board books · bookstore · OBSERVATIONS

I have become one of *those* mothers. Well, kind of.

20130618-154616.jpgI vowed I would never become one of *those* mothers. I never thought I’d use Barnes & Noble as a destination on a gray day. But now that Isabelle is two and I’m looking for something to do on a non-pool summer day, it has become a place to escape. I mean, it’s air conditioned and has books. Heck, there’s even a coffee shop in case we need a snack. What could be better?

When I say one of *those* mothers, I mean the ones who let their children break up the children’s section as if it were a playground. I remember watching parents and nannies allowing their children to scatter books, educational games, and stuffed animals while running around the book stacks when I lived in Manhattan. That really irked me. While Barnes and Noble is not a library, there is a level of decorum and respect one needs to impart top their children when bringing their child to a bookstore.

Isabelle does NOT have carte blanche to run around the children’s section at our local Barnes & Noble. When we arrived she wanted to go over to the train table. However, there were at least five other kids there, most of whom were bigger than her. Therefore, I persuaded her to sit at a small table while I read Ball and Bear and Bee aloud to her. Once I finished the second one, we ventured back to the train table where she took turns playing nicely with the train and two other toddlers. (Well, one of the toddlers played nicely with her. The other one was a menace who kept stealing the trains out of her hand. Eventually his mother put him in a stroller and took him home screaming.)

Once she was done playing with the trains, she found a board book display. She pointed to Good Night Moon, which delighted me since she recognized the cover of an old favorite. Then she threw all six copies onto the floor. She looked at the pile beside her feet, smiled, and looked at me for a response. “You may bend over and pick up those books.”

She began to scurry off to another display.

I could’ve picked them up myself, but instead I skulked after her. I tapped her on the shoulder three times, took her hand, and led her back to the copies of Good Night Moon on the floor. “We don’t throw books on the floor. Books belong on the shelf. You may pick them up and put them back.”

20130618-154627.jpgAnd do you know what? She did. One by one by one by one by one by one. Granted, I neatened them so their covers were facing out, but she picked them up herself. And you know what else? It didn’t happen again.

How’s that for not becoming one of *those* mothers?

But before you get too excited about how compliant my daughter is, allow me to tell you that five minutes later she removed all five plastic shopping baskets from the holder. She carried one around with a box set of Diary of a Wimpy Kid books for a good five minutes. She wasn’t bothering anybody, but I wanted to pay for the books we intended to buy and leave the store on a good note. I eventually got her to put all of those baskets back. (I even got her to put the box set back by telling her they weren’t just-right books for her. (Pats self on back.)

bookstore · commercialization of childhood · media · OBSERVATIONS

Is it a bad thing that my toddler doesn’t know who Dora the Explorer is?

This is the only Dora toy we have in our house. Today, as I was listening to Toddler #1's mom read Dora books aloud, I learned that the monkey's name is Boots.  And here I've been calling him "Monkey" all along!
This is the only Dora toy we have in our house. Today, as I was listening to Toddler #1’s mom read Dora books aloud, I learned that the monkey’s name is Boots. And here I’ve been calling him “Monkey” all along!

Isabelle and I have been in the house for the better part of a week since we’ve both been sick.  I don’t even we should be around people yet, but Isabelle had a serious case of cabin fever yesterday so I knew I had to get her out of the house today.  Seeing as we’re both on antibiotics and sound worse than we probably are, I ventured out to Barnes & Noble with her for their morning story time.  Isabelle didn’t want to sit through story time (I suppose that’s because she’s finally got the energy to move around again!) so we spent most of our time by the toy train tracks.

The train area at our local B&N is adorable.  It’s in a little “room” that is complete with adult chairs and two child-size Adirondack chairs.  It is surrounded by books.  But there aren’t just any books surrounding the train tracks.  They’re all branded.  There was Thomas the Train (obviously), Disney Princess books (not as much of an alignment there), Dora the Explorer (still not sure of the train connection), and something that began with a c.  Isabelle was into the trains — that was it.  She didn’t gravitate towards the books surrounding them.  However, the other kids, who were playing with the train, were enamored by the books more than the train set.

  • Toddler #1, who was also two, kept grabbing Dora the Explorer books.  She kept saying “Dora” over and over and over and over again to her mother.  Her mom read her each of the Dora books she grabbed off of the shelf.  Isabelle, who loves books, wasn’t the slightest bit interested.  They got up and came back with — wait for it — more Dora books.  Eventually her mother pointed her to something different: a Yo Gabba Gabba book.  (I know there was a beautiful display of Caldecott Award Books in B&N.  Perhaps that would’ve yielded some higher quality picks.  Just sayin’.)
  • Toddler #2, who looked like she was three-ish, made a bee-line straight to the princess books.  She carefully selected a few books, which included Cinderella, and handed them to her grandmother.  Her grandmother suggested they bring them to a quieter part of the children’s section since Isabelle and Toddler #1 were busy playing with the trains at that moment.  (I later saw this child walking out of the store with a bag, presumably of princess books.)

Isabelle eventually wanted to have a snack.  While she ate Cheerios out of a Snack Trap, I gathered a few books from other places in the children’s section to read to her while she ate.  I grabbed Plant a Kiss by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Peter H. Reynolds plus two more.  I began reading aloud, in a relatively quiet voice, as Isabelle settled into an Adirondack chair with her mess-free snack.  Toddler #1’s mother, who was not reading her daughter a book at the time, looked at me funny.  I wonder if she was wondering why I didn’t just grab a Dora book, which was closer than the ones I selected.

We have a Dora toy (pictured above) in our house that Isabelle plays with.  We also have a Dora book.  Both were given to us.  I didn’t purchase either of them.  While I don’t have anything against Dora, I don’t feel the need to buy Isabelle character toys, except for Cookie and Elmo since she fell in love with them before I got on my kick to eradicate as much TV as possible.  If there’s a cartoon about it or they come to the Hershey Theater to perform, then chances are it’s not coming into my house — at least for now.  Until Isabelle goes to pre-school, I am in control of what she absorbs.  She doesn’t know who Dora the Explorer is because she doesn’t watch her show on TV.  She doesn’t know Yo Gabba Gabba since she’s never seen it on TV.  She has no clue what princesses are since we don’t do the princess thing in this house.  She has played with Thomas trains, but she couldn’t pick one out since I haven’t made it a thing.  I’ve started to think that toys should just be toys.  They don’t really  need to be named and labeled.  It’s what kids do with them, with their own imaginations, that matter.

While I am trying to provide her with an early childhood free of commercialized products, part of me wonders if I’m doing her a disservice.  What will her peers think of her when she cannot identify all of the Disney Princesses by age 3 1/2?  Will they think it’s strange that she doesn’t know anything about Dora the Explorer’s “life”?  How will they respond when they realize she’s never been to “Sesame Street Live” or “The Wiggles”?  Kids catch on pretty quickly, so I’m going to keep going on the path I’ve been on lately and will continue to keep her away from character toys.  If nothing else, I will continue to expose her to well-written and beautifully illustrated picture books while building her creativity and imagination in the process.