This past weekend I stopped into a Barnes & Noble with two of my kids in tow. One of my sons had been invited to a birthday party at Chuck E Cheese and we wanted to kill some time in a quiet place until IM & Hubs were done with the festivities. Their little legs were getting tired from all the browsing and became more and more aggitated as we neared the back of the store where the kids’ section was. They sat down at the little Lego table and began to play and build. After a couple minutes of mindless standing around, I stepped over to the closest shelf of adult fiction. Being twenty feet away from my kids didn’t bother me – they were quiet, engrossed, and happy.
I quickly found a book I wanted and stepped back to the Lego table as an employee approached.
“Are you their mother?” she demanded. After I confirmed I was, she let out a huge puff of air. “Oh thank Gawd! I had someone complain about the children being unattended.” Wow, that was fast, I thought. She must have been waiting for me to do SOMETHING! I laughed and asked if she was serious. Her face made it clear that she was.
“What are you talking about? I was right there, for like, 30 seconds. I saw them the whole time.”
“Look,” she said with a hint of a snarl beneath her ‘I’m here to help’ grin, “I’m not trying to make it into a big deal. I’m just looking out for the safety of the children.”
“Thanks. They are fine.” I was uncomfortable, embarrassed. I was being put on the spot in a confrontational manner and I didn’t know why.
“No. You don’t understand. Anything could happen in 30 seconds. I mean – I’m standing right here and you don’t even know me! I could have done anything to them.”
“They. Are. Fine.” I started gathering up our things.
“Well I had customers complain and I have to take these things seriously because…”
“You know what? I’m a customer, but not anymore. You are ridiculous. ” I shoved the stack of books I was going to buy at her and hauled my kids out to the parking lot.
I was so mad. She basically called me a bad mom simply because I wasn’t looking at my kids. I came up with a whole bunch of things I should have said after the fact:
– “I am not comfortable with your tone. May I speak with someone else, like a manager?”
– “You’re right! A bookstore IS too dangerous for children!” Look around nervously, then make steady eye contact a little too long. “Especially with all you perverts swarming all over the place.”
– “You’re right; I don’t know you, and you’re talking about taking my children?!” then hysterically call 911 and demand mall security for a woman threatening to kidnap my kids.
– “Fuck off.”
Instead I went to Facebook to vent sarcastically. B&N responded with a number for me to call to make a formal complaint. I had every intention of giving them a piece of my mind.
But, I didn’t call. What was I going to say? What was I hoping to get out of it? While I felt I had certainly recieved blatant harassment, did I really just want to call and bitch about it? What would they even do? Fire her – that’s not really what I want. What I want is to be left alone.
As a mom, I get shit on all the time. People have pulled over on the street to tell me that my kids are playing in the front yard – and isn’t that dangerous – and shouldn’t I bring them inside? I’ve gotten nutrition lessons from ladies evaluating my shopping cart contents – don’t you know that much dairy will make them fat – you are teaching them poor eating habits by giving them whole milk. Are all these children yours – can you even handle that – you’re too young for so many – you do know how to avoid that don’t you? Children really ought to wear hats. I only assume I get this much “advice” because I look incredibly young, therefore people must think I NEED their direction, input, or scolding because I’m too young & nieve to know what I’m doing.
Ugg. Go away. Leave me alone!
We now live in a society where parents are jailed for letting kids play in their own yards. Children aren’t allowed to play simply because something might happen. Is someone going to abduct TWO children from a bookstore? That’s 80lbs of squirming, screaming child, so I highly doubt it. Are kids going to be molested just because they are playing in the yard? Maybe, but statistically speaking, no. We are living in a society that is being driven by blind panic. Society needs to calm the fuck down.
I hear, read, and see many comments about “kids these days” & how pathetic they are with their gadgets and their fear and not growing up with mud and jump ropes and rocks like they did back in the good old days before Internet and cable TV. Oh yeah? Screw you. The folks that grew up in the “good old days” were the ones that invented the technology that distracts kids now. They also propagated the fear that keeps them inside. It’s not the fault of children that they aren’t growing up outside, it’s the fault of the helicopter mom who can’t let her kid out of her sight, so it’s easier to prop him up with an ipad. It’s the fault of our neighbors who call the cops if mom doesn’t keep her son inside with an ipad. More fear = less curiosity about the actual world. If parents constantly hover and micromanage their child’s every breath, then curiosity will be bred out of children. If kids are never afforded an ounce of responsibility for themselves they will grow up needy and afraid. We are so concerned about the safety of children, really? It looks to me as if we are crushing them.
The world isn’t any more dangerous than it was a few decades, quite the contrary, yet for some reason we are so damned afraid. And on top of it we have a nanny society that takes pride in bringing people down and pointing out everyone else’s “mistakes” just to prove that they are doing the “right” thing.
I’m mad because this society doesn’t work together to help parents or families. Instead they go out of their way to belittle & discriminate. I’m mad at that Barnes & Noble employee because I wasn’t viewed as another customer who might need assistance finding something; I was viewed as a young mom doing it wrong. I’m mad because I live in fear too – not of kidnappers, rapists, or danger – I live in fear that some nosey do-gooder is going to call CPS & I’ll be thrown in jail because I turned my back on my kids in a bookstore. We need to break the chains of this fear. We need to stand up for our rights as parents and the right to parent however WE feel is best.