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Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Mother's Letter of Explanation

Dear Library Patron,

The other day, as you may recall, my toddlers and I had what I consider to be a very successful trip to the library.  I understand you do not agree.  I know you are far removed from this world in which I live and must think that taking two-year-old twins to the library is a disastrous idea.  I don't necessarily disagree, especially given the tantrums and all-out misbehaving I've experienced there in the past.

However, on this day, my babies were well behaved and happy, truly the best you could ask for out of them when placed in a building with such strict rules.  It's true, they don't yet understand the concept of quiet, but they certainly weren't being purposefully disruptive, nor were they ever at top-volume.  I absolutely understand your need for complete silence as you worked on your brilliant masterpiece, or whatever it was you were doing.  Might I suggest that next time you not sit directly in front of the children's DVD section?

I don't expect everyone to find my children cute, not do I expect them to stop what they are doing to cater to babies.  But the girls should not have been bothering you in any way. They are two.  They forget, sometimes, to whisper.  We were only there for 30 minutes.  If you weren't keen on hearing the alphabet three times during that half hour, you certainly could have moved.  Why would you choose to sit so closely to the kids' section?  In fact, if what you were doing was so important, why did you choose a library with a kids' section at all?

I'm not saying you should go out of your way and make more work for yourself because I'm not willing to bend a little.  I understand your position.  It's not fair to expect you to have to find a library with no kids' section simply because you want to read in peace and quiet, simply because you want to use a library as it was intended.

I'm not saying I'm right, and I don't expect people to change their lives to accommodate me.  I do, however, expect a certain courtesy when I manage to wrangle my twins out of the house, and they manage to behave themselves.

I'm saying that it is impossible to keep two kids of this age completely silent while I pick out some books and videos for them.  Please understand, if it were possible for me to have them be "seen and not heard" I would have done so.  However, to do as you wished would have resulted in screaming, crying, as I bullied them out of the library.  I assure you, that scenario would have been far more disturbing to you than the seldom giggle and the random counts to ten.  To appease a toddler, one must go very slowly and make each move with a strategic game-plan in mind.  I can promise you that from the moment we set foot into that library, my main goal was to get us back out the door.

I was honestly hurt when you came stalking over to us, intending to tell us off.  I was incredibly thankful that I accidentally averted that situation by telling my kids we were going to leave before I saw you.  When you heard that sentence and snarled "YEAH, LEAVE" my heart sank.  And here I'd thought it was a successful journey.

But, really, as I hung my head and hustled my girls out of there, I became more and more indignant.  As if I do not have it hard enough, having to constantly battle the will of two toddlers.  As if I had not kept them completely under control and happy that entire time.  You, sir, would berate me as a mother, would allow your annoyance to get the better of you so as to interrupt what you were doing simply to scold me?  What purpose do you feel that would have served?  Would you have felt better, bullying a mother and her two daughters, when you, yourself, chose to sit immediately to the left of the row of Dora DVDs? 

I guess as much as the twins were a bother to you, they seconded as a help to your cause.  Because had I not been weighed down by two little hands heading toward the parking lot, I'd have turned around and told you about yourself.

The point of this letter is this: mothers and children exist.  We do not expect you to give us special treatment.  We do expect that you make your own life easier and move away from the space designated specifically for us.  Had you been in the reference section, or the literature section, or the computer section, or any other of the half dozen adult sections in that library, we would never have had the misfortune of disgruntling you.  You sat in the children's section.

I owe you no apology.


The mother of twins you cut down in the library


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  1. Very well said. If I want to have a quiet lunch at McDonald's, I don't sit in the Playplace.

  2. reminds me a bit of my airport experience (minus the kick in the face).
    She was in the children's section and needs to get over that sense of entitlement that so many people without children have.

    I get that sometimes people want to sit and not be bothered, but if you chose to do it in a public place then you need to learn to deal with uncontrollable interruptions.

  3. oh hell no. you go to the library for quiet you don't sit anywhere near the kids section. The Kids section is there so KIDS can come to the library, if they weren't supposed to be in the library the library wouldn't have a specific place for them!

