Saturday, June 02, 2007

Drive-by Parenting - Special Bookstore Edition!

Now normally, I despise drive-by parenting. However, being no less of a hypocrite than everyone else, I am always ecstatic when I have an opportunity to engage in it and get away with it. (Except for the whole "kids being in danger" part that usually prompts it.)

I was meandering around in the bookstore the other night picking up massively huge piles of books that kids had left on the floor, on chairs, on the completely wrong display, in the so very obviously wrong section and from pretty much everywhere except a place where people would not accidentally step on it, when I heard some kid yelling something.

Now, kids yell all the time, so I automatically tuned it out. Until I realized that he was calling for someone. Since the kid looked to be about four and he'd been yelling for a good while already, this wasn't a good thing. So I stopped him and asked him if he was lost, was he looking for someone, was he with his parents....

Cute Kid: "Yeth. I'm looking for my thithter."

Me: (not his parents?) Your sister? What does she look like?

CK: (silence)

Me: How old is she?

CK: Six.

Me (SIX!!!!!! Fantastic, now I have missing parents and a missing kid and I can't do a Code Adam on the six-year old bc there is no way this kid is going to be able to give me a description. Shit.) How old are you?

CK: Five. I need my thithter.

Me: Well, why don't we go look for her ok? Let's look around the kid's section first , maybe you just missed her.

CK: (takes my hand) I already looked.

Me: Well, why don't we just look again. If we don't find her in here, we'll look around the rest of the store.

We found her just as we were about to leave the kid's section - she came walking back from having gone to the bathroom. On the other side of the store. Apparently alone.

Me: How old are you?

CK's Sister: Six.

CK: I told you that!

Me: Do you know where your parents are?

CKS: In here.

Me: Well, why don't we go find them.

So, I start walking around the store, a kid in each hand. We get about 15 feet from the kid's section when the kids turn around and I see this guy walking up all upset and confused. He tells me they're his kids. (Thankfully, it's usually really easy to tell if the people who say they are the parents are the parents bc of the way the kids act.)

I start to tell him that his kids were alone in the kid's section and that he needs to stay close to them and he cuts me off and says he was nearby.

I tell him that his son was yelling for his older sister for quite a while and he explains that he's partly deaf in one ear.

Me: All the more reason to keep them close to you.

I barely manage to not add "jackass" - partly cuz he looked so confused.

On that note, a few rules for parents, since with summer approaching, I predict that reminders will become necessary more frequently:

1) We are not a baby-sitting service.

2) If your kids do not behave, I will tell them to do so.

3) How nicely I ask them to do so will depend on their age. I will use my substitute voice on 12 year-olds that are doing things that preschoolers know are wrong.

4) I won't care that you are sitting right there.

5) Unless your kid is old enough to stay home alone, you had damn well better be sitting right there. And too distracted by your other children to have had a chance to tell the kid stepping on the books to stop doing so.

6) If you are not sitting right there, I will find you and tell you that your child needs watching. Even if they are fourteen. And do not argue with me about this one. My bosses will not fire me for making sure that your children are not destroying the store and/or are not kidnapped. They probably won't even care if I'm snippy with you when I tell you to do your damn job.

7) The children's section is not a playground. Do not let your children play tag or use the very unstable benches as launching pads. (Dancing on the stage, is however, permitted. Even if it's cuteness is directly disproportional to how aggravating everyone else has been that day.)

8) If you disobey these rules - even after I've explained them to you - I will kick you and your children out. The $3.99 you were going to spend on a Spider-Man 3 or Disney Princess paperback is worth losing if it means the company avoids a lawsuit from your kid cracking his or her head open.

Special note:

Your twelve year old is not in really in any danger of being carried off, so stop hovering. Older kids tend to kick up a fuss if people they don't know try to make them do stuff. So (except for semi-private places like the restrooms) your kid is just fine as long as you and he/she stay within earshot or within agreed upon areas.

Extra special note:

Your five -year old is in danger of being carried off, so keep him or her within your sight, not just within earshot. It's not statistically likely, but bad people who want to hurt kids know where to find kids - and our store is one of them. And until they are around seven or so, most (non-shy) kids will go along with any adult who seems friendly. Especially in public places with lots of strangers.

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