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Parenting at the library: Part 1

August 22, 2011

Now that I’ve been working with children for the better part of a year, I’ve got to say that, most of the time, it’s easier to deal with the kids than their parents.  Children are, for the most part, predictable: predictably adorable, predictably irritating, predictably obsessed, predictably cruel or friendly.  The kids don’t surprise me, for the most part, although they often charm me above and beyond the norm, which isn’t really the kind of surprise I’m talking about.

The parents, though?  No clue.  I had a parent tell me the other day that “liberals are terrible parents” and I sat there at my desk with my mouth open and then tried to find a tactful exit to the situation, which included something about how, having been a librarian for a little while now, I’ve seen the full spectrum of parenting on both/all sides of every scale: political, race, socioeconomic, etc.

And that’s true, for the most part.  You still find that, in general, parents of means tend to be more involved in their children’s lives, and to a point that’s a positive thing.  Even helicopter parents’ children seem to thrive with the attention.  (Not that we get a lot of those at the library, but it happens.  Parents, if you are calling to find books for your college-age child, it’s time to step back, okay?)  But I can’t help but look at the parents who are always on the computer and feel a little more sympathy than most people I know.  After all, wasn’t my generation left to raise itself?  Not that we didn’t screw up occasionally, but I think for the most part we were okay.  I, personally, wasn’t, in many ways, but my issues were at times only loosely connected to my parents’ influence in my life.  Children of the ’70s apparently ran even freer than children of the ’80s, I’ve heard, and is it really as a result that my generation has such a stranglehold on their kids?  I cherished my freedom as a teen; I intend to give my daughter that same freedom but with more background information as to what she’s getting into.  And if I DO end up setting limits for her, they’ll be reasonable but they’ll ultimately be debatable, in that if she can make a logical argument for compromise, I’m going to do it.  I see her and I think, She needs a lot from me, so was my generation needing and lacking (I can make an argument for myself, but for my generation?), or does the parenting culture inform the children of what they “should have”?  Do kids need more now because we act like they need more, and as a result they let themselves need, or did they always need like this and parents failed?

I’ve seen angel kids from broken homes; I’ve seen happy kids from restrictive homes; I’ve seen happy religious kids and happy not-religious kids.  I’ve seen snotty kids from “good” homes, often overindulged, sometimes as a result of the children’s physical or mental limitations; I’ve seen snotty kids with snotty parents.  I’ve seen harried single moms and single dads, doing the best they can and feeling it isn’t enough; I’ve seen single parents so checked out they seem to think that as soon as they enter the library, their children are no longer their problem.

I meant to talk about book content and ratings, but consider this an introduction.  I’ll get to the rest later.  Time for work!

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