In reading about the Marcy’s Diner debacle this past week, I needed to remind myself to not be upset or horrified by the well of angry emotions that boiled up in the comments by readers. Vehemence against children seems an all too easily triggered meme, and my guess is it reflects our own childhood experience of being seen as an unworthy little annoyance.

I wish I could invite all those angry readers into my cheerful children’s bookstore. I’d give each a sticker and read them a story, and really listen to them and take them seriously as learning people. I’d show them books that would make their eyes sparkle with joyful anticipation, and do what I could to help give back their birthright of a joyful childhood.

I’m afraid I couldn’t fit all those needy adults in my store, however, but I wouldn’t force them to leave if they cried loudly at realizing they were gypped out of the happy childhood they deserved. Because they would cry – I’m certain that’s why they are yelling now.

Most astonishing to me was how the internet conversation centered around etiquette. A person is in despair and howling and we’re focused on manners? Are tears worth less because they are from a small person? Is anyone at all concerned with WHY the child may have been wailing? How was that being addressed and by whom? Why is it expected that small children cry irrationally? Just because we misunderstood or are unable to determine the cause of a child’s distress doesn’t mean the child isn’t crying for a very valid , to him or her, reason. Isn’t it a parent’s job to HELP the child? And too, as a store owner, my role is to offer help if *any* of my customers is in distress, regardless of their time/space coordinates.

In my view, children need to learn that there are people in the world who will help them (hopefully, their parents, who have a deep moral obligation to do so), help ease their distress until they develop the skills to do so themselves. Isn’t that what we all need? In my view, that’s much more important learning than mere manners.

Also, making one’s child a priority ahead of “what people think of me or my parenting” is, from my experience, the absolutely right approach. With a modicum of creativity, seeing that your child’s needs are met shouldn’t need to inconvenience or upset others. Quite honestly, I’m far more upset when a parent drags a screaming child out of a public place than I am hearing a parent trying to respectfully help a crying child. At the same time, I sympathize with the parent for so many reasons, not the least of which is a clear view to their childhood self, and their own deeper needs unmet.

I would have served free pancakes to everyone with a whopping dollop of “I’m so sorry.” The owner and mom could have apiggone on squabbling while baby and I had a good time and some yummy pancakes.

Waiting for the storm …

October 29, 2012

Image
I write this while working from home, book store closed, waiting for Hurricane Sandy to officially show up. So far, the announcement of her impending arrival has been dramatic, as branches and leaves fly recklessly across the backyard and the whooshing in the trees begins to sound like a train.

It is an odd limbo-like place to be, awaiting a storm. And yet, in truth, not unlike our every day existence if we admit it, only a vague idea of what peril or pleasures await us moment to moment.

I’m always impressed by human resilience and bravery (sometimes foolhardiness). There is a spirit of survival in each of us that is remarkable in the face of even the worst tragedies and circumstances. Grim news, divisive politics, monster storms and yet we struggle and fight to assure the safety of ourselves and our loved ones. For all our vulnerabilities and flaws, as a species I think we pretty much rock.

I am amazed by all the technology involved in storm tracking, the ability to forecast and measure and project … all things that help us plan and prepare for safety, creating better odds of survival. It is breathtaking to see how far we’ve come. The ancient forecasters with animal entrails, offerings to the gods, superstitious attempts to curry favor with a random universe, seem like children playing compared to the sophisticated methods of our scientists today.

Still, as the wind gathers strength, and envelops our aging shelter, tile and stucco, rattling windowpanes,  there is a part of me that thrills at the power of this elemental force. With the primal spirit of ancient ancestors, I want to run out into the wind and rain, shouting and dancing like the excited children next door. I hear their shrieks of wild laughter as I once again refresh the online navigational chart of the path of the hurricane and worry if I’ve secured the porch furniture well enough. I’m probably safe.

Quality Matters

January 4, 2012

 

I strongly believe in honoring our children’s learning and respecting their evolving choices. As my children were growing up, that meant supporting their inclination to read books that I might not have chosen for them. There was a long stretch of Berenstain Bears, with the doddering dad and preachy lessons. We even had a brief spell of Precious Moments books at our house, which are, in my view, the literary equivalent of Hallmark cards. Thankfully we missed the Doras and Sponge Bobs, though admittedly, we had our share of Thomas (that cheeky little engine). At the same time I filled our bookshelves and library basket with as many wonderful, quality books as I could.

I see our children’s choices as part of a learning process about their own subjective taste, as well as the essential development of a critical view of objective quality. As parents we can appreciate our child’s developing tastes while also taking seriously our responsibility to offer and provide upgrades in quality.  It’s difficult to understand our own learning needs much less those of our unique child. I understand why a preteen girl might want a “girly book” about crushes and cupcakes; don’t we occassionally need a fluffy beach read ourselves?  Should we feel guilty for not having mastered The Western Canon?  Of course not, but you don’t have to be a book snob to want a more engaging, thought provoking read when you choose to give your valuable time to a book. So our children ought to be part of a rich environment of quality books.

The bonus, of course, is that when you read a book you wholeheartedly enjoy with your child, that pleasure is communicated to your child in the shared experience. Those are truly the “precious moments.”

I sometimes hear parents say  ” I don’t care what they read as long as they’re reading.” Would we say the same about food or is intellectual nourishment somehow different? Any thoughts on helping children develop their reading tastes?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Day … a beginning

December 25, 2011

Every time I get to the end of “A Christmas Carol” when poor old Ebeneezer Scrooge realizes he’s been given a second chance and vows to “keep Christmas in his heart every day,” I feel so completely inspired. This idea of a fresh start, a new beginning, invites all of us to believe we can become better, become more of who we want to be, in this next moment.

Suddenly the old miser is filled with a radiant generosity, a newfound desire to live life to its fullest, now that he’s peered into the future’s dire possibilities.

I have wanted to blog for the longest time now, having more ideas to share than time to write them, and would hate to grow old and realize I’d missed my opportunity to do so. As many of you already know, I am nothing if not, er, of strong opinions. So a blog provides not only a space in which to share these ideas, but hopefully a place to get feedback on them, to be challenged, inspired and enlightened by all of you … and mostly, to continue learning and growing, something I hope to do til I’m old as Ebeneezer.

With warmest holiday wishes to all … here’s to a new beginning!