Wednesday, September 4, 2013

An Open Letter to Parents

An Open Letter to Parents:
       Parenting is hard. There are lots of demands on our time and attention, lots of expectations and judgement, and pressure to be perfect. I try not to judge too harshly because each day is not all of our best days. There is a constant need to teach and re-teach and remind and re-remind. And some times you have to pick your battles with your little guys.

       With that said, I went to the Children's Museum today, and have decided we might never return. It is not because the kids don't like it; they do. It is not because the staff isn't nice; they are. It is not because it is expensive; it is. It is because of you my fellow parents.

         Last visit, we left because it was crazy in the downstairs toddler area. Children we running, moving toys from one area to another area, there were parents standing around talking, but not supervising. It came to a head when I was hit by play food being thrown out of the birds nest by children about 9 who were in the 3 and under area. I told them in no uncertain terms, that was not acceptable to be throwing food, I had been hit, and they were not young enough to be in that area. They stopped and left, but there were no parents around.

         Today, we were in the beehive ball room. My kids were playing nicely. I had to immediately remind Kyle of his skills from therapy and skills class---don't touch others, give them space, and wait your turn. He did. Then I see a mother sitting on a bench next to me on Pinterest. She is not watching her toddler climbing the peg wall where you can sort balls. When her child ask her to see her accomplishment (getting to the top of the 6 foot wall), she looks up, acknowledges and goes back to her phone. When Kyle tries to climb it, I immediately stop him and explain (the mother can hear me) that it was not designed for that. When Kyle tries to instruct the other girl, I also explain she has a mother and it is not our job to tell her what to do.

          Shortly after, we move on. In the first area, construction, Aiden finds food from the marketplace and immediately wants to take it back to the proper place. We put the basket of peaches away in the marketplace--across the whole toddler area. After we are walking through the room, we find an abandoned loaded grocery cart, not in the right exhibit. It has mail, which Kyle has been looking for so he can deliver some around the toddler area. As he is looking to deliver it, an older child, runs up to him, and physically tries to rip the mail out of his hand. I let him know, that it was Kyle's turn. He backed off. Where is the parent????

           Aiden spends the next 20 minutes rounding up play food from the marketplace and farm area around the museum. He wants to sort it all and put it away. We do. In the car area, Kyle wants Aiden and I to get in the back of the truck. We can't. A child has filled it with play food from another area and left it.

          We moved upstairs to check out the helicopter. While the boys are in the front seats, 10-15 children with a parent come from the party room. They are running. A child comes up to Kyle and says, "I want to sit there." I remind him, while a parent is standing two feet away, that it is Kyle's turn. Parent says nothing. Another child about 9, pushes his way onto Kyle's seat. I asked him to back off and give Kyle his turn. Parent says nothing. Finally, as 4 children are pushing around Kyle and reaching in his space, I tell Kyle we should just go, it is a losing battle and not worth the fight. Parent says nothing.

            Later, a toddler empties a shopping cart full of play food into the water at the water table. Parent doesn't notice from her bench. Aiden starts to get really upset, and helps me pull it from the water and put it away in the right exhibit. Aiden spent the rest of the time at the museum helping the staff put away marketplace food they had rounded up from all around the museum. He got a prize for helping.

            Parents, take responsibility for your children. You need to supervise them. You need to remind them to share, teach them about personal space, and make sure they are following common courtesy. If you are sitting next to a sign that says, "no food or drink in the museum," don't be feeding your toddler right there. If your child makes a mess in a common space with shared toys, clean it up. Set a good example. If your child is throwing toys, stop them. If they are splashing others at the water table, instruct them not to.

            I am mortified when Kyle chases other kids, yelling for their toys, grabs them out of their hands, does not respect boundaries, and is in general not a good citizen. I quickly call him over, correct him, have him apologize, or do it myself particularly if a parent is around. I work hard with Kyle, as he struggles socially. We practice at home. We role play. We go over expectations before entering a social situation. We leave if he can't use his skills. We talk about social interactions in therapy. We remind, remind, remind, remind, and remind some more. It is hard work. But I do not want to have child that struggles to make friends. I do not want a child unaware of good behavior.

        Do you as other parents, not want the same for your child? Can we not be united in our desire to raise good citizens? These skills, sharing, kind words, and respect are not intrinsic behaviors. You need to teach them and it takes years. You signed on when you had a child; now hold up your end of the bargain.

Thank you,

Concerned Parent Tying Her Best, and Startled By the Lack of Parenting Around Her When in Public