All people want to be noticed and loved. All people want to have their needs met. This is especially true in children. They are helpless to help themselves in many situations. They have not been taught how to take care of themselves, so when they wear out they tend to lose that thin veneer of calm.
I was making a cart of books in the workroom the other day and I heard a loud wail. It sounded like some child was very upset. It kind of sounded like a child was being harmed in a permanent kind of way. I waited a little bit and wondered what was going on. Surely the parents would come soon. The voice sounded like it was coming from a small child – too small to be in the library by herself. The wail continued. There was no Doppler effect – the child was staying in one place. So she wasn’t running around trying to get either to or from parents. So she would be easy to locate. Why weren’t the parents doing anything? Why wasn’t a person-in-charge (the manager on duty) doing anything?
So I did something. I had no idea what was going on, but I had to do something. This child sounded like she was in killed by this point. I was pretty sure she wasn’t, but I wasn’t going to take any chances. Generally people don’t do such insane things in public spaces. If nothing else, she was definitely disturbing the other patrons. She was certainly disturbing me. So something had to be done – and since nobody in charge (parents or staff) was going, it was time for me to do it.
I went to the low wall that surrounds the children’s area. It is like a little fortress. I looked over and saw the child lying on her back, waving her feet and arms. The chair was upright – so she hadn’t fallen out of it and hit her head. I called out to her “What is wrong?” I said it in a sing-song voice. Sometimes that alone is enough to break the spell of the meltdown. I got nothing out of this. Then I looked nearby. What looked like her grandmother was sitting across from her, hands in her lap. She smiled at me, like this is normal, like she can’t do anything about it. I looked next to the grandmother and what looked like the child’s Mom was there. Same body language. They didn’t look like this was a total surprise. But they also didn’t seem to want to do anything about it.
Their child is their responsibility. Her well being is their job. If she is wailing like that, something is wrong. Their first concern should be to soothe her. The second concern should be the fact that she is being very loud and disturbing in a public place, and most especially a library. Being loud just isn’t what you do. If they fixed the first issue, the second issue would sort itself out. But they were doing nothing.
So I did. I went around the low wall and went up to her. I crouched down next to her and just started talking to her. She looked like she was about 2. I could tell from looking in her eyes she was very tired. It was around 4 that all of this was happening. I’m willing to bet these clueless guardians hadn’t thought to let her have a nap. Children can only handle so much. They aren’t short adults. They need more rest. They don’t know how to take care of themselves. That is why they have guardians – who are supposed to help them. These two were less than useless.
Even if you don’t know what is going on, at least pick your child up and hold her. Even if you don’t know what is going on, start with the basics. Give her some water or food (NOT sugar). Talk with her and ask her what is going on.
Sometimes children are so worn out that they can’t tell you what is wrong. They know something is, but they can’t figure it out. They are too young to know what the problem is. They just know they don’t feel well and the situation is getting worse. They yell and scream as a way to ask for help. In theory, the parent should be self-aware enough to prevent this from happening by ensuring the child has enough rest and exercise and water and healthy food.
A child who is “acting out” isn’t a bad child. It is a sign of a parent who doesn’t know how to take care of a child. Sometimes it is because that parent was in turn raised by bad parents. How can you learn how to take care of another person when you were raised by selfish people?
While I was talking to her, her mom and grandmother just stared. They didn’t intervene. I wear a name tag, but I’m not an expert. But something had to be done. I talked to this little girl. I suggested some things – “Are you tired?” “Are you thirsty?” “Are you hungry?” hoping that either she would respond to one of those or that it would wake the guardians up – maybe there was something really simple going on. Maybe they would listen to what I was suggesting and learn to ask the same questions in the future. From their lack of interest in the situation I think that this wasn’t a fluke situation. They didn’t seem surprised by her outburst. So, in a way, I was trying to help their daughter but also to teach them to help her in the future.
She calmed down, got up from the floor, and went to the bookshelf. She pulled out a random book and brought it to me. She wanted me to read it to her. I didn’t have the time for that – and she had two guardians there. I pointed to them. “Have your Mom read it to you” I said – and Mom smiled and waved the child to her.
She was quiet the rest of the time there, which was about an hour. She just wanted some attention. This isn’t being needy. This is being normal. I can’t tell you how often I see parents sitting in the same area with their children but they aren’t interacting with them. They care more about their cell phone than they care about their child.
They are there in body only. They expect the child to do all the work. The child cannot learn to read just by picking up a book.
Don’t have children if you aren’t ready to raise children. If you aren’t ready, then put them up for adoption. There are hundreds of people who want children and can’t have them. Or find a parenting class. There is no reason for a child to be emotionally abused because of the immaturity of the parents.
I’m not a parent but I have the basics figured out. Feed them. Give them water. Let them have a nap. Let them go run and play. Do this every day, several times a day. And spend time with them. They need love and attention. Children are just like plants. If you don’t nurture them, they grow up a little stunted and warped.