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Babies, Strollers, Dogs and The Childless

by Borderstan.com — May 23, 2010 at 10:21 pm 1,039 20 Comments

Luis Gomez Photos Logan Circle

1400 block of P Street NW: Mom, baby and stroller. (Luis Gomez Photos)

The May 16 article in The Washington Post, “New baby boom fosters culture clash: Parents vs. public spaces,” was a reminder of another change in the neighborhood over the past decade: more small children. (Be sure to skim the comments to the article; there are 479 and comments are closed.)

Where Dupont-Logan-U Street is concerned, I think it is more accurate to say that we now have more upper middle class parents and children in the area. There have always been children in the Logan Circle and U Street areas, but until recently they were primarily minority and poor. Now they are being joined by more moneyed families of all races–and their more expensive accessories.

The Post article offers an accurate (in my opinion) glimpse of the tension that I know exists in urban neighborhoods that are suddenly being repopulated with young parents and their young children. Of course, many of the young parents simply decided to stay after the baby arrived instead of decamping for outer DC neighborhoods or the suburbs.

As noted in the article, tensions arise around young children in restaurants… young children in dog parks… young children on Metro and buses… and those large, expensive strollers. In fact, I counted the word stroller a total of 12 times in the Post article. The strollers (have I seen them with coffee holders?) seem to be a flash point for people who are less than enthralled with either (1) babies in their midst and/or (2) the parents pushing them. As for navigating them, we sometimes see parents pushing strollers in the 15th Street bike lane–a use for which I am sympathetic.

When it comes to dogs versus children, that is another angle of the story. The Borderstan area is rich in pets, both dogs and cats. We boast two dog parks, one on 17th Street and another on 11th Street NW. For many singles and childless couples, their pets are substitute children (not a good idea, just ask any dog trainer). Moreover, I have on numerous occasions railed about parents who bring tiny children into dog parks and instruct them to “play with the doggies.” If you do not understand why this is a horribly dangerous idea, then you probably lack the judgement to own a dog or be entrusted with a small child. If you are a regular reader, you already know that we are a one-dog, no-child household.

I hear both sides of the story–young parents who desperately want to stay in the city and the exasperated childless neighbors and friends who have grown accustomed to living in an all-adult world. I believe that some of the tension is simply due to the reality of smaller families in the United States today, and the creation of inner city areas where singles and childless couples predominate. People have grown accustomed to living in neighborhoods where they do not regularly interact with parents and small children. Now, though, inner city neighborhoods in some cities (New York, Chicago, Washington, for example) have become desirable places for young parents–provided they can afford the hefty real estate price tags.

I admit that the occasional aggressive stroller driver exasperates me and that small children allowed to go “free range” in restaurants make me jittery. However, I dislike it much more when friends move from our downtown neighborhood after babies arrive or reach a certain age. Finally, do we really want a Borderstan neighborhood free of small children anymore than we would want a community without old people?

Comments (20)

  1. I would love to go to Logan Tavern (or anywhere, really) without having to endure the screaming, crying, free-range, running, breast-feeding, “I WANNA SAMMITCH” spawn of the entitled babymommy class in this neighborhood.

    The only salvation is that once little Finnegan and Isabella are ready for Montessori, it’s time for their oblivious, “I have the right to take my toddler to your bar” parents to sell the loft and clear the way for the next wave of oversized-stroller pushers to shove the rest of us off the sidewalk in their rush to get to baby yoga.

    It’s so Park Slope.

  2. I am happy to have kids in the hood. HOWEVER, some parents obviously entered parenthood thinking that their lives were going to be exactly the same as before. It was not that way growing up. Mom and and dad NEVER took us to places like Logan Tavern until we were at least 10 or maybe older. There were simply some things you couldn’t do with small kids. Small kids tire easily, they don’t do well in situations they perceive to be threatening, that they don’t know. I don’t blame the kids: I blame the parents who are oblivious to this reality of life.

