Saturday, June 04, 2005

Little Emperors 

Children with older, upwardly mobile parents often spell trouble in the library. Their parents have a lax and overindulgent style of childrearing that can cause problems and disruption in the library. Perhaps because the parents are older and postponed childbearing so long, they tend to marvel over and treat their children like adored grandchildren. Please don’t get me wrong - I’m all for people being into their children. I see enough neglected latchkey children as it is. I also don’t want a return to the Spartan method of pedagogy, what with all of the exposing infants on the hillside to weed out the weak ones and the mothers sending their sons off to war with a cold, “Son, you are to come home with your shield or on it.” Although, if this country is going to engage in perpetual warmongering then a return to the Spartan model of society might be a good idea, since it did seem to produce excellent citizen soldiers.

I also think the English upper class tradition of sending one’s children off to year round kindergarten boarding school is cruel. Really, what then is the point of having children? It reminds me of that old National Lampoon spoof ad of those military schools you see in the back of the New Yorker. The ad had a picture of a tiny baby in a full military school uniform and the tagline, “Give us your infant and we’ll return a reasonable adult to you in 21 years.”

One day I was out in a slightly obnoxiously gentrified neighborhood working at the children’s desk. A mother had been hovering over her little four year old boy for an hour, trying to push books upon him when all he wanted to do was piece together a puzzle. I’m sure because he couldn’t finish the puzzle he acted out in frustration and rebellion by shoving a bunch of the puzzle pieces in his pockets. She caught him and said that he couldn't have them and that they belonged to the library. In a pleading tone she tried to coax them from him.

He said, “No! I don’t want to.”

“But honey, they belong to the library. Don’t you want other children to be able to play with them?” She begged him, “Please put them back.”

He stuck his lower lip out and pouted, "You're not being my FWIEYEND."

I felt like saying, "You're damn right she's not your FWIEYEND. She's your MOTHER, and her job number 1 is to turn you into a decent, non thieving human being/citizen.”

“Oh, darling! But of course I’m you’re friend!” Rushing to appease to her child, she hugged him and clucked over him. She saw that I was watching and pried the pieces away from him while his obstinance escalated into a tantrum.

I grit my teeth and tried to fake a smile of commiseration.

I had been at another branch with a little boy screaming for Thomas the Tank Engine videos. The children’s area and the adult area were not separate, so the little boys screams were disturbing the adults trying to read newspapers at the tables. They glared at the child and began to grumble. The manager, an infinitely kind and patient woman, knelt down and said, “This is a library. Use your inside voice.”

The mother snatched her child away like a grizzly sow and hissed, “How dare you! We don’t like to come into this library! And you know why? Each time we do you try to crush his spirit!”

How can you reason with a person like this? I wish I could have told her, “Look, lady. Your child is crushing my spirit and every other adult's in here.”

Give me a raving paranoid schizophrenic homeless man brandishing a plastic jug of his urine at me any day.

Being of the library persuasion myself, I often find myself thinking "Amen, sister!" and other such cliches when reading your posts, but possibly none so much as this. Poorly controlled children are the bane of my existence in any part of life, but especially work, where I cannot get away from them. Any efforts to gently admonish are most often met with parental outrage or indifference. Hey, you might have become acclimatised to your rotten little wombfruit, but I and the rest of society have not, nor should we be expected to when you can't be bothered to discipline it.

Whew! Rant over!
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