Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Mad moms at the library

The last two times I've visited our local library - yesterday and today - I saw some really bad behavior on the part of a couple of moms. My daughter saw both events; my son saw one.

Yesterday: A mom is sitting at a computer. Her kid is bothering her. She takes him into the kids' area but it still annoyed with him and doesn't really do anything to help him. Like, help him get some books to look at. She finally, and loudly, removes him from the library amid threats of punishment and various deprivations.

Coincidentally, a man walks up to the circulation desk with a stack of cds, no library card and no ID on him. The librarians decline to check out his cds. He walks out.

As we leave, we see the mom just outside the library door, still yelling at the kid and smoking a cigarette. The cardless man goes over to her. She angrily dumps her purse out on the sidewalk and looks for something, throwing each item back in as she looks. (My daughter tries but can't exactly tear her eyes away.) The man goes back into the library, but comes out again, empty-handed, as we drive off.

Today: A mom is sitting at a computer in the young adult area. Her preschooler is on the couch next to her, with nothing to do. He comes over to me as I look for a book, and asks me a question I can't understand. His mom tells him sharply to go sit back down. He asks for a book. She tells me "you already had your chance to get a book." The kid is about 3. You had your chance?

A few minutes later while we are waiting to check out, we hear loud wailing. The woman is mad now and taking the kid out the door. When we get to our car my kids tell me that she was holding the boy by the torso, halfway upside-down and telling him to stop moving his legs before he kicked someone. They were upset, shocked by this. They agreed that I had never been that mean to them (though they allowed that I can yell pretty well), and certainly never at the library.

Now we have had our bad moments in the library. But I've never seen anything like this. The library is supposed to be a safe place; a quiet place. Fun, but not loud fun. When my kids got out of control, we quietly left. Once we left behind a big stack of books and Thomas the Tank Engine videos. We walked outside and sat on a bench. The boy was crying. As we sat there calming down, a grandma-type came over to me. She'd seen the whole exchange: the misbehavior, my request for compliance, the refusal, the setting down of materials, the quick exit. She didn't say much to me. I just remember this part: "You are a good mom. You did the right thing." Of course I would remember that part. That kind of encouragement doesn't come every day.

When my kids were little I longed for time on my own in the library. I never got it. Occasionally I might have had a minute for browsing if I loaded the kids up with picture books and sat them in an aisle next to me. But it was short. Mostly I requested books online and picked them up. I got a lot of duds that way, but it didn't matter; I just took them back on the next trip. We have rarely gone a week without a library stop, so it's always been easy enough to get new books. (Whether I had time to actually read them once home is another story.)

A mom of young kids has no business expecting to get anything done at the library except spend time with her child(ren), enjoying books together and (if possible) separately.

The time of out-of-control kids at the library is very short. So very short! I have reached the time that I can leave my kids and go to my own areas without a thought about their behavior. They wander around the whole place now: my girl to the adult crafts section but the kids' fiction; the boy to the oversized books, the young adult area, and, just recently, to the adult area for books on aviation and war. They come to me when they're ready to check out. I do still keep track of their cards - they live in the library bag.

Of course I don't know why these women were at the library. I couldn't see what they were doing on the computers. Maybe they were looking for jobs, or a home. Who knows what kind of pressures they are under? But still. You don't make the library a battleground.

Contrast this with the dad of a very noisy toddler. This child did not like the library and let everyone know it. His dad patiently took the boy outside. When we left, we saw him calmly walking around with his little screamer in the parking lot. I met his eye and smiled, trying to convey "been there, done that." I guess it worked because he smiled and rolled his eyes. He gets it.

It's not that hard to get, really. The library can be a magical place for a child. Love of books can be grown there. Don't wreck it for them.


Gwendolyn said...

I totally agree! I've seen some interesting behavior in the library, too. Happens everywhere, I suppose. However, I am VERY glad that my children are now old enough that I don't end up having to take them out for having a temper tantrum. :o)

Anonymous said...

Who knows what was really going on in their lives. I am sure that the behavior was unacceptable by them. But at the same time it couldbe a single mom who only access to a computer to apply for a job was at the library and has know help with the little ones. I am sure that wasn't the case because there are some very off the wall mothers and fathers out there but you never know. I am just so glad your kids knew that how they are loved by you and what is acceptable. Smart kiddos.