  3. As you well know…I let my pups run free without leashes often. I have to say, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by every single parent I’ve encountered in the neighborhood who has always said something like, “Oh, look at the doggie” and encourage their baby/toddler to not be scared. I always expect to be greeted with something about putting the dog on a leash with their kid, but it’s never happened once. I guess I’ve only experienced a small slice though, since tensions seem to be on the rise in other respects. However, out in the ‘burbs, parents are way more protective of their kids. To cross paths with these “cool-city-parents” is totally refreshing.

    When people choose to live in such close quarters in a city, they have to be able to let things roll off. You’re going to have the nutty neighbor. You’re going to have the loud music. You’re going to have the person who keeps odd hours. And finally, you’re going to have – at some point – a family around. They’re “allowed” to live in the city too. If you don’t like who your neighbors are, buy a tract of land out in the middle of nowhere and isolate yourself.

    I read some of those comments on the Post article – which are officially closed at 479 – and I love how people can justify discriminating against families and kids, yet you wouldn’t catch them dead discriminating against gays, lesbians or any ethnic minorities. They’ll proudly boast how they voted for Obama, then glare at a woman with a stroller. ?????

    Discrimination is discrimination. Doesn’t matter what the justification is. It’s too bad people have found yet another way to make D.C. more nasty, unwelcoming and unfriendly of a city. Makes NY look better every day.

  4. @Velvet: Well said; you make a good point. Regarding dogs: My issue has been with people who bring TINY children into dog parks, plop them down on the ground in the middle of a pack of running dogs and think that somehow this is fun, cute and a good way to introduce their child to dogs. The problem here, I am pretty sure, are people who never had dogs growing up, don’t know anything about them, etc. We have friends with small children AND dogs; they are equally mortified by people who do this. Having said this, however, I do not notice this type of thing at the local dog parks as much as I did a year or so ago. Dog owners at 11th Street/Shaw Dog Park simply had to explain this to people and the park put up warning signs.

  5. Having dogs off-leash in public spaces in DC is legal and highly unsafe for you and your dog. I highly encourage you to change your practices for the good of everyone. It has nothing to do with your dog’s behavior..which is likely great since you let him offleash…and more to do with the general good. Thanks!

  6. The only people who are more clueless and self-indulgent than parents of small children are dog owners. They are in the process of completely ruining Logan Circle by turning it into an unauthorized dog park, just like they did with the 17th Street parks in Dupont. The grass is torn up, there is dog shit everywhere, and people allow their precious pooches to run off leash (despite the clearly posted signs).

    But of course it’s OK in their minds since each dog is so precious to its owner. Just like the young moderns with the Hummer strollers and the screaming kids. Same mindset. Same clueless attitude.

  7. Jonathan Swift

    I am pro-life; PRO the quality of MY LIFE. I am NOT pro-choice. There should be NO CHOICE when it comes to matters of your infant ruining my life.

    Whenever a couple decides to start breeding…I dump them; and find reasonable, sensible new friends. At the birth, I send them a sympathy card with the words, “See you in 18 years”. I only patronize places with no children’s menu, require patrons to be 21 or older or have prices that act as attrition to keep the breeders out. But even that doesn’t always work, and I’m tired of eating at strip clubs. The meat is nice but the food is awful. Before the smoking ban, we had smokeless restaurants. Why can’t we demand businesses to do the same to keep our dollars? “Child-free” restaurants, or have a family section off to the back. A family section of a restaurant would smell just as bad as the old smoking areas of restaurants.

    Children = Terrorists. They are destroying our lifestyle and each of us must be vigilant and do our part to stop them and the people who sponsor them. Go back to Afghanistan, I mean Fairfax.

  8. As a new parent, I definitely can hear both arguments and while I wouldn’t take my crying baby to any restaurant, there is no reason why a parent with a baby who is asleep and quiet cannot enjoy a meal out once in awhile in a neighborhood restaurant. I also have a dog and although I let our dog lick our baby and play with her, I would NEVER take our baby into a dog park and if parents want to expose their children to dogs they can take their babies to a friend’s home.
    Borderstan is a great neighborhood and having moms with strollers and kids in the neighborhood is making the neighborhood more warm and welcoming than it already is.

  9. Matt – such good points. As a person who, sadly, regularly gets frustrated with strollers and crying (read: screaming) children, you remind me of two things: 1) I’m gonna have a baby someday so to criticize is a little hypocritical and 2) I DO want children in the ‘hood.