    Our library has a closed off section for kids, with toys and such, it's great. Kids can go and be kids, while we parents try to teach our toddlers that a library is a quiet place, but if they screech a few times no one is really bothered.

    you had just as much right to be there with you children as she did, and she needs to respect that.

  4. Well put, I can not tell you how many times I have gotten dirty looks or comments for my children being to loud in a public place. In my opinion, if people go out in public, they have to learn to deal with what happens in public, if they don't like it, don't leave their house. I have unfortunately gotten to the point where, if someone says something or gives me a dirty look, I have told them to mind their own business, sometimes not so nicely. But good for you for continuing to take your children out in pubic, and never mind what anyone else says.

  5. I made the mistake once, while working on my master's thesis, of sitting too close to the children's section in the public library. It was fine, until school let out and a dozen middle-school aged kids came in and were talking a bit too loud for a library. I got up and moved. Not too hard to do, even in a very busy college-town library. That person (not sure if it was a man or a woman- neither would surprise me) sounds like a curmudgeon. Don't take it personally.

  6. Thanks for the post. I am mom to a 20 month-old son, who is no Dennis the Menace, but he is definetly a 'toddler's toddler'. I would love to bring him to the library (great kids section) and a myriad of other public spots, like nicer restaurants, and museums, but I'm hesitant, because I don't know how 'adult' I might behave if someone were to respond rudely to my angel.

  7. This is an excellent post. I do not understand adults who expect kids to not behave like, well, kids. You're an adult. You can move and rectify your situation. I have had no problems telling people who are giving me dirty looks about my loud two year in the library in the kid's section that they are an adult, and they can easily move.

  8. I am so thankful for these comments! It's hard to hear you are disappointing the world when your kids behave like kids.

    I'm glad to know I'm not the only one.

  9. Perfect, darling! Every library in New Zealand has a big and special place for children and nobody complains about it. Actually it makes that place beautiful when they are there! We should be caring about them not about the silence.

  10. Almost every library I have been to shows an understanding of this very situation. The children's sections are as separate as possible. There is no reason for anyone to sit in the children's section if they do not want to hear any noise.

  11. WOW. That jerk should come to our library after story time. There's usually at least 1 kid climbing on the block table, and another banging the train table with a plastic t-rex over and over and over as the Moms completely ignore them to talk about the latest Mom2Mom sale :P

  12. Wait a minute...Here the children's place is not separate. Why should it be?! People who want silence can get it in their own coffins.

  13. I had a similar experience in the cafe of our local Barnes and Noble recently. I brought my girls in for a hot chocolate as a special treat. They were not being any noisy, just talking with me at a normal conversational level, and yet people not only gave us disgusted looks but actually got up and moved away from us. You'd have thought they were researching the cure for cancer, and yet they were reading People magazine and Jodi Picoult novels --which, I wanted to point out, they could feel free to actually purchase and read in silence at home.
    It amazes me that people can be so disgusted by children, when , uh, hello? they used to be children themselves.

  14. From the perspective of one without children, I still whole-heartedly agree with you, Unlikely Mother. While many times, I hear the smug and childless lament the fact that those with children act like the world revolves around their children (which can be true at times), those with no kids can be just as guilty - for expecting to never have the perfect harmonies of their days interrupted by the coos, whines, cries, or happy shrieks of a child. This, to me, seems about as logical as being pissed that there are actually other people on the road when one is in a hurry to be somewhere, or groaning that one's food is taking more than 10 minutes in a packed restaurant on a Saturday night. Really, people with AND without kids can benefit from learning that it's not always about them. However, we live in a culture that, what with the proliferation of smart phones, life coaches, and other "make my life easier" conventions, implies that every single one of us is of significant importance, and that anyone or anything that gets in our way should be abolished. That guy was a jackass, and I sure hope he wasn't working on a thesis about common sense, seeing as how he appeared to have none.

    If it makes you feel any better, I love going to the library and seeing children there; it gives me a sense of hope that there are still parents out there fostering a love of reading, human interaction, and getting things for free in their kids. :)

  15. Oh that lady makes me mad!!! And yes why in the world was she by the kids section??? I hate when people seem to totally forget what it was like to have kids. Or maybe she never did



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