Who's paying attention?

I just have to get this off my chest.  I am just bothered by people who assume that the library, rec center, play ground, or wherever they are gives them a free pass to not watch their children.  Allow me to vent a little, if I may.

The kids and I returned to the libary yesterday to return our borrowed books from our last visit.  We got there just in time for the story time, which we've been to once or twice in the past.  To the kids' delight, we ran into a classmate of Fred's, too, making it twice as fun.  Before beginning, the story teller made note of some general things about story time, including two instructions - 1) keep your children near you, and 2) don't let the kids wander to the front of the room, where there are some potential dangers.  Pretty basic, no?  Apparently it's not.  It seems that some moms feel that story time is a great 30 minute block of time when they can sit on the floor and let their toddlers wander around without direction.  Most of the moms managed to keep their kids from taking off, but, one mom in particular just sat on the floor while her son (probably about 18 months) wandered past the story teller over toward the cart with the radio/CD player and other electronics on it.  Finally, she popped to her feet and meandered over to her son, gently nudging him to return to their spot on the floor.  Did she take his hand, pick him up, direct him with a gentle hand on his back to guide him?  Ah, no.  It happened three times.  Three.  OK, seriously, we can't hold his hand, encourage him to watch, listen, and participate?  Wow.

After story time we headed into Kids World to explore and find some new books to check out.  The kids each found a puzzle or table game, and took turns on one of the computers which is now loaded with a Thomas the Tank Engine themed game.  I kept my eyes on them, watched for them when they looked around for me, but still was able to scope the aisles for a couple of books that I thought they would each enjoy.  In my travels down the aisle, I noticed two young girls sitting on the floor with a pile of books between them.  The girls were maybe 1 and close to 3, if that.  I remembered the two girls from the story time, where their babysitters sat on their cell phones texting and doing anything but paying attention to the story teller.  Well now their baby sitters were parked in two nearby chairs reading magazines and chatting.  What were the girls doing?  Taking all the books off the lowest shelf and piling them up between them.  I looked at the sitters and told them that the girls were just dumping the books, and they casually glanced over, said something to the kids in their native tongue, and went back to their magazines. 

Am I the only one thinking this isn't right?

So today we chose to escape the house for an hour and go to the local rec center and play in the ball pit.  This is the greatest secret around here.  For $1, your child (age 3 and up, ssshhhh, don't tell that Fred isn't quite 3!) can play in this cool ball pit for about an hour (a little longer if it's not crowded).  There's a slide, several tunnels, and of course tons of brightly colored balls to jump into.  It's a blast, and always gets the kids nice and tired.  When we arrived there were three kids in the ball pit, a toddler girl, and two boys who looked about 4 and 5/6 years.  Their moms were sitting on the chairs along the wall, and when we arrived one of the moms was scolding her toddler girl for throwing balls.  This little girl looked to be about 2 or 3 at most, and her mom was in her face demanding that she repeat that she would stop throwing balls.  After she was done, the little girl returned to the pit and the mom returned to her seat next to her friend, apparently the mom of the two boys.

Ethel and Fred were excited that there were other kids in the pit, and literally dove right in.  I had brought a magazine and my coffee, figuring I'd maybe read a little while watching to make sure the kids didn't get stuck or hurt or something.  By no means was this "me time", this was about us all getting out of the house and giving the kids some physical activity to tire them out.  For the two other moms, this was their time to chat and catch up.  If they heard a whine, cry, or complaint, they yelled at the kids to stop whatever it was that caused the whimper.  The toddler girl had a sippy cup and asked for a drink maybe twice, each time to received, "You can't be this thirsty, what's your problem?".  Then her mom propped her up on her knee showing the other mom her very curly hair, saying, "Your hair, I just don't know what to do with it, it's such a mess!".  One of the boys was warned to stop throwing balls countless times, until his mom finally decided he had to come out.  She threatened both kids several times with, "Do you want me to call your father?".  The boys cried and pleaded with her not to call him, yet they still continued to not listen to their mother.  She didn't call their father.  They kept throwing balls.  The moms kept talking.  Sigh. 

Just before they left, the toddler girl was crying, and one of the boys was near her.  I could see that she'd gotten her foot caught in some of the flexible webbing that made up the floor of the ball pit, but both moms got up and demanded that the kids all get out.  Toddler girl's mom had no sympathy, simply saying, "What is the problem, why are you crying?".  I let the moms know that I thought her foot had just gotten caught, and their voices suddenly became sweet and tender to the little girl.  They finally left, and Ethel and Fred both said, "Wow, it's quiet without those crying kids!  They were wild".  From the mouths of babes.

A short time later, two young girls, ages 3 and 4, entered without a parent.  Hm.  It was a couple of minutes before their father entered, on the phone.  He took their jackets, and shoved them off saying, "Go be crazy!".  The girls cautiously entered the ball pit, and their dad left the room to sit and talk on the phone in the adjoining area where he could watch them through the wall of windows.  Ethel and Fred quickly got to talking to the two girls, and before I knew it I was listening to Ethel tell them her name and her brother's name, ask the girls their names, then they ran down all their ages (the four are 2, 3, 4, and 5, how cute).  The girls' father never entered the ball pit room while we were still there.  I walked around several times making sure everyone was playing nice, and just to check on Fred when he got stuck in a tunnel or something.  The father was planted firmly on the steps outside the ball pit room, talking on the phone.  The younger girl kept leaving the room to go see her Daddy, and at one point he shoved her back into the ball pit room, sternly telling her to go play.  She reluctantly returned, staying close to her sister.  After being there about an hour, Ethel and Fred and I packed up to go home.  Sadly, the father didn't go into the ball pit room until we were suited up and out of there.  He was still on the phone.
As I loaded the kids in the car, I saw the father and two girls coming out to their car, he was still on the phone.  OMG!!  What is the deal with this guy? 

OK, I know we all have those kinds of days.  I know that we can't watch the kids 100% of the time.  We can, though, put some effort into it.  The library, the ball pit, the park, none of these locations are a substitute for supervising and guiding our children.  Sure, we all need a break, and it is nice to visit kid-friendly locales where the kids are free to explore.  They still need boundaries, though, and we, their care givers and parents, are responsible for setting and enforcing the boundaries.  My kids aren't perfect, but even they notice when kids are not following rules and when their parents aren't watching them. 

Trust me, I've had my days when I retreated to a kid-friendly place so I could catch even the smallest break.  Still, it's my job to show my kids how to behave in those places, and how to respect their surroundings.  I just wish more adults displayed that kind of understanding.

OK, off my soap box now!

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