11 May Five things I wish I would have known when they were little
(This was originally published on January 25, 2014.)
My job at a public library affords me the privilege to interact with many people each day. We have our regulars who use the computers to look for jobs, catch up on Facebook, and play games. We have our romance novel devotees and our crime novel enthusiasts. A few folks check out only movies; I doubt they ever read books. There’s the man who does the crossword in our newspaper every day, the Amish kids who read all the Hardy Boys and Babysitters Club paperbacks, and the homeschool moms who dig up the most obscure resources to supplement their curriculum.
The patrons I relate to the most however are the moms who come in with their wee ones and check out 30 or 40 picture books at a time.
Some kids immediately run at full speed to the children’s area and pull seemingly every book onto the floor and then climb on the bookshelves. When that becomes old, crayons and wooden puzzle pieces get chewed on like candy and thrown about like hot potatoes. Snot drips, coughs discharge, whines ensue.
Some of the mothers are too hot; they yell at their kids to be quiet because, “It’s a LIBRARY!” Some are too cold; they pretend not to notice the ruckus their children cause. Some are just right; they calmly rein in their dear beasts.
Whether the children are posing as cherubs or monsters, I know it’s just an act and they can switch roles in an instant. There is no good and evil with kids – just a scrambled mess of unrefined personality.
No matter what happens in the children’s area (unless it’s puke, then I walk away), I try to greet the kids and look the moms in the eye, smile empathetically, and sometimes chat. Because I remember. It was not so many years ago that my own offspring caused me angst when we visited the library.
I gave them the speech each time we parked the minivan at the curb in front of the unassuming brick building where I now work: “You will be quiet and not speak above a whisper. You will NOT run and jump on the giant bean bag cushions. You will not fight. You will stay in the children’s area, even while I peruse the grown-up section. If you cause me any sort of stress, we will walk out the door with no books.”
There was just something about the library that brought out the worst in all of us. I’m surprised they ever learned to read, for all the times we left empty-handed.
The library (and going out in public anywhere) experience started out okay with just one child. We would cuddle and read. She would charm the librarian with her darlingness. I could even get away with reading my own book or magazine on the floor while she played with blocks. Life was a dream and visiting the library a piece of cake until the second little body joined us.
With two of them and one of me, I began to notice I was not raising perfect children. (Shocker!) Oftentimes I was embarrassed to be in public because I feared losing control of the imperfects.
Now I try to encourage the young moms and let them know they are normal. All kids throw fits. All kids pull books off shelves. All kids will have green snot oozing from their noses sooner or later.
It’s exhausting. And we moms feel under the spotlight (especially in libraries that are supposed to be bastions of tranquility). I was never good enough at my job as mom and I knew everyone else could see what I failure I was.
For moms of little kids, here are some of the things I needed to hear from a more experienced mother all those years ago:
1. Most things you stress about are stages your child will naturally outgrow. They really do stop using diapers. They do eventually sleep all night. They will learn to read. They will in time model your good manners (or bad ones).
2. You do not control them. It’s not your failures that make them misbehave.
3. Sleep cures almost anything. Sleep is the best medicine – even better than grape Tylenol or Benadryl. Likewise, I am certain that sleep-deprivation (and occasionally hunger) is at the root of many behavioral issues.
4. The reason God made these teensy people so stinking cute is so you would be able to keep on loving them despite their fiendish traits.
5. You are smarter and wiser than your child. You are the parent. You will be okay!