Saturday, November 3, 2012

100 Word Increments: Parenting Advice from the Library

Imagine, if you will, that I don’t have friends with kids. Or coworkers with kids. Or relatives who talk to me constantly about kids (namely, the part where I don't have any kids). Imagine I have no access to books or blogs or magazines about parenting and I’ve never seen a family sitcom. Imagine that everything I know about parenting comes from close observation of the parents and children who pass through the library each day. Now, imagine that you have just asked me (the childless wonder) for parenting advice. Based on my extensive observations, this is what I'll say:

1. Other people can still hear your child screaming.
The twins would have been cute in their matching outfits if not for their identical gaping mouths, wailing like a pair of banshees at an Irish hospice. Their mother wandered the library with her double stroller, ignoring the noise, or possibly deafened by it, for half an hour.
Here’s a concept I’ve been toying with - just a thought, really:
How about - I know this is crazy, but when your kid is having a bad day and just wants to stand in the middle of the room and scream, how about we have that day NOT be library day?

2. Kids are sneaky.
Fetching a book from the bottom shelf in the children’s section, I found myself at eye level with a smiling boy.
“Hi!” he said, surprised, as if I had magically appeared before him.
“Hello,” I said.
“How did you get here at the library?” he asked.
“I drove here in my car,” I said. “How did you get here?”
“I drove here in my car too!”
“Really?” I said. “You look a bit young to be driving.”
“No, I’m not!” he said, holding out his mother’s keys.
“How did you get hold of those?” his mother said, taking them back.

3. When all else fails, resort to bribery.
“Rawr!” a pigtailed girl played in the floor with our plastic dinosaurs.
“Whatcha doin’?” her brother asked.
“I’m a dinosaur!” she said, flexing pretend claws. “Rawr!”
The boy shrugged and ignored her in favor of the blocks.
“Kids, it’s time to go,” said their mother.
“We can’t!” said the dinosaur. “I’m not done destroying yet!” She demonstrated by leveling the block city recently abandoned by her brother.
“Time’s up. We’re leaving.”
“That’s too bad. I was going to take us for ice cream, but dinosaurs don’t eat ice cream.”
“Ra…” The roar ended on a cough. “Let’s go, mommy.”

4. You have to watch your children.
The adorable little boy in overalls looked like he was on his way to the fishing hole: barefoot, blond duck-fluff hair sticking up, smiling as he walked the stumbling walk of children barely past crawling…
Gaily plucking book after book off the shelves and dropping them on the floor.
It looked like the shelves had exploded.
“Where is your mother?!” I cried aloud.
“Here!” she said from across the room, making no move to interfere.
I glared at her for as long as it took her to gather her child and leave, then spent an hour cleaning up the mess.

5. Teenage nannies are more interested in other teenage nannies than in their charges.
While shelving, I eavesdropped on three teenagers whose toddler siblings played nearby. Toddler Brother wouldn’t leave Teenage Boy alone to get his game on.
“Will you be my girlfriend?” Toddler Brother asked the girls.
“Go play. You can’t have a girlfriend,” said Teenage Boy.
“You have a girlfriend!” said Toddler Brother. “Why can’t I?”
“Because you’re five.”
“Oh,” said Toddler Brother, turning away sadly.
 “So,” snapped Teenage Girl 1, “you have a girlfriend?”
“What?” Teenage Boy backpedaled. “No! He doesn’t know what he’s talking about!”
The girls traded knowing glances. “Uh-huh,” said Teenage Girl 2, collecting their sisters. “Let’s go.”

6. It’s never too early to think about their future careers.
As a haggard mom flipped through the books on the cart, her daughter pointed. “What’s that?”
Mom sighed as though she were tired of answering questions. “It’s a book about squirrels.”
The girl’s face scrunched in confusion. “Why?”
Mom, still flipping through books, shrugged. “Because that’s what the author wanted to write about.”
The girl waited for more.
Mom ignored her. Flip, flip…
Finally, the girl said, “That’s silly.”
Mom didn’t even look up. “What would you write about?”
The girl stared in thought, then said, “Dogs.”
“Well,” said mom, “someday you can be an author and write about dogs.”

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