When I almost killed some kids at the Science center
A few years ago, I took my son to COSI for a day of fun. COSI is a science center in Columbus, and almost every Ohio person under the age of 35 can tell you all about their trip there when they were young. Most of the memories involve the tadpoles they gave out (mine had two heads and died within hours of getting home). Today, though, COSI is much more scientific and streamlined. The state of Ohio has pumped millions into the facility, and the results are pretty awesome.
After the 5 or 6 hours we stood in line to buy our tickets, we were ready to be turned loose into the wonders of COSI. SC was excited, and I was… oh, I don’t know. I had some trepidation about the whole thing. Science is not my forte, but I held out hope for cool things that SC would love.
(Plus, maybe he could be a scientist if that football thing didn’t work out. Or an ice cream taste-tester.)
The first room we went into was Space, and it was obviously for slightly older kids. Still, we walked SC through. SC wanted to try his hand at a viewing exhibit that an older kid was using. He moved up to use it too, and the kid, involved with what he was doing, flung his hand out to push SC back.
Rage. It built up inside me and surprised me. I looked around to see if there was some mind control exhibit affecting me. The kid had done something idiotic, to be sure, but SC didn’t get hit. It was not a big deal.
Nope. I was just pissed.
The theme continued throughout the day. Upstairs, in the toddler play area (which covered almost an entire floor and was amazing), SC reached for some crutches that were lying on a bench in the “Emergency Room” play area. A girl of about 5, with bouncy blond ringlets, stuck her little nose up in the air and snatched them from him. “I was JUST going to play with those!” she said. “They’re MINE.” I glared at her. “Come on, SC,” I said. “Someone’s mother needs to watch her snotty little child.” I looked around to see if the mother noticed, but there was no mother. SC and I moved to another exhibit, but I was fuming.
(SC didn’t really care and starting climbing on things.)
Later, at a geology exhibit, there were posts that shot water. You could stand behind them and aim the water. There was one open, so SC and I walked up to it. When we were about 6 inches from it, a 12-year old boy jumped in front of us and started firing. I got my Teacher Voice on. “Excuse me, but you knew my son was about to use that. You need to let him have his turn.” The boy turned and gave me an evil look, but darted away. SC played with the post and then let the kid behind him in line use it.
I can feel it as I’m writing this. I can feel the anger churning. I’m not an angry person by any means, but when it comes to SC, I would stand up to anyone for him. I know he needs to learn to fend for himself, and I never want him to be the kid whose mommy is his bodyguard, but come on. A 12 year old kid jumping in front of him? That kid has 10 years on SC. He needs to learn some manners
As angry as I am with these bratty kids, I’m more angry with their parents. My son will hit or shove or not take his turn from time to time, but I’m watching him. I’m there to step in and say, “SC, it’s not your turn yet. These other kids were here first.” I am a responsible parent. Where were the parents when these kids were being bossy? We were at a science center where families go. I close my eyes to picture the scene, to see if I overlooked a mom around the corner tending to another kid or something, but there were none. Of course these kids are going to be rude or bossy – they don’t have a parent standing close by to guide them.
Still, this knowledge does nothing to help with my rage. There must be something biological that wells up in mothers when they see their child being denigrated or ignored. The non-assertive part of me dies when I see someone mistreating my child, and I become Super Mama. It’s hard for me to view them as a child when I’m in the moment. Instead, they become my foe, and I become condescending. Something inside of me snaps.
Now I can understand celebrities’ pleas for reporters to leave their children alone. I empathize with these parents in the spotlight. When I am a famous writer, you can be sure I’ll do the same.
Anyway, we got out of COSI without me being arrested. SC had a good time, and I was happy that I wasn’t asked to do any math formulas. Also, I learned how to do a testicular exam for cancer. So, all in all, still not a bad day.
Photos by me. All rights reserved.
Ah, I know that feeling well. I went up to a woman and snatched her phone out of her hand once after the kids who were creating dangerous situations and actually hurting other kids pointed her out as their “responsible adult” at a play area. Now that my oldest is big enough to be one of the problem children, we talk about this stuff and I think he is pretty decent about taking turns and speaking up for himself and other kids when it’s called for – being super protective of his little sister probably helps, since he has a living breathing example with a strong arm and good aim living with him. I would like to think that no one wants their kid to be “that kid” but sometimes I wonder if we can even see it when it happens. And honestly, I think some parents don’t care as long as theirs are happy.
