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