Have we forgotten “stranger danger”?

I’m sure you’re all familiar with those stick people family stickers that people put on the back of their cars. You know the ones – they have a mom, dad, 3 smiling kids and sometimes a pet. Sometimes there’s even a last name attached. This lets everyone know that this car belongs to the “Garcia Family”.

Although these stickers annoy me for some reason (I’m not exactly sure why), the ones that actually concern me are the ones that include first names. Why? Because of stranger danger.

I work with the public so I think I have at least a basic understanding of how many weirdos are out there. And I know I sure as heck wouldn’t advertise my children’s names to them if I could help it.

Every time I see those little names, I’m reminded of that episode of “Dexter” where the villain successfully kidnaps a boy simply because he got the boy’s name from the little stick figure family on the family car. It’s like parents are so excited to advertise they have a family that they forget basic safety. It’s ridiculous and stupid.

So consider this your PSA about modern stranger danger. Don’t advertise your kids names or they could be used by icky people who want to do them harm.

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My Offensive (?) Behavior Post

I’ve been thinking about a few things for awhile now.  Most of my conclusions are probably pretty controversial on these topics, but they make the most sense to me.  They do not reflect the views of my employer and may not necessarily reflect the views of my family/friends.  I apologize if the following post offends anyone.

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I spend 40 hours each week working with the public.  I see them at their best and their worst.  I’ve learned which kids like certain series paperbacks and dvds so that I can almost have the catalog search completed before they approach the information desk.  I’ve learned which adults will almost always ask for “an exception” when it comes to paying their fines.  I know which teens are studious and hardworking, and which teens are only at the library because they don’t have a key to their house.  I’ve learned some tricks to keep the mentally ill regulars calm.  I’ve learned which patrons to watch because they have been caught stealing.  In my 7.5 years working for the library and the 4 years before that working for Sears, I think I’ve learned about people.

I worry about the future of our country.  I don’t worry because of test scores in school or because of the rising poverty levels – although those are concerns of mine.  I worry because of the way I see people behaving in public.  I believe that the way we behave when the world can see us says more about our potential for greatness than most other things.

Children learn how to behave by watching the people around them and through gentle correction.  With this in mind, I’ve looked at adults to see how they behave and (surprise, surprise) the adults who behave badly usually have children who do the same.  Overall, I see a huge number of people who are generally disrespectful, rude, destructive and careless, but who somehow have an unearned feeling of entitlement.  It just boggles my mind that our community leaders think that by focusing solely on education reform they’ll make our country be as great as it once was.

You know, the other day there was a 4 or 5 year old boy who was running and shouting in the library.  I looked for his parents so that I could talk to the child and his parents at the same time, but they were nowhere to be found.  So I asked the boy to stop, crouched down so we could talk without him craning his neck up to me and I said “I know there’s lots of open space in the library, but one of our rules is that we don’t run.  The other rule is to use our inside voices.  Could you please speak quietly and walk in the library from now on?”  I didn’t yell.  I wasn’t rude.  I didn’t touch him. 

About 5 minutes later his mother came over and yelled at the top of her lungs “Don’t you dare tell my child how to behave.  I’m his mother!  You come find me and I’ll tell him!”  I handed her a copy of the Library’s policy on public conduct in the library and pointed out the line stating that children under the age of 7 must be within speaking distance of a responsible adult at all times and that children under the age of 14 may not be at the library without a responsible adult in the building.  I explained that we have these policies because children this young are still learning how to behave in public buildings, and because people from all walks of life come to the PUBLIC library.  While we try to keep everyone as safe as possible, over 2,000 people a day visit this branch and it is impossible to keep an eye on everyone.  I asked where she was while her child was running and shouting in the library.  Can you guess?  On her laptop in the quiet area on the complete opposite end of our 34,400 square foot building.

See, this is my problem.  Kids aren’t being taught how to behave and thrive in our society and when their behavior is unacceptable nobody is “allowed” to correct it.  I’ll be 31 in a few weeks, so I’m not looking back to the 1950s and calling them the good old days.  I’m looking back to the 1980s and remembering the way things worked back then.  In my neighborhood all of the adults could tell any child to get out of the street, to stop riding bicycles on the grass, to stop hitting their sibling and to otherwise behave appropriately.  If they corrected you and you ignored them or were disrespectful they would immediately call your mother and tell her what happened.  The same thing happened at school, except that they called your mom after school.