I’ve been known to kick in to Super Mom mode a time or two. I don’t even bother to keep it in check when an adult screws up. When my son was in 4 year old Kindergarten, the bus driver misplaced him 4 times! After my son was recovered safely the forth time I left an absolute tirade on the Transportation head’s voice mail. Followed by a nasty letter to the district when he had the nerve not to contact me back.
“As angry as I am with these bratty kids, I’m more angry with their parents.”
Because at one point they’ll pay the price. For every misbehaving kid there are usually 1-2 adults doing nothing. And I think there is aslo a gender component to this, because in my experience most of the serious offenders are boys. The excuse is, you guess it, boys will be boys.
Nope, my girls did not come into the world well behaved. They came into this world bratty and self-absorbed just like every other child. And sometimes they still behave in ways I ask myself “what did I do wrong?”. But whenever that happens, there is a reaction. They know when I disapprove of their behaviour and they know that whatever fun activity we’re doing, whatever fun activity we’re planning, they are totally subject to being cancelled.
For example, there’s this gorgeous fountain in the shopping centre. Really big, with lights and changing patterns. Fascinating, for small and big alike. Now, all kids want to play in the water. Of course they do, they are kids. But that is, of course, not very healthy and it turns the marble floor into a danger zone.
We have a long-standing agreement: If they behave well on the shopping trip, we will get ice cream and sit down by the fountain and watch it. No touching.
Most of the times there will be that one kids whose adults will just let them play with the water and even sprinkle other people. I’m always sorry for that kid. I’m also sorry for myself because once I’m a highschool teacher I’ll have to deal with the results.
It’s interesting that you mention the gender aspect. I feel like I see just as much misbehavior on the part of girls, but the justification, rather than being “girls will be girls”, for obvious reasons, is for the girls’ caregivers to assume that my son must have done something to provoke the encounter. Which is mostly to say that I do think there is a gendered component to adult reactions, but I suspect it is as much a reaction to wanting to defend their own child’s behavior as it is one being more of a problem than the other, at least in very young kids.
Oh, there’s that, too (hey, parents of girls buy into the same gender bullshit as parents of boys). I find it totally unacceptable when parents remind their (bigger and older) sons to be gentle with my girls “because they’re girls.” Who aren’t saints. My usual questions are “what happened” and “what did you do before that?”
Oh man, that drives me nuts too. The size thing gets interesting too. Both of my kids are on the larger side and especially my son has always been assumed to be more mature than he really is, so we’ve definitely gotten “how could you let a 5 year old do that” when the response is “Because he’s THREE.”
I know that problem from the other side. My eldest is small and skinny and conventionally cute and borderline autistic so she gets constantly underestimated. With the result that she figured out that if she’s bored with a task she can just throw up her hands and claim “I’m consfused, I can’t do this, this is too difficult for me”.
I, OTOH, got accused of being a tiger mum because obviously she couldn’t have made up her letters game herself or things like that. Which sometimes makes me wonder what those people did learn in college and teacher training…
Did you know there is a mountain of evidence that children benefit from time spent making their own decisions away from adults? Even though some would call me a helicopter parent I still don’t catch everything my kids do and science centers are certainly a place where children run free, especially on a crowded day. I understand you were tired and impatient after standing in line so long but it’s pretty judgemental to allege that unattended children at a science center (that is likely priced so high only advantaged children visit) are all going to be hoodlums in the future. Kids are selfish by nature, it is our job to peaceably remind them to think of others, not get angry with them for wanting a turn with an interesting item or to avoid a toddler smashing what they’re constructing. Your child will be embarrassing you with socially unacceptable behavior soon enough, you should try to be more understanding.
It is precisely because I have no interest in being a helicopter parent that I try to teach my kids how to interact in the world – so, yes, I totally agree 100% that kids benefit from experiencing the world on their own and that other adults should give some leeway, particularly in an inherently kid-oriented environment. But part of that has to be learning how to take turns and how to react to a strange adult standing up for their smaller child, and understanding that there are going to be times when, no, the shared toys are not in fact yours. That’s a failing on the parents’ part, not the kids’.
I see where you’re coming from, stellar. When you write that, “Kids are selfish by nature, it is our job to peaceably remind them to think of others, not get angry with them for wanting a turn with an interesting item or to avoid a toddler smashing what they’re constructing”, I think you are 100% right. However, it’s just RUDE to throw your kid into a place with numerous people and children and to just go away and expect your child to do the right thing. How are they supposed to learn if their parents aren’t there to “peacefully remind them to think of others”? I could tell them, but they wouldn’t listen to me. My son is actually 6 now, and I would NEVER leave him alone in a public place — for many reasons. I’m always close — not right there, but within ear/eyesight — so that I can help guide him in much the same way that you suggest strangers should.