One of the great things about summer is the abundance of outdoor fairs and festivals that pop up around town. But lately I’ve encountered an issue in my attempt to soak up some weekend fun: the no stroller rule.
On more than one occasion, I’ve seen a “no strollers allowed” warning right there on the advertisements promoting these local events. Apparently, the trifecta these days is no bare feet, no dogs, and no strollers. And while the first two make a lot more sense to me (liability issues with people getting hurt, and so forth), I’m pretty baffled by the third.
For those of us who have multiple small children, strollers are a necessity. Though my 4.5-year-old has been stroller-free since he was 2.5, having twin 17-month-olds means that when we go out as a family, the stroller needs to come with us.
Of course, I get that strollers can be bulky and inconvenient and take up space. There are times when I can barely manage to work my way through the crowded halls at my son’s preschool to drop him off, and that’s in an environment where folks are more likely to be stroller-tolerant. But banning strollers at public events is basically akin to telling all of us parents with young children to go screw ourselves and have fun elsewhere.
Now I’ll confess that one of the recent offenders in this regard was an outdoor beer festival—admittedly not a very kid-oriented event to begin with. (Children were allowed, and there was plenty of non-beer activity, but still, I sort of get it). But the other one was billed as— get this—a family fun day. Family fun day. Yet due to the anticipated crowds, they could not allow strollers.
And it’s not just festivals. I’ve been told on multiple occasions that I can’t bring my stroller into a restaurant, even if just to unload my kids without having to schlep them in hand from the parking lot. Again, I get it—the whole fire hazard thing. But are you really telling me I can’t wheel my infants inside in a stroller, get them settled into their highchairs, and then fold the thing up beside the table? And in case there was any confusion, we’re not talking about fancy dining establishments here. We’re talking kid-friendly, mac and cheese-centric eateries where the waiters bring out crayons and paper placemats for the kiddies to color. We’re talking about the kinds of places you’d expect to see strollers, in which case banning them isn’t just mean—it’s counterintuitive.
Last year, when we attempted to dine at one of our favorite spots, only because it was an unusually busy night, we were told that the restaurant could not accommodate our stroller. This was before my twins were old enough to sit in highchairs, which left us with no option other than to leave. I asked to speak to the manager and explained that we’d not only dined there multiple times before, but done so with a stroller, and without a problem.
His response: “We reserve the right to enforce our stroller policy at any time for the safety of our patrons.” (Or, you know, a less eloquent version thereof, but the point is that he basically played the safety card, and I wasn’t really in a position to argue.) Needless to say, we walked out and never went back.
I don’t know if there’s a solution here for those of us who rely on strollers to cart our littles around town. On one hand, I don’t think “stroller discrimination” is an actual thing, nor would I want to be that person who tries to make it one. On the other hand, banning strollers is yet another way society makes its general intolerance for small children loud and clear. And as a mom who actually enjoys going out and doing things with her kids, it’s a hard pill to swallow.
I realize this is very much a first world problem, and that in the grand scheme of challenges a family with young kids might face, it isn’t insurmountable. I can dine at less crowded restaurants, skip the jam-packed festivals, and take my children to the beach or the park. All I’m saying is that it just kind of sucks.