Monday, February 16, 2009

Some People's Kids

I like to think of myself as moderately non-judgmental of the parenting skills of others. Anyone who has visited this blog more than once knows how we, at times, struggle mightily with at least one emotional and sensitive child (and sometimes two).

More than once I have bristled at the unsolicited advice of strangers in the mall, who are usually 3 plus decades older than me. Having raised children and forgotten more than they remembered, they are certain that if I just ignore her tantrum/ give him space / give her a swat / show him whose boss, I will have no more problems with a simple trip to the grocery store. If only it were that easy.

And so when I see a frazzled Mom attempting to sooth an unsoothable children, or trying to keep a 2 yr old from emptying the entire rack of gum or trying to keep up with one runaway child while nursing an infant, I have sympathy. If I haven't found myself in that exact situation, I've probably been in one worse. I don't judge her. I empathize. I would offer a hug but I know she might burst into tears, which is the thing she is trying to avoid most. I know that she is trying her best in the situation.

Having said that, I can be very judgmental when I see parents failing to enforce the first rule of child-rearing: sharing/taking turns. Even babies have to learn to share their parents, and soon after their toys. Their first game of Candyland, they learn to take turns. They must learn to line up for public bathrooms and share toys at preschool or daycare. It is, in my opinion, the most foundational skill for life on this planet.

The kids and I went to Science World last Friday as the teachers were again professionally developing themselves. It's a fantastic place on hands-on exploration, contraptions and good old-fashioned fun. Our kids have been many times and we mostly go to the same section and they never tire of doing the same things again and again.

On this Friday it was particularly crowded with school field trips and parents of small children seeking diversions from the February blues. A lot of kids were sharing. Many would approach a science apparatus and immediately scan to see who was there before them, if there was a lineup or if they could join in without disrupting others. I heard parents enforcing turns, reminding their kids to share and even forcibly removing some stubborn ones. I saw several older kids give up their turns for younger ones. I did see a few older kids playing tag and running over everyone in their way, but the teachers and chaperones quickly put an end to the game. At the floor piano, S wanted it to her herself. She waited patiently, but I told her this was a sharing piano and she couldn't really have it to herself. At that point 2 ten year old girls had arrived and were about to make some 'music'. One heard me and let S have her solo turn and even kept other kids off the giant keyboard so S could run down the 20 foot length of the piano on her own. That was above and beyond the call.

But I also experienced 2 grotesque forms of parental neglect of the alpha rule of parenting. There is one contraption where the kids take a little mini parachute, stuff it into a tube and the parachute shoots high into the air and floats down. It is very popular but there are only 2 mini-parachutes. S had suffered an injury on the ball-spinning event, so she and I sat on a bench while she regained her composure. J went to line up for the parachuting event. (I might add, I was might proud that he noticed there was a queue and took his place at the end of it).

A parent is there with her 2 children who have been there a while on their own. So they were able to take turns, only the 2 of them, with the parachutes. As the parachutes continue to land the 2 boys are lunging for the parachutes and grabbing them from the hands of the other children, and quickly stuffing them into the tube. Now I know kids will be kids and even the most well-trained toddler will forget herself in the face of extreme fun. The mother, however, facilitated the continual dominance of the parachutes. She caught one herself and handed it to the younger of her kids.

As you can imagine, I cannot sit by idly while such childhood injustices are visited on a lineup of children, including my own (S had recovered from finger injury and joined the line-up). I approach the apparatus and as another parachute is headed for one of the greedy twins, I grab it and hand it to the next child in line and say, hiding as much venom as possible, "here you go, you're next in line".

That same child caught the next 'chute and handed it to J Boy, next in line. "Go ahead honey, it's your turn", I reinforced the taking of turns. J caught his own missile and was unsure of who to give it to so I said "Give it to S, she is next in line."

I really have no idea if the mother was angry at me for upsetting the law of the jungle, embarrassed that she had not done this herself or entirely oblivious. I do know that she is likely one of the people that push to the front of lines in long transit queues and who will grab the last cookie on a plate even if it's her sixth.

As we were about to leave place-of-science, J Boy wanted to try one more thing. They have these seats where you pull on rope and you can lift yourself. One is the equivalent of lifting 1/3 of your body weight and one is 1/6th. J Boy tried the 1/3 weight one and could not do it. He wanted to try the 1/6 version. A boy was on there while J tried the other. I agreed even though our parking had expired and the parking vultures are particularly efficient at this location (and we haven't yet picked up our traditional pop corn for the ride home).

J stands patiently while this boy sits on the chair. The father takes his place to try the chair that J Boy just vacated. The little boy is sitting the the chair and staring at J and holding himself at the highest height. He has pulled himself up and down several times. Said little boy seems to enjoy watching J wait. The father says nothing.

J is getting a little twitchy (can't imagine where he gets that from) and I said "let's just wait for our turn". The father can hear me. He says nothing.

J gets more impatient. I say "we have to wait our turn". Although I was tempted to say "well this little boy has not been taught by anyone not to monopolize equipment and to allow every one to have their turns. His parents must not know that although they did pay to come into Science World, they are not the only ones here and admission does not allow them to have the turns of other children.". But I resist (the father was WAY bigger than me).

1 comment:

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