Thursday, February 18, 2016
Today At The Desk...
Today was kind of a strange day at the desk. It started out unusually slow and quiet, which gave me a chance to cut out pieces for a storytime activity and get through a cart that was overflowing with books that had been de-selected and needed to be withdrawn and sent down to the Friends' bookstore.
But then, all of a sudden a situation suddenly developed and escalated quickly. I don't want to give too many specifics in order to maintain privacy, but it had to do with a young child throwing a tantrum and a parent who lost control, prompting three security guards to come running in response to the commotion, and nearly involved the police. Fortunately, no outright abuse occurred, only some questionable parenting, and the patron quickly picked up the child and left, which is what they should have done thirty minutes earlier and the whole scene could have been avoided.
It all happened so quickly that there wasn't much for me to do, aside from initially rushing over when the child started throwing toys and train pieces to be sure no one got hurt. By that time security was there to handle things as the parent the began to lose control, and their presence kept things from escalating even more.
I see situations like this all too often, though fortunately not usually to this degree. I can empathize with the parents to some degree, most of us have had those less-than-stellar parenting moments when we are already stressed out about something else and the kids are being extra uncooperative, so I try not to judge. But at the same time, I can also see how easily preventable these situation are, as they are almost always created by the same scenario: an inattentive parent who is so intent on whatever they are doing on the phone or computer that they are not paying any attention to the child, a child who is too young to be without close supervision or be expected to entertain themselves for very long, and staying past the child's tolerance and the child begins to get bored, frustrated, tired, hungry, or in need of attention.
I can always see it coming, as the child always begins to give cues by whining, crying, wandering off, getting into mischief, or verbalizing their frustration for about half an hour before the final meltdown, but too often the parent ignores the cues until it's too late. I don't know if it's inexperience, selfishness, or just the parent being too single-minded on what they are doing, but it is frustrating to see it coming and not be able to prevent it. I will try to distract and redirect the child with toys or board books, or ask them if they want to be my helper and give them something to do. I may even try to hint to the parent by making a friendly comment like "Oh, I think somebody's had enough for today" but there's not much more I can do. If a child's had enough, they've had enough.
If any of my readers have any insights on how to head off these situations in a patron-friendly way, please leave a comment; I'd love to hear it.