s a blessing for those of us that don’t have kids, or that have ‘em but left ‘em at home to get a moment of peace and quiet. On the other hand there’s no group with more time on their hands and eagerness to complain on the internet than stay-at-home parents.
So you could color me a bit surprised by a Missouri Whole Foods’s name for their in-house daycare hours: “child-free shopping hours.”
You can sort of see where they’re coming from. “Child-free shopping,” as in for you the parent who might enjoy doing your shopping without having to keep an eye on your child. Drop ‘em at the free day-care area in the store and shop both responsibility- and guilt-free. Nice, right?
I suspect this is an idea that might have actually had legs. Certainly it seems worth trying. But when you Google it all you will find is a series of blogs and local news articles talking about those damnable kid-banners and citing the Whole Foods “child-free shopping hours” as one of the primary examples.
(Some of the better articles, it should be said, do include a statement from a Whole Foods spokesperson re-emphasizing that their program is not a ban on kids in the store or in any way related to similar attempts. But many do not, because really, who has time to check the story when our kids are at stake?!)
And so we’re back to our very favorite MA101 lesson of all: word choice, word choice, word choice. Think about all the different ways your words can be read, not just the way you mean them.
“Child-free” does certainly mean “a relaxed state that parents can enjoy for a bit because of our free day-care!” It also apparently means “we don’t allow kids because they irritate other customers.” And with institutions using them both ways, it’s probably one that kid-friendly establishments (like poor Whole Foods) should steer clear of.
Any questions? Leave a comment. But throw the kid out of the computer room and lock the door first, please; MA101 is going children-free.