I had so many suggestions for Thursday Thematic Thursday, Therapeutic Thursday, Theme-Song Thursday that I can choose as I go. Today I’m using Thoughtful Thursday as my anchor for today’s post about parents.
Yesterday I heard a mom arguing with her two-year-old for ten minutes about leaving the library. Hear that: ARGUING WITH HER TWO-YEAR-OLD. The mom was ready to leave and twoer was clearly not. I was an innocent bystander, collecting books for my next program. There was counting: “I’m going to count to three...” And pleading: “Mommy’s really ready to go home now...” And even some bitterness: “Well, Mommy doesn’t get to do what Mommy wants to do most of the time.” There may have even been some despair over lost opportunities: “Mommy could have been a background singer for Celine Dion, but instead here she is in purple velour sweatpants trying to haul your dream-killing butt out of the public library so Mommy can get home to the little orange pills that make it all seem fine.”
Come to think of it, that last one may have been me.
Anyway, I realized that my being the only other person in the children’s area might be contributing to the problem, because maybe the mom was feeling awkward with a staff member right there. So I left, and as I was telling my coworkers that the mom might be coming behind me with a screaming kid, the mom did pick up the kid, who did indeed scream. Considering the whole thing finished, I went into the back room.
But here’s the kicker: When I came out of the back room thirty minutes later, the mom was just then checking out! Was she honestly negotiating with her two year old for forty minutes? Did someone forget to tell her that SHE’S THE MOTHER?
When did parents forget to be parents?
I may be annoyed by the tantruming kid in the store or library, but I’m still sympathetic deep down in my heart. I know that any kid, any mom can have a bad day or even a bad period. The tantrum itself isn’t indicative of the parenting, though how it is handled can be. My oldest was a big tantrum kid coming up on three years old. But when I had to, I carried her screaming body out. I still remember the day I had to carry her out of the mall, wrapped around my body under both arms as she tried to kick and scream, while I pushed her sister in the baby stroller. Good times. But I tell you that so you know that I’m no stranger to strong reactions to the phrase, “We need to go home now.” Tantrums aren’t fun to watch as the mother or a random person in Kohl’s trying to find a pair of jeans that don’t shout how you’ve given up looking hot. But tantrums by themselves are not nearly as bad as seeing a mom hand over control to someone who hasn’t even maintained control of his bowels yet.
Is it fair to give your kid a little heads-up that you’re leaving soon? Sure. Is it helpful to offer constructive choices surrounding your departure? Can be. Is it useful to argue the finer points of your departure with a two-year-old? NONONONONO!!!
These parents are often in my storytimes as well, but fortunately I can usually hold their kids’ attention. But when I can’t, I watch them asking the kids nicely to not bang on the carts or not climb on the stacks of chairs in the middle of my reading. I want so badly to put down the book and show them how to handle their kids. Because it’s possible that instead of asking from ten feet away for the kid to stop, you need to get up and physically remove the kid from said cart or chairs. Sometimes I think that I would do far more good showing parents how to parent their child then I can do showing them how to read to their child, but then that wouldn’t be fair to the majority of parents and kids who are listening nicely.
Actually, one of the times I did suggest to a mom that she take her child out of the storytime and return when he was ready, she complained not to my supervisor, or even the library branch manager, but to the director of the entire library system. While I didn’t get in trouble per se, everyone in the entire chain of command knew about this complaint. So even though the people I work with directly knew the whole thing was crazy I’m really a nice person I’m sure it left doubts with the people who didn’t know me. It just adds a whole other level to the parenting crises. Not only will these people not control their own children, if you try to suggest they do so, you can get a black mark by your name in the Big Job Book.
It’s scary for the future to see how much power parents are putting in their kids’ hands. Want to play a little game? Go to a playground or busy children’s section of the library or bookstore and count the number of times you hear parents say, “Okay” as in, “We’re going to go home soon, okay?” It has become a verbal tic for parents who think it softens their statement (“We’re going to go home soon”), but is really asking permission of their child (“Okay? No, not okay,” the kid thinks). Parents are afraid to be seen as harsh or mean, so instead they get played like the Wiggles keyboard in front of KB Toys.
A great book for moms struggling with their inner meanie is The Three-Martini Playdate. The book reminds us, in a very tongue-in-cheek way, how to be the parent in a number of situations from birthday parties to bedtime, diaper bags to dinner out. Hopefully moms will laugh reading the insert for Our Little Tot’s First Martini Recipe, but the serious message contained within the book is the concept how revolutionary of being the person in charge.