    That said, I think there is a sort of, basic code of respect parents should adhere to when bringing their kids into confined public spaces (like restaurants and such). Free-range roaming around and unadulterated scream-fests isn’t polite to anyone around you. And as my mother has told me, while it sucks that you’ll have to end your trip out, go home or just go outside…you have a child…that’s what happens. (And my mother very strictly enforced no tantrum rules with me when I was little.)

  10. As someone who enjoys eating out, and is now the parent of a 16-month old, I completely understand. First off: if you’re going out with your kid, know where you’re taking them. Mix-tec/Diner/2 Amy’s? Sure, those are easy, kids-encouraged spots…but as the line toward adult-only gets blurrier, please be smart about it. For the rest of us.

    We have a pretty strict, “we’ll try this for a minute” rule if we’re in a place that seems like it might be a little too quiet. One outburst and we’re outta there (the ol’ one parent eats, the other takes kid outside for a walk then switch thing). Does it suck? Yup. I’d like nothing more than to kick back on a sunday, order up some cocktails and munch 3 hours of the afternoon away. But it’s just not gonna happen (for a while, anyway).

    Free-roaming children in a restaurant, however, are not acceptable. Period. If your kid can’t sit at a table, they shouldn’t be out at a restaurant. I feel your pain on this one, parents, trust me, but in my book it’s non-negotiable. You sit quietly and eat/read a book/color/whatever – or you walk.

    Something about your right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins….my right to be out in a restaurant with my kid ends when her outburst begins.

  11. Seriously? THIS is causing these people great aggravation? Babies and children are a fact of life. Crying babies and strollers do not “ruin my life” or even my meal. I just deal with it, like all other nuisances. I think these sad anti-kids people need to count their blessings.

    And for the record, I don’t have and will never have any children.

  12. 16th Street Resident

    Velvet, I agree with your comments. As a parent of two young kids and a devoted Dupont/Logan resident, I ask: Can’t we all just try to get along? All it takes is a basic awareness of, and a little respect for, the person on the other side of the fence. I think poor behavior stemming from self-absorption and a sense of entitlement–on both sides–is the crux of the tension between parents and non-parents in urban areas.

  13. Long Time Resident

    Being a long time resident (20+ years), I actually like hearing the sounds of kids playing in the neighborhood. And I’ve not encountered any issues with baby strollers — EVER! What has become an issue is the ‘bridge & tunnel’ folks who haven’t a clue how to walk down the sidewalk. For some reason they think they have rights to walk the entire width of the sidewalk while in a line. I wish they would go back to Adams Morgan or Georgetown for their ‘urban’ experience. Sidewalks are two way traffic so leave your bad walking and driving habits for where you live — in the suburbs.

  14. As a Borderstan mom, I was actually surprised to see the level of hostility toward babies and parents from some of the commenters on the Post; I have really experienced a welcoming atmosphere both from fellow residents and businesses in the area.

    There’s a lot to be said about the issue of children in cities, but it is interesting to note that it is considered demographically healthy to have a reasonable number of children in a city — and demographically unhealthy not to. I used to live on the West Coast, and San Francisco in particular is really struggling because they have an extraordinarily low number of children per capita and are working on a number of initiatives to keep families from leaving the city. I am sure there are other factors as well, but I have to imagine that it is not good for a city’s tax base to have parents moving out to the suburbs during the time period when careers generally start to take off.

    As an aside, the anger about “expensive” strollers seems to reveal that something is at issue besides whatever (marginal?) inconvenience is caused by the size of a particular stroller — a big, inexpensive stroller is just as bothersome as a big, expensive stroller. And as recent stroller shopper, I can affirm that you will not necessarily find a correlation between size and price (even ignoring the fact that a particular stroller could have been bought used on craigslist, etc.).

  15. People in this area should never ever ever complain about kids in public spaces. Take a trip to the suburbs: Kids do anything they want. And it gets worse the further out you go. Talk about “free range.” Loudoun County seems to be one big pasture for kids. Parents let them do anything they want. My personal experience tells me that the huge majority of parents in Borderstan are quite considerate.

