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A Baby Walks Into a Bar…

Sarah Preston Gorenstein

We’re the kind of parents that take our toddler everywhere, and we’ve always been that way. When Preston was just an infant we toted him to dinner all the time (he celebrated our first anniversary with us at the Cape Cod Room at The Drake Hotel, where we got married, when he was three weeks old), and we used to bring him to a popular neighborhood bar to watch football games on the weekends. Would we get dirty looks from other patrons? Sure. Did we care? Nope. 

We also weren't the only parents there with infants watching football games and having beers with friends (we live within walking distance). I loved being able to have a social life when Preston was still a baby. 

At two years old now, Preston’s been to two Blackhawks games in the past two months alone (his second game was my first, a couple weekends ago). Before he turned one we took him to both a Cubs and Bulls game, the Barnum & Bailey Circus, a “Yo Gabba Gabba Live!” concert, and he went on a road trip with us (and our dog) to Michigan when he was only 10 days old. At two months old, we all flew to Arizona for a week.

I know this is a hot topic of debate among childless folks (and some parents)—there are people who believe babies don’t belong in bars (or anywhere for that matter), no matter what time of day it is, and to those people I say: too bad! Chicago’s bars and restaurants don’t permit smoking—this is a kid-friendly town, which is one of the reasons I love living here, and love raising a family here.

We’re not reckless people—we’d never put Preston's safety in jeopardy—so I don’t see any harm in bringing him to a bar during the day or for breakfast (my husband had breakfast with him at a local hangout called High Dive, just this weekend in fact).

We’re not thoughtless people either, so if Preston started throwing a tantrum or doing something at a restaurant to disrupt someone else’s meal, I am very respectful and would sooner end our meal than force someone else to want to end theirs. We’d remove him from the situation immediately. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve gotten our meals to go, simply because Preston’s hit his limit (and thusly, so have we).

But I don’t believe there are many places you shouldn’t feel comfortable taking your kid, as long as he or she is well behaved and safe. I believe the more places you take them, the more comfortable they are going out. In the long run, they’ll learn how to behave in restaurants, at games, in public places—but only if you give them the opportunities to learn (i.e. train them).

Going to restaurants with our two-year-old isn’t a lot of fun right now, but thanks to the iPad we can usually make it through a meal unscathed. He lasted for one period of the Blackhawks game (it went past his bedtime) but he managed to make it onto the Jumbotron in the short time we were there. Do you know how proud that made me? The memories we’re building with him, taking him out and about to experience this city we love, far outweigh the judgment we might get from other, less tolerant people. These outings and first-time experiences are some of the best times we’ve had as parents.

He’s gotten so used to handling different situations, I was able to take him to see The Lion King in 3-D while we were in Scottsdale recently, and he sat through the entire movie. He got a little antsy toward the end so I was relieved we had the theater to ourselves (it was on a weekday); I probably wouldn’t take him to a crowded theater during opening weekend, but who knows? He might be able to handle it.

We usually do errand runs with him on weekends, and he does pretty well, but admittedly shopping is something I like to do on my own. It’s my Zen time.

Is there anywhere you won’t take your toddler? Or better yet, is there anywhere you will?

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