Many thanks to Gloria Weber for last week’s wonderful guest blog!
And without further ado, we present the last One Geek to Another for 2009! Looking forward to answering more questions for you all in 2010!
Best Wishes and Happy New Year!
Dear One Geek,
When is it appropriate to have your minor children (particularly much younger ones) along on geek expeditions, and when isn’t it, and, more to the point (for those of us that who are happily child-free) what’s your take on when it’s OK to ask folks to leave their kids home, or ask they be excluded/removed from a situation where they’re not really appropriate? I’ve never been to a professional trade show in any other industry where people brought their kids along to professional business seminars and the B2B exhibit hall, but it seems to happen at GTS and the Diamond Comics trade shows all the time.
It bugs me, but I also recognize that I may be a little oversensitive in this area. Your punditry on the subject would be helpful, I think.
-No Kidding Around.
Dear No Kidding,
It may sound like an oversimplification, but including kids is (generally) appropriate for family-friendly expeditions, and not for adult-focused ones.
Samples of adult-focused events would be R-rated movie screenings or outings, get-togethers held in bars or other adult-clientele establishments, and business-focused functions. Parents should not expect to bring their children to these types of events, other than in emergencies*, unless the invitation or announcement specifically mentions “family friendly” or the like.
Family friendly expeditions would include things where the entire family is inherently invited, like children’s birthday parties, family events, trips to the zoo, etc. Some groups may have broader perimeters of what sorts of events are considered by default to be family focused, so as a part of a social group, it’s good to educate yourself on these sorts of expectations for the group, whether you’re a parent or someone who enjoys predominantly adult-only functions.
It’s always acceptable as a host to politely specify who the invitation is intended for (just as it’s always acceptable as a guest to turn down an invitation if you’re uncomfortable with it excluding part of your family.) As a host, asking someone to leave, once they’ve arrived, is a bit more touchy. If it’s a first time offense, and the invitation was not specific – and the child is well behaved – a little leniency might be in order. If the invitation specifically asked for adults-only, then a polite “There must have been some misunderstanding. This evening is planned for adults. Let’s reschedule for a time when we can do something family-friendly, shall we?” is completely acceptable. Family-friendly or not, if the parent is ignoring the child, the child is behaving inappropriately for the event, a more terse goodbye is completely acceptable. “it looks like this is a bit much for Johnny to handle. We should get together some other time – maybe with less people. Let me get your guys’ jackets.”
And finally, unless it’s specifically been designated a kid-friendly zone, kids don’t belong in work situations. Some employers and events have recognized the challenges facing today’s parents and have begun to plan for resources to facilitate parents and children as a unit at some events. They may offer family-friendly venues, activities or even childcare on-site. But, ultimately, business time is grownup time, and that means the default answer is – leave the kids at home. Being an on-duty professional and being a child-care giver are both primary attention jobs; trying to do both simultaneously rarely works out well for anyone involved.
Some situations, such as conventions, conferences and trade shows, may be open to the public of all ages – it would be inappropriate to bar industry folks’ children from these, if the general public is allowed to bring their offspring. But that’s as an audience or attendee, not while “on duty”. Unless the child is under someone else’s care, or the situation is such as to be appropriate for the children to be on their own (and the child is truly old and mature enough to do so), it’s best to keep one’s work and parenting situations separate, at least to the extent that they affect other business people, clients or customers.
* = Emergencies means situations where not only are there no other options for childcare, but also that the presence of the parent (with child) is vital for some reason. “The sitter cancelled and I didn’t want to miss the fun” is not an emergency.
Have questions about how to handle a geeky situation? Need advice on social etiquette relating to games, movies, fan groups, conventions or other geek-ful settings? Write us at OneGeek@jesshartley.com and your question may get answered in one of our future One Geek to Another columns!