Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A Cultural Observation on Parenting

Having been abandoned at kiddie play land at a mall while the Mrs. did some shopping and got her hair cut, I had plenty of opportunity to observe different types of parents.

Absentee parent - This parent was quite obvious since there were approximately 40 kids playing on the various pieces of kiddie sculpture and three other parents besides myself. Since I had one kid, that meant the other three parents averaged 13 kids each or there were some parents missing. Over the course of the next hour and a half, the parents would come by and pick up the teary eyed kids who were struggling to go from sixty to zero in just a few seconds. More often than not, the absentee parents were the owners of the most unruly kids who ran as fast as they could screaming and knocking the younger kids over who hit things on the way down and began screaming. I blame these parents for my screaming headache that I had by the time we left.

Inattentive parent - This parent sat there and paid absolutely no attention to their child who begged and pleaded for the parent to look their way. The parent only had eyes for the electronic gadget with buttons that they pressed continuously or holes which they talked into non-stop.

Spineless parent - I became really familiar with these parents because one sat right next to me. He had three of the kids (which meant the other two had to average 18 kids each) and they happened to be the older, too big for the equipment type of kids. Obviously bored to the gills, the did the only thing that came natural and raced around the tiny area playing tag while knocking over toddlers and smaller kids. I counted six times that the guy next to me would call them over and tell them not to run. Most of the time the kids would run away when the lecture was over but if they walked away, they were running within thirty seconds. On the fifth time, he said he had warned them and made them sit down beside him for all of five seconds which I'm sure was PLENTY of time for the kids to think about their actions. Another version of the spineless parent who happened to also be an absentee parent came by awhile later and caught her kids racing around karate chopping each other and running a mentally challenged