Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Train politics

We are just on the verge of entering the world of playground politics; you know, the minefield that involves teaching your kid about sharing toys, taking turns, not throwing sand in other kids' faces and holding off tantrums by trying to distract either your own kid or the one who is hell-bound on prying the toy truck from your own sweet toddler's clenched fists - while at the same time trying to keep your composure and showing infinite patience with kids and their adult counterparts alike. It hasn't really been an issue yet since Joris is still very good at sharing and is easily distracted. However, last Sunday we discovered that it's dealing with the adults that might prove to become the biggest challenge.

We took Joris to the Bothell Country Village, where they were having a special kids weekend with games, free train rides, pony rides, balloons, performances, etc. It is a somewhat cute area of specialty shops that mostly sell the kinds of things you buy for people who you don't know very well, or don't know what to give, but it's nicely landscaped (although making it a pedestrian-only space would be a great improvement) and we figured it was a good way to spend an hour or two on a Sunday afternoon. Joris enjoyed the rooster that was walking around the pond area, the toy store and the fountain in the pond, which he kept trying to use as a wading pool. Since the train rides were free, it was pretty busy, but when there was a performance by a slightly creepy clown (well, aren't they all?) it seemed to slow down a little bit, so we took our chance. The train, which is a gasoline operated toy-train-on-steroids with air filled tires, filled up just before we got there - it seats about 4 adults and maybe 10 kids or so- so we parked the stroller and waited patiently for 10 minutes until it got back. In the meantime, several other families had come to the waiting area. When the train came back there was a flurry of activity and within seconds the few seats that support adult weight were taken up. I tried looking poignantly at the adults who had clearly arrived some time after we did, while Jacob was holding our wiggly 16 month old who was visibly excited about getting on the train.

That didn't work, so I tattled to the "conductor" who was trying to keep some semblance of order. In a trying-to-be-intimidating, booming voice he announced that the people who had arrived through the exit instead of the entrance, should make room for those who had been waiting longer than them. No Response. One woman offered Joris a seat in their compartment and even to move one of her kids to one of the kid seats so that Jacob could go with Joris, but her kid threw a fit and so nothing happened. By this time, Joris had started crying. The conductor was ignoring us and started to get ready to depart again. None of the parents moved. Waiting for the next train really wasn't an option, so we left.

Joris forgot about the train as soon as he saw the little merry go round a minute or so later, but Jacob and I felt like crap. Should we have demanded one of the parents to move? What kind of message would that have sent Joris? You get what you want if you boss other people around, or complain enough? What kind of message did he get from us leaving and not standing up for him more? The other parents teaching their kids that they have the right to do what they want at the cost of other peoples feelings - is that better or worse?

So it begins... I'm worried about my ability of setting the right example for Joris; to stand up for himself, without being pushy or inconsiderate, to share and be kind without being taken advantage of...

It's easy to find fault with other parent's approaches (for example the guy who complained to his wife that his two year old wasn't playing "the right way" with the train at the toy store and later, outside, chided the lad "what is wrong with you?" when the tot showed no interest in stomping on an air rocket) as it's also pretty easy to promise yourself "I will raise a confident, caring, considerate and intellectual child", but the how-to details, the everyday practice of parenting is a lot harder.

We also lost Joris' beloved Woodland Park Zoo sun hat that afternoon.
All in all, we've enjoyed better days.

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