These adults weren’t questioning your worth as a parent.  They were keeping an eye on the youth in the neighborhood and ensuring that they behaved according to generally accepted guidelines.  So why is it different now?  I’m pretty sure that this is one of the reasons why so many of the people I see at work, on my way home, and in my neighborhood behave so poorly.

I’ve always said that if I ever have children I will never be angry with someone for correcting their behavior as long as it’s done respectfully.  I don’t ever want to be one of those parents whose child acts crazy, ends up in jail or murders someone because I didn’t accept the loving assistance of other people in my community. I just think that it’s time for other people to think the same way for the good of their children, the community and even the country.

Family Fitness

Awhile back I noticed a problem with my sister’s kids.  All they do when I’m there is watch TV.  Then I saw them in their underwear and noticed rolls of fat.  He’s 9 and she’s 6 (soon to be 7).  Much too young to have this kind of a problem.

Today I was there to watch them and mom while my sister and brother-in-law went out for an early Valentine’s day.  The kids were playing with the Wii and becoming winded after 5 minutes (literally) of swinging the Wii-mote like a sword.  Then they turned off the game because they were “too tired” to play any more.

Although I’m not the best model for fitness, I know that I need to do something.  I can’t let these kids get type II diabetes and all of those other problems that come with obesity.  I also know that my sister would be deeply offended if I were to bring it up with her.  So, today they “helped” me work out.  We picked out cans of food that we could use as weights.  We did jumping jacks, hops, and jogging in place.  We did upper body work.  We kicked and stretched.  Then we played hide and go seek.  We raced to see who could get their chores done fastest – my nephew had to put away his legos, my niece had to put away the silverware and bring the dirty dishes out to the kitchen and I had to make lunch.  When we were done we took turns showing off our newly made muscles.  They said they had fun with it all so I know it’s not that they don’t want to get up and move…

I think I’ll start taking them to the park or for a hike every other week.  Unfortunately, my schedule doesn’t allow me much more free time than that.  DH said that he’d teach them how to kick and throw punches too.  And, when they’re with me, I’ll make sure they have healthier meals.  That’s all I can really do, right?

Home Again

I ended up staying home again today.  Stomach issues that don’t let you be too far from a bathroom aren’t fun.  So I laid on the couch and watched TV all day.

Since I’m all caught up on Biggest Loser, I watched other things.  MTV has a show called “I Used to be Fat” about teens that are graduating from high school and want to use their summer to lose weight and get in shape.  They’re furnished with a personal trainer and a diet plan to accomplish this goal.  It was entertaining, but MTV’s online video playback sucks.  I could only watch 3 episodes and the others were “temporarily unavailable.”

With that disappointment, I went on to another show called “Intervention.”  That one involves alcohol and drug addicts who think they’re doing a documentary about addicts only to find that their families are staging interventions.  Sometimes the interventions work, sometimes they don’t.  Watching their addictions is super sad though.

Then I found a show called “Kicked Out.”  It’s based on the idea that lots of adults are still living at home, but not because they’ve experienced hard times.  It’s because they’re slackers.  Their parents are sick of the mooching, so they kick the slacker out for 2 weeks while the slacker learns to live on their own.  This one was entertaining, but annoying at the same time.  I was amazed at how many of the parents were complete enablers who placed no limitations on their children or required them to meet minimum expectations for staying at home.

DH and I were talking about this issue of spoiled children.  When we were just out of high school there were minimum requirements to be met for our parents to allow us to stay at home.  My mom’s requirements were that I go to school full time or work full time and pay my own bills.  DH’s parents had similar requirements. So my question is: why haven’t the parents in this show even attempted something similar with their children?

I’m not saying our parents were perfect by any means, or that we moved out very quickly (I think we were 27 when we finally flew the coop) but at least we had expectations to meet.  Those expectations got us into the mode of taking care of ourselves.  Why is it so hard for those other parents to do something similar with their kids?

Ugh.  I can feel this starting to be a rant about kids and parents and what I see at the library every day.  But I’ll stop here by saying that everyone needs limits and expectations to meet.  Especially people that are too inexperienced to set them for themselves.

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