Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Rules Are For Parents Too!

Sometimes on a rainy day I take my son to the indoor play area at the mall. He loves it! This particular one is actually in a store space so it is a pretty good size. Immediately when you walk in, there is a convenient area for you to park your stroller and on both sides of the room there is a list of rules. On the list are such requests as, remove your shoes, no running, no children above a certain age/height, and no food or drinks. Now, in general, I'm a rule follower. But, getting small children not to run can be a challenge. There is just too much energy and excitement in those little bodies that needs to come out. I'm happy to remind my little one to "slow down" but I can see how this would be a difficult rule to follow.

The other rules should be more than easy for any adult to follow though. As I look around, I'm one of only two parents in the room that has removed her child's shoes. As I've said in the past, I'm not much of a germaphobe so it doesn't bother me that much that people have not removed their child's shoes. You better believe I would have been pretty annoyed had my child been stepped on and hurt as a result of said un-removed shoes, but I wasn't really too worried about that happening. One thing that did irk me  is the parent drinking a coffee and feeding her child Gogurts in the middle of the play area. I have issue with this for numerous reasons. #1 There is a list of rules posted in two places that clearly states, no food or drinks. As a result I left my coffee on my stroller in the designated stroller area, and simply stared at it longingly while my son played. In addition to the list of rules there are two MORE signs that say, no food or drinks in large print. That makes FOUR places that state that there should be no food or drinks in this area. #2 Do you know how catastrophically messy Gogurt can be? Nine years on lunch duty as a classroom teacher has taught me that an overly vigorous squeeze can send yogurt flying into places there is no way you can reach to clean. #3 It is posted in FOUR places that you should not be eating in there! It's a rule. Maybe its a rule you don't care for or think is necessary, but it's a rule, in a children's play area. If anything, can't you see that this is an excellent opportunity to be teaching your child to follow directions, respect authority, and perhaps even practice a little patience where he might have to *gasp* WAIT to get something that he wants? Did I mention that she also did not have her stroller in the designated area, but it was sitting right in the middle of the play area? Look, I'm not trying to say I've never broken a rule. I'm sure I've even eaten in a place I wasn't supposed to. It just seems to me that as parents when we are given opportunities to teach our children about following rules we should take those moments, no matter how trivial they may seem. Otherwise, little by little those small rules we said are ok to break become bigger and bigger. Now I'm not trying to say that if you break a rule and let your child eat in a child's play area when the sign clearly says not to that later in life your child will become a burglar or an arsonist, but shouldn't we at least try to cover all our bases?

I think that mostly this situation bothered me because it brought back memories of all the students I had over the years that were disrespectful to others or who did not follow directions. As if it's not hard enough to be a teacher and try to cram the entire curriculum into nine months of school all while addressing different learning styles and disabilities, but then we also have to teach the students the manners that they really should've learned at home. Again, it's not the fact that someone was eating where they shouldn't have been that bothered me, it's that some adults think that rules don't apply to them and then they send that message to the children that that is ok.

The goal here is for me to learn something in the everyday, so what did I learn here, other than that I can be easily annoyed? I learned that I want to try hard to follow rules, especially in parenting situations where I may be showing right/wrong to a child. I learned that as hard as I might try it's impossible not to be slightly judgmental of other parents, so that's something for me to work on. And I will also remember that we are ALL a work in progress so hopefully that parent realized that maybe she didn't make the best choice and will do things differently next time....hopefully.

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