Thursday, April 5, 2012

Parenting 101: A Visit to the Library

It's a relatively quiet Saturday afternoon in the library. Mom, acting as though she is there alone, and Toddler Girl (no older than 3) are wandering the stacks. Mom is in the movie aisles. Toddler Girl is looking for something more interesting to look at than Mom's calves. While searching for said interesting thing, Toddler Girl wanders farther and farther away from Mom, realizes this and begins calling, at megaphone-decibel volume, "Mo-om! Wheyaaaayoooo?" Adorable. But loud. She also stops by the Circulation Desk to show me her drawing and again at a shelf of Reference books to shift things around.

Besides the obvious noise issue, there is also a safety issue here that I shouldn't have to point out (but frequently do): little kids alone in public places are in danger from strangers. Even the library isn't necessarily a safe place. Anyone can come into a public building.

Mom, realizing *TG is being too noisy in the library begins hollering across the library in a just-lower-than-megaphone-decibel, overrought-Mom voice, "Tanny! You get over here! You want to check out a book? Get over here or you'll get nothing!" This is where I sigh. This continued for about 20 minutes, until Mom finally made her selection and tried to collect TG, who preferred wandering the library to standing with Mom at the Circ. Desk. Her last words to her daughter before checking out a movie for herself and a book for TG are, "You aren't getting anything, then!" After which, she turns to me and checks out a book for her.

I comment that TG is adorable, which she is, all tiny blond pigtails and sweet, high-pitched voice, little fingers and tiny toddler shoes. Mom tells me, "No she's not. She's just rotten." I sigh again, thinking Poor Toddler Girl.

Mom said to me, "We did the game**, she just lost the paper, does she get a sucker?"* in a moderately rude voice. I said, "Would she like to choose, or are you going to choose for her?" Thinking it's a good excuse to get TG back with Mom. She replied, "Just give me one. She doesn't deserve it anyway, but oh well." You can guess that she then grabbed TG roughly by the hand and dragged her out of the library. There are so many things wrong with these parenting choices...

This is a not-uncommon scenario in public places. I submit that if you are a harried mom, over-worked and tired, with a toddler (whose very name designates their favorite activity), it is easy to become short-tempered and frustrated with your children. I remember having toddlers pushing me to the edge of sanity. HOWEVER...

If you have (especially only one!) a small child in a public place, it is not difficult to work some magic and keep them happily with you the whole time. Especially a girl, whose budding social skills will be entranced if you simply talk to her. Here's a better version of the scenario:
Mom and TG walk into the library hand-in-hand. TG wants to wander, but Mom wants to look at videos. Mom takes TG to look for a picture book first, then over to the movies, still holding TG's hand and talking with her all the way. Instead of acting like TG is a dog that should stay leashed, Mom engages (key word) TG in a little conversation in the movie aisle. "My goodness, TG, do you see the colors on this box? Can you see the blue flowers? Oooh, there's a car on this one, look at that! What color is the car?" And such. If this fails and TG still wants to wander, there is a simple solution. Mom either quickly grabs whatever movie she sees first, or opts not to take one at the moment and scoops TG up in her arms, saying in a soft voice (example, anyone?) "Oh, we're in the library, sweetie, you get to stay with Mom. Let's go check out your book" and they leave.

It's difficult, not always getting what we moms want. I know. But the relationship with the child actually matters most.  A small child who is being loud and running around is a small child acting normally. Not rotten. A small child who is scooped into mommy's arms and loved is a lot less likely to ransack the library while you are there. If this fails and small child is just too ornery for a visit to the library, LEAVE! You can try again later, after they have had a snack, or a nap. With most children, if they are uncooperative on an outing, it is usually one of three things:
  1. They are pooped and need a nap or a change of scenery.
  2. They are hungry-- their little bellies digest food quickly, they can't go as long as we can between meals and snacks!
  3. Mom/Dad is disengaged and trying to be "Jane or John" instead of "Mom or Dad". Re-engage with your child. Actively parent. Lovingly teach, show and talk to them, and magic happens. 
I'm not an expert, but I do know a thing or two about children. This has been Parenting 101. Now, go hug your little one. The toddler years feel like ages, but are gone in a flash. You have one chance to do this right. And everything you do, from hugs and sweet whispers to name-calling and scowling affects your child. Everything.

*Toddler Girl = TG
** Our library has a little game the kids can play to earn a sucker, they just have to fill in a small paper and give it to the librarian.

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