Why Does Vilnius Hate Babies?
Vilnius is a strange city. As a matter of fact, Lithuania is a strange country, but in the way that all countries are strange. America is strange in a dangerous way, and luckily is not strange that way.
But it is still strange. The city is still strange, the capital city, the city with the most money, the city with the biggest potential.
Why doesn’t the city care for its own people?
Walk around the Old Town in Vilnius, down Vokieciu or Traku or by the City Hall or down Pilies. Walk down there with your stroller, your child and your husband or wife or whomever.
If you have a stroller, anything with wheels, really, you see that the city’s not made for wheeled things. There are stairs everywhere. Stairs that go up, stairs that go down, some that go up and down. And all those stairs and all those steps are things that are hard to climb when you have a stroller in autumn or this cold winter. And what if you’re alone? As many mothers as there everyday who take their babies out for a stroll?
But let’s imagine you make it into some Coffee Inn or Cili Pizza or another place.
You’re there, your child happy, bouncy, laughing, and you’re waiting for your food, hoping that she will let you eat. And then she looks you in the face and makes that face, and you hear that magic sound. That poop that always comes at just the right time.
So you run off to the toilet to change her, and guess what: you can’t change your baby in their changing room, because there is no changing room. There is only a toilet, sometimes two, sometimes more, but there are no changing rooms.
There are no changing rooms
My wife and I, in the popular Vilnius restaurant called Kitchen, both went into their toilet because our daughter had just pooped. And I held her up while Diana peeled off the diaper, Amanda swinging her feet, kicking and letting things fly all over the floor. We thought about putting a changing pad on the toilet seat, but it’s just too hard, too small, too awkward (what, should I squat down, a stinky butt in my face?)
No, so I held her up, away from me, and we managed to wash her somehow, water and wipes splashing everywhere. The place was a mess.
And I didn’t feel bad at all. As a matter of fact, I felt angry. Why should we have to do this? The damn restaurant had a baby seat. The restaurant had the space. Changing tables are collapsible; you hang them on the wall and close them when you don’t need them.
Is it so rare that restaurants don’t need them? What a lie.
How many parents have to decide: do I change my baby in the toilet, or on the restaurant seat? Or should I pack her up, put her back into her stroller, pay for the things I didn’t eat, carry the stroller down the steps, because there is no ramp, remember, and go all the way back to my car and change her in the back seat, in the cold winter?
But that’s the price you pay here for daring to have a child in the Old Town. The restaurants make it clear, the cafes here they make it clear, the city government here makes it clear: we don’t want your babies, keep your babies home.
If all the parents with young babies kept their babies at home, and themselves, and their wallets and credit cards, and never went into the Vilnius Old Town institutions who clearly don’t care for babies, maybe we’d have a different story.
But that’s the strange thing about this city. People just don’t work together like that.
And so the city will go on in their disregard, for generations and generations. And when Amanda has her son or daughter, she’ll be complaining about the same thing in the same way in this strange city.