12/09/2011 09:16 EST | Updated 02/08/2012 05:12 EST

The New Bigotry Against Babies

They cry, they make messes and let's face it: they're a downright nuisance. That's the message that one can surmise from the recent institution of a "baby tax" at a London-area restaurant.

Shock was likely the least of one mother's emotions when she received her bill following an afternoon out at a local restaurant with her six-week-old son in tow. Although the child didn't eat at the establishment, Natasha Young, the baby's mother, was provided with a check that included an extra £3 (around $5) charge.

When Young questioned the server about the fee, she was advised that the money was added because the baby was taking up space in the 22,000 sq. ft. restaurant. Babies make eateries awfully crowded, you see. Cosmo Restaurant, the eatery in question, continues to stand by its policy, citing a number of reasons for its position.

"We pride ourselves on making children and parents feel valued -- which is why we serve thousands of families every single week. The Minimum Charge Policy is intended for toddlers who eat but not as much as a child. It was and never will be intended as a charge for Prams or for babies..." the official response to this public relations nightmare states.

And yet despite the restaurant's contention that the charge is for "toddlers," it is clear that the rule is clearly extended to those younger than two. Another mother who dined at Cosmo was charged the same fee after eating at the establishment with her six-month-old daughter and her partner. Although the baby was either sitting on one of her parents' laps, the restaurant felt it was within its right to charge the family the "baby tax" upon leaving.

Clearly this restaurant's policy is not one that was made in isolation, for as many of these instances that we hear about, we can rest assured that there are many more that remain under the radar. Not every scorned parent will turn to the media, their friends or to others in pursuit of justice. Many will slink out of the offending establishment in embarrassment, tails between their legs and diaper bags tightly sealed, knowing that they have committed the grave offence of dining out with a small child. Others will suffer in silence, enduring years of monotony, leftovers and takeout, as eating out with the kids is clearly not in the picture.

Discrimination against children, and by extension their parents, is one of the last forms of acceptable bigotry that remains in these modern times. Surprisingly, the trend towards a generally more adult-focused lifestyle seems to be the result of a backlash against the family-friendly, kiddie-centric philosophy that has dominated the cultural landscape in recent years. Many adults want to mosey up to the bar and not have to trip over a stuffed animal in order to get there. Understood. Kids can be difficult at times and definitely tiring. They can also be loud and unreasonable and in some instances, completely intolerable. Funnily, so can many adults. Can't we all name a person or two that boasts all of the preceding attributes -- and more? And yet they're allowed to dine at most establishments with impunity.

What I'm trying to say is that it's not acceptable to paint any one group with a broad brush in an effort to explain their expected or perceived behaviours. It is also not acceptable to unfairly penalize (in this instance monetarily) parents for the mere fact that they are, indeed parents. Discrimination and bigotry is ugly no matter how you slice it. Let's not make it even uglier by having children as the unwitting recipients of poor treatment.