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When 'No Kids Allowed' Gets Ridiculous

It's mid-morning. Kavya is in the elevator wearing an explosion of pink: pink sunglasses, a pink-and-yellow butterfly bathing suit complete with wings and pink water shoes, and she's squeezed into an inflatable princess tube. Pink, of course. We loudly laugh and she lets out her high-pitched squeal as we make our way through the lobby at Harrah's Casino in Atlantic City, where we're spending the weekend. She's beyond excited at the prospect of splashing around in the indoor pool.

We get to the entrance, and the woman manning the doors tells us children aren't allowed. Not children under a certain age, or they're not allowed in at particular times. Children are simply not allowed in the swimming pool. The reason she gives us is that since the pool serves alcohol, children aren't allowed anywhere near the premises. It's pointless bringing up the absurdity of the argument, so we walk away trying to figure out what to tell Kavya.

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Kavya, meanwhile, is genuinely puzzled. "The pool is right there," she says. In this case, lying that the pool is closed won't work. She'd been eager to try out her three swimming techniques—which require me to hold her as she violently punches the water. When she realizes we aren't going to the pool, she starts bawling in the middle of the lobby, screeching out, "Swimming pool!" in between deep, aching sobs.

It's heartbreaking. She had eaten her food properly, didn't put up a fuss when she changed into her bathing suit and sees quite clearly that the pool is open with people splashing around. It is the first time I've felt helpless. I can't yell at her for crying or throwing a tantrum, and putting her on a time-out just isn't going to happen under these circumstances. I feel like throwing a tantrum, myself.

We probably could have avoided this situation if we'd asked the following question at the front desk:

Is this pool a nightclub and only open to adults, even during the day?

Had we asked that question, we wouldn't have put Kavya in her bathing suit in the first place, and wouldn't have had to figure out how to calm her down. We find out later that there is a family pool for those encumbered by children. Fortunately, we didn't make a trek there because it was closed indefinitely for repairs. Of course.

We promptly stopped going there and now gracefully flip them the bird every time we walk past.

Later, we attempt to go to the beach. Harrah's is located quite a ways from the strip. The free shuttle service that drops you on the Boardwalk is convenient, but only if we stick Kavya in a duffel bag or pretend she's a sandwich and not a child. Kids are not welcome on the shuttle bus either. I'm presuming it's because they serve alcohol. Because that would make sense.

When Kavya was born, I knew there would be adjustments to make. Gone are the days of spontaneous date nights in the city, staying up late, eating Doritos on the sofa, and having ice cream every evening and sometimes for dinner. We had to quickly pretend we had this whole parenting thing down. One of the things we didn't account for was not being able to go certain places. I'm not talking about obvious places like bars, night clubs, or dimly lit, fancypants, squishy three-table restaurants in the East Village. I'm talking about proper, bus-lane wide, fluorescent-lit restaurants.

A restaurant down the street from us that Sona and I go to with relative frequency recently put up a sign in its window that pissed us both off: "Due to numerous complaints, customers with toddlers will be unable to dine after 7 p.m." We promptly stopped going there and now gracefully flip them the bird every time we walk past. If our daughter isn't welcome here, we certainly aren't going to go. We're like gangsters when it comes to this sort of thing. Except we don't set fire to buildings or break people's legs. Not usually, anyway.

It's not that I don't understand the need folks have for child-free zones. I don't like other people's children, either. But if it's a place there's no reason my daughter can't go, then I'm going to take it personally. When a business decides to cut my daughter out of its target customer base, they've lost me and Sona in the process.

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There are plenty of places who recognize that parents and their children are an important demographic. Another restaurant that opened up near us, Roman Nose, doesn't strike you as particularly child-friendly with its cramped seating outside. But every time we've been, servers have gone out of their way to keep Kavya happy by bringing pieces of scrap paper for her to play with, or referring to the soup she insists on having (chicken soup with little star pasta in it) as "star" soup.

Even Atlantic City, which is notorious for its very family-unfriendly hotels and a friendly boardwalk, has started to play nice. When the uber-fancy Revel opened up in Atlantic City with its refreshing idea of specifically targeting families, I knew we had to give it a visit. And it was absolutely amazing. You don't have to walk through smoky casinos to get to the hotel, and the massive indoor pool—which also serves alcohol—is very kid-friendly. So Kavya got to practice her three swimming moves this summer, after all.

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