23 July, 2008

A trip to the library .........

A trip to the library, with the nutty siblings in tow nowadays, is turning into more than just that.

Last week’s sojourn to the library was quite an adventure, as can be gleaned from here.

The books that had been borrowed last week had all been gobbled up by the nutty siblings who have been screaming “books inventory low” over the past couple of days. The soaring temperatures out here were acting as a very effective deterrent to afternoon travel but on gauging that the books situation was indeed at extremely “dangerously low” levels, we decided to brave the heat and make the trip to the public library today.

Unlike the last time, we did not have to wait for the mini bus and unlike the last time the roads were not as crowded either. Only some loony bins like our good selves were brave enough to venture out into the sun, with total abandon and utter disregard for a condition called “heatstroke”.

I was expecting this stretch of good luck to carry on within the cool confines of the library too and once we entered the library, I realized that there is indeed such a thing as “wishful thinking”. The junior section of the library has some little tables and chairs laid out so that little bookworms can sit around and pore through books which are marked “for reference only”. Some tots do read books which can be borrowed too – but end of the day – what I’m trying to say is that those little chairs are meant for the kids – and not for their chaperones.

The sight that met my eyes was something different. There was this group of six to seven mothers, perched on those chairs, who apparently knew each other pretty well – judging by the decibel levels they were generating within the library. There were kids milling around, arms laden with books to be borrowed and one of the kids made the mistake of wandering within a few meters of where these moms were perched. The child was just looking for a place to put the books he had chosen so that he could take a look at some more books. The moms, though, would have none of it. That little boy was rather unceremoniously shooed away by a couple of the moms sitting there despite the fact that 2-3 chairs near them were unoccupied. When this little boy’s mom approached the other moms and pointed out to them that there were 2-3 chairs unoccupied – they actually had the gall to tell her that those chairs were reserved by them for their own kids. The next time around, I guess, one can expect to see newspapers lining the chairs !! Reservation of seats, you see :) !!!!!!!

It does not stop there. These moms had been on a spree of sorts and on the table there were piles and piles of books – some Cantonese Books and some English books. But what was astonishing was the number of books that were piled there. Small wonder then that portions of the bookshelves looked rather anaemic. To top this, they were randomly going around pulling more books out of the bookshelves and this was causing the rest of the books on the shelves to cascade – and some books were spilling onto the floor.

Their kids in the meanwhile, were absolutely running berserk. Some of them were busy banging away on the keyboards of the computers in the library, one was trying to pull and drag a mouse away from the PC and things really came to a height when two or three of the other children went on a “book snatching” spree. Some other children were looking for books and had in their hands two or three books that they had chosen to borrow. Some of these kids ran over, snatched the books right out of the other childrens’ hand and ran over to the table where their moms were perched and started to make a whole new pile of books. The children from whom books had been snatched had, in the meanwhile, been reduced to tears. One little girl started to whimper while two other little boys looked plain scared.

Those 6-7 moms had been watching all along and they very well saw their kids going around snatching books from other kids or toppling books out of their hands but they chose to say nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Where exactly am I going with this ?

Just that the entire incident raised questions inside my head. All parents have their own ways of bringing up their children and I am not about to pass value judgments on whether they choose to instill values and morals in their children or not. “Each one to one’s own” seems to be the catch phrase of today’s world and that’s that. But the question that kept making its presence felt was this – are some parents, by their sheer inaction, making their kids more streetsmart ?

Generally the instinctive reaction is to tell one’s child not to snatch things from other kids and generally one hears parents saying “you’re supposed to share things with your friends”. But to blatantly disregard the situation when one sees one’s child go over and snatch a book from another child when there are so many other books on the table and the shelves for the taking, is something I found quite disturbing. None of those 6-7 moms were perturbed – not one bit. Even when one of the other moms in the library went over to them with her daughter (who was in tears) in tow, these ladies just shrugged the whole thing off. And the kids were around watching. What kind of a message does that send across to the kids ? That it is perfectly OK to behave like this ? That such behavior is totally justified ?

They don’t have to say that in as many words to their kids but the very fact that they chose to say nothing against such behavior – does that not form some kind of a tacit approval ?

Are parents – who teach and reinforce values like sharing and teaching children to respect other childrens’ properties and belongings etc, actually putting our kids at a disadvantage ? When they need to hold their own in the midst of a whole group of kids, what kind of a disadvantage are we getting them into, just by reinforcing good values and negating the not so good ones ?

The little girl’s mom summed it all up very effectively when she said to me “I teach my daughter to share her things. I teach her not to grab things from others. Even if she needs to take something from another child I always tell her that she must ask the other child first. And now, after what just happened, I feel so stupid. I feel very stupid.”

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5 voice(s) said so:

Mama - Mia said...

gauri - i dont think we are capable of teaching our kids to be like that!

kids like that cannot grow up to be successful adults and i have seen it happen with some of the kids when my brother was growing up. they are still the bad apples. and though nothing might seem visibly wrong with them, things arent completely right.

apart from that, i also think we need to get a balance by telling them its not OK to snatch from someone, but if someone does it to you, its alright to do otherwise!

being nice doesnt have to mean being passivley bullied! :)

i guess...

my 2 cents



ddmom said...

Gauri, I can so relate to what you have written here. On one side, our conscience makes us teach our kids the right thing to do. But, reality is, sooner they will be out of our protective sphere and will have to face the world which is a mixed bag. I recall a comment on the post I had written in a very simlar context - to teach our kids selective aggression. Its hard, to help them understand to be nice and share. But at the same time be aggressive when the other side is not being good.
Few days back, D was playing behind our house with few older kids. She shared her bike with them. When she was called inside for dinner, she asked the kids to give it back, and the kids refused. She came running inside whining. I reminded her as to what she is supposed to do. And must say, she made me proud. She went out and said in a loud voice -I have to go inside and I want my bike right now! It works for now, but I know deep inside that if I want her to continue be a little aggressive, I have to be aggressive in the first place.. sigh..

Aditi's Album said...

But what were the library staff doing whilst all this hul-chul was goin on? Here even in the biggest of libraries, there are staff waiting to tell you to keep quiet or remind you that is it a library where silence is necessary. Even in the kids block or children's library, kids cannot go hither -thither. The staff ask the parent to discipline the child or to leave the library. As Abha mentioned, they cant be all street-smart. They do reamin the difficult tot tame ones all the way through and the family does suffer most often.

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paresh said...

i agree with abha.