Search This Blog

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Save the Children

When I was ages 2 to 4 I used to watch Mister Rogers. My favorite part was imagination land where he would go to the castle and the puppets would have adventures. I liked Mister Rogers. He always seemed so happy that I had tuned in. He was soft spoken and left me feeling calm. Then I outgrew him and went through my childhood and onto high school and college.

The next time I watched him was at my college graduation. He was the keynote speaker. Everyone, including myself, was snickering before he began. Making cracks and wondering if he would be switching into slippers and house sweater. He arrived at the podium in black robes and looking serious, a lot sterner than I remembered. He intoned a few perfunctory remarks congratulating us on our accomplishment of finishing college, etc. Then his voice got a little louder and he started to talk about our responsibility to save the children. He started waving his hands gesturing to mark his points. He was passionate. He spent the rest of the 40-minute speech beseeching us to watch over the younger generations and make the world a better place for them. It was inspiring. Who knew? Calm, soft-spoken Mister Rogers was an activist!

I was reminded of him today when I went clothes shopping. For the record, I love clothes and fashion, but detest shopping. I am very long legged (33” a piece), small and short-waisted, and the proud owner of bicycle racer thighs. The length of my arms totally makes me believe we descended from apes. Finding clothes that fit is challenging. To add insult to injury, the florescent lights of the dressing rooms always makes me look as if I recently emerged from the crypt. As you can see, I am up against some serious issues to even get in the car and go to a store. But I had to go today and yesterday and will have to go again until I find a dress for a wedding we are happy to be attending in January.

What bothered me more than the fact that 99% of the clothes won’t fit me properly were the poor toddlers trailing along with aloof mothers with no toys. What is the deal with this, throw your kid in the cart and expect them to sit there happily with nothing to do but watch you shop? I felt so bad for the little tykes. Do you remember how uncomfortable it is to sit at the bottom of a shopping cart? The cold hard metal grid at the bottom was not made for sitting - even if you only weigh 30 pounds and have knees that still work properly. But tell me, how hard is it to at least bring one or two toys for them?

I am always fascinated when I see little kids at events with no toys. At my sister’s wedding, there was a pre wedding dinner with lots of little kids. We were there with Ellie and her many books, toys, dolls, etc. Ok – it wasn’t that much stuff, but we had stuff. When Ellie had the brain bleed and survived it, the therapists told us to stimulate her. Also, because we almost lost her several times, don’t take one moment of our time with her for granted. On top of that there is this urgency in our minds to give her an enriched environment especially when her brain is still growing. Three year olds use way more brain cells than any adult. Three year olds are amazing in their ability to learn and perceive. Slowly after this age the brain starts to pare back and develop pathways that will determine talents and personality. It’s really fascinating and something we taught ourselves a great deal about in order to help Ellie.

That’s not to say we don’t get burnt out and tired – we do. We aren’t perfect and always as present as we need to be. But when we are on her time, meaning when she is awake, we never leave her without something to do. We fasten toys to her car seat so she can hold them. We take books to restaurants. We take books and toys wherever we go just like we take diapers and her meds. At the wedding there were all these kids and not one with a toy. They all ended up playing with Ellie’s toys, which was great and taught Ellie a little bit about sharing.

Today, when I was out, there were all these kids, being completely ignored by their parents, their little faces desperate with boredom, their brains churning at a phenomenal rate only to spin in frustration. One little girl’s mother went up the escalator without her. The little one was scared of the escalator and wanted to hold mom’s hand. Mom just wanted to get on with it. The little girl was crying and calling to her mother for just about 10 minutes. I hovered nearby in case she got her hand stuck in the thing as she slapped the rail or in case she slipped as she kept trying to get on it. I wondered if the woman was coming back. It made me so nuts. It’s true that sometimes I envy lives of able-bodied families and hate it when I see parents oblivious to their good fortune. It breaks my heart.

But please tell me, what is the deal with parents going to adult places with toddlers and not bringing any toys? I just don’t get it.