As a parent, what do you do about other people’s children? Surely this is a touchy subject for all parents.
We had a red letter day last week – E’s first blood injury. I have been assured this is the worst one and any bumps and bruises she has subsequently won’t be as bad for her or me. She hasn’t started moving yet so there’ll be loads to come and now we’ve got this first one out of the way.
So what has that to do with other children? It happened like this.
We were at the library. We go every Tuesday for Rhyme Time and then we take some books out and E gets a stamp in her Bookstart passport. There are lots of regulars that we know who also go every week including a little boy, let’s call him R. R is probably about 2-3 years old and seems to me to be a fairly normal toddler who likes rushing about, charging at the toys and picking up the books. His mother sits at the side and doesn’t really join in. Other parents sing along, do the actions and pay attention to their charges but I’ve noticed she prefers to sit and stare into space. Last week, though, she did seem a little more involved, though this mainly seemed to be following him about to wipe his nose.
After Rhyme Time had finished I sat E down by the baby books so that we could pick some to take home. (Can I just take a moment to say how much I love libraries? The destruction of libraries by the current government indicates to me just what a bunch of philistines they are.) She sat on a little seat and I knelt beside her when, suddenly, R came and sat on my lap.
What are you supposed to do in such a situation? Do I pick him up gently or will his mum mind if I touch him? Should I talk to him about books? But how to do that without neglecting E? I don’t want to appear like a child hater, intolerant of all children except her own. If you’re used to mixing with other children, belonging to friends perhaps, then this isn’t a problem, but I’m not. Apart from E, the only child I know very well is my nephew and he lives 175 miles away. So these thoughts, and many others, flitted through my mind in about three seconds while I looked around for R’s mum. She was, predictably, on the other side of the room staring into space.
Of course in those three seconds E reached forward to pick up a book, fell and banged her face, causing her mouth to bleed and her to scream the place down. R scrambled from my lap and disappeared – I doubt whether his mother had any idea he’d ever sat in someone else.
I guess my question is this: how to politely deal with a child that isn’t your own? Or, more accurately, how to deal with his mother? (And why bring your child to an interactive session if you aren’t going to interact?) It’s noticeable that of the parents there who chat to each other, she doesn’t join in, nor do they seem to take books out. And so I’m now left wondering if she’s very isolated as a parent and isn’t good at meeting people. Or she could just be anti-social. Who knows? Perhaps we should start by saying hello each week.