  16. I almost didn’t want to read this story…but i decided to anyway!

    After pausing to reflect, I got to thinking that this infusion of kids and young families is a GOOD problem to have!! There are so many upsides to families moving back into the inner-city, I almost wish we had the money to live in Borderstan (on our budget, Petworth is as close as we can get). My partner and I have a young daughter, and when we moved back to DC, we knew we had to live int he city in order for our little girl to have the vast richness of experience that living in the diverse cacophony of a city entails.

    However gleeful I may be, I do get pissed at my fellow parents for their sometimes lack of perspective on being a parent AND a fellow communal being. Letting your kid loose in a dog park or restaurant is both stupid and rude. STOP IT! Giant SUV strollers? STOP IT! Who in the hell are you kidding with that road hog. Space is at a premium in the inner-city, and if you need a stroller that big, you need to move to a farm with all the wide open spaces you can handle.

    Cities, DC in particular, has seen suburban flight for far too long. Bringing families into the city, and keeping them here, will be a challenge, but it is a cause we all MUST support. The only way to get DC to evolve from okay, to good, and then on to great is if we have multiple generations of creative, constructive, industrious, and dedicated residents. Or, we could go back to the glory days of DC’s yesteryear, when the only kids int he city where the ones languishing in our failing public schools, or looking to mug you for your latest i-Thingy.

  17. Thanks for the comment.

  18. I don’t care one way or the other if there are kids in the neighborhood (it’s always children, though – never teens…hhmmm yay DC schools?!). I care about kids in the dog park – not just tiny kids. Tiny kids can get hurt…older kids can get bit.

    My major issues are that I find it annoying to have bought a condo and the people renting next to me now have a baby that keeps US UP at all hours. I don’t have a choice – I have to hear a crying infant almost all the time I’m home. They had 9 months, as renters, to go “oh crap, we’re having a baby – maybe we should move to a more family friendly building?” I don’t want them thrown out, but I resent the fact that their infant is making me keep the same hours. It’s a city – there is noise. But it’s also a community of apartments where, as a pregnant woman, you should think about how your infant will f’ up everyones life.

    And lastly – Whole Foods/Farmers Markets. I love that people take kids to farmers markets. But I wish there were a ‘no kids’ hour when they first open. I’d love to be able to run in to whole foods/a farmers market and get what I need and get out vs. dodge strollers and babies learning about produce. Don’t get me wrong – I love that people are teaching their kids about produce. But my errands take significantly longer because of this. All I’m asking for is an hour! Stay home with little Stella/Cooper for a little longer letting us DINKS gets our chores done so it can all be yours the rest of the day.

  19. Yikes. In the age of Fair Housing, suggesting someone move to a “Family Friendly Building” borders on the illegal. There is no such thing. Families cannot be denied housing as they are a protected class. Renters or not, I would suggest politely knocking on their door and telling them your the situation. A little communication goes a long way.

    @Matt – I think I end up commenting from the viewpoint of my two dogs, who I just know would never even consider an aggressive snarl toward a child. I didn’t know people bring their kids into the park, but I know plenty of friends whose dogs never see kids due to citylife, and when they see a short human become very agitated. So this makes sense – but all in all, I still have to give credit to those parents for not being so superprotective of their kids. I think their hearts are totally in the right place. But one on one might be a better intro to dogs instead of in a park where things can escalate quickly.

    All of this said, I am still stunned at the comments people wrote on that original article. The hatred toward kids, the person who said when his/her friend ends up pregnant they summarily end the friendship, jesus who ARE these people? Hopefully no one I know.

  20. Fair housing, sure, but there is also a limit to the number of people you are allowed to have per square foot (and per condo laws) but you can’t kick out a couple with an infant. (Note, if my dog barked as much as this child cried, I’d be out on my ass).

    “Family friendly housing” to me = where you don’t have neighbors on all sides of your walls, there are other children, you don’t have to carry a stroller up steps to get to the elevator. Since a “family friendly building” isn’t an actual thing, and I am not suggesting they be kicked out (well, sometimes at 3am when screaming baby is at it, I definitely think that)…I just can’t imagine as a potential future mom that I’d ever consider having a child in this environment (or a studio apartment).

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