As a father of four, I am no stranger to the fact that rearing a child is full of challenges. There were many times during my children’s younger years that I would consult my parents on situations that seemed earth shattering at the time. Once, my son Caleb opened a brand new bottle of laundry detergent. He then poured about half of its contents into our carpet and ran his fingers through it. I relayed this story to my mother and frantically asked: “WHAT DO I DO?” My mother stifled her laughter and told me to thank my son for cleaning our carpet. I couldn’t believe I didn’t see the connection. Soap CLEANS fabric.

Sometimes even teaching simple manners to your child is a frustrating exercise. I am American by birth and Southern by the grace of God. That meant when I addressed an adult, the proper responses included the words Ma’am or Sir. Anything short of that resulted in a firm reprimand. Unfortunately, many Northern parents judged such a practice as a bit too militaristic. When my son, Tom, was about 4 years old, he was misbehaving. I called him over to correct his behavior. When he walked over to me, he said: “What?” I corrected him by saying: “SIR!” Tom then tried to correct his error by saying: “What, Sir?”

While it’s true that my wife and I would face challenges much greater than I just demonstrated; a great many of them are behind us now. The aforementioned Caleb is our youngest. He will be 17 in a few short months. My three older kids have all graduated from high school (two are in college). As parents, my wife and I have experienced a similar transition. We have graduated from being rookie parents to being seasoned professionals. This allows us to enjoy the memories we have gained from rears of child rearing. It could just be that we are older now forget the fact that our kids are part of the reason we dye our hair. Such seasoned status allows us to worry less how we handle our kids. Now we do what every other parent does in our position — critique the behavior of other people’s kids and their parents’ reactions to them.

My daughter, Brianna, and I were in a department store recently shopping for a few items. We were browsing shampoos and conditioners when we heard the voice of a screaming child. This young boy was not being harmed. He was with his father and sister in a nearby section. His father was trying to browse the display of bicycles, skateboards, and other such items. The little boy would see an item such as a bike helmet. He would then loudly shout: “DADDY, I WANT THAT!” He would then put that item down and pick another one up. “DADDY, I WANT THAT!” This little boy did this over and over again. “DADDY, I WANT THAT!” My daughter saw (and couldn’t help but hear) this child. This little boy was clearly getting on my daughter’s last nerve. After all, when you’ve not yet had any children, you’re not as thick skinned.

It was at this point that the little boy found a toy car. It was one of those toy cars big enough for a kid to sit inside it. This provided with the child with a point of focus. He no longer said: “DADDY, I WANT THAT!” He now announced: “DADDY, I WANT THAT CAR!” My daughter and I began moving to another section of the store. We walked through the cookware department. “DADDY, I WANT THAT CAR!” We walked through the bedding department. “DADDY, I WANT THAT CAR!” We even browsed through the electronics section “DADDY, I WANT THAT CAR!” This curtain climbing orator could be heard throughout the store. If the TV networks were to go under, this kid would be a shoe-in for Town Crier. “DADDY, I WANT THAT CAR!” I couldn’t help but wonder if the kid was thinking it through more than it appeared. He may have been banking on the idea that if he said “DADDY, I WANT THAT CAR!” enough times, parents throughout the store would take up a collection to shut him up. Personally, I was hoping that his father would provide this carnival barker of a child with a nice woodshed. My daughter and I would have gladly paid for the lumber.



I Can’t Hear You (I’m in a Library)

I cannot quite recall exactly how old I was when my mother first took me to the library. It must have been during a time in my life when a tenacious coyote chasing an evasive roadrunner kept me entertained for hours. Actually, it still does. I DO remember that it was a library in Columbus, GA that, in my very young eyes, was like walking into the Library of Congress. A myriad of tomes that seemed to reach into Heaven held volumes of knowledge on more subjects than my elementary aged mind could conceive. I also remember one cardinal rule my mother imparted upon me from my first day in the library: One has to be VERY quiet in the library so that others in the library can peacefully (wait for it) read. I always respected this rule because I really enjoyed going to the library with my mother. I also did not want my mother to tan my hide. I didn’t know exactly want it meant to have a tanned hide but I knew it was REALLY bad.
Even now, as a middle aged man, I respect that adage in the library that silence is golden. However, in today’s libraries, it appears that many people are either unaware of the value of silence or upset by the current gold standard. People in libraries today speak as if they are addressing one another while sitting at the Indy 500. This fact would be partially tolerable if such behavior was committed primarily by small children. Unfortunately, most patrons guilty of such behavior are teenagers and even adults old enough to HAVE teenagers. A place which was once a place of quiet decorum has now become a den of din. We are moving into a world where respect for a library environment is becoming passé. We are rearing children who think the Dewey Decimal System was created by the nephew of Donald Duck.
Some of this may be driven by innovations in technology. I remember when a library’s card catalog was kept on CARDS. I am not referring to virtual cards or electronic cards. I am referring to 3” x 5” cards kept in a filing cabinet that anyone could peruse and find a book. Nowadays, any given library branch’s catalog is available via the World Wide Web. My “library card” dangles from my keychain. Fines and hold fees can be paid with a debit card. This in and of itself is not a bad thing. I am a software quality tester. I have worked in jobs that developed the very type of software most libraries utilize. However, one cannot help but wonder if such immediately available service and information has perpetuated the very rudeness for which the average public library has fallen victim.
Today, as I sat in the library surfing the Internet, I was very dismayed by a woman’s loudness in the library. This woman’s voice could be heard throughout the library. I thought that perhaps this woman was a helicopter pilot and was trying to assimilate to a quieter environment. Sadly, I discovered that this woman was the librarian. It made me want to scream. Alas, I knew if I did, my mother would tan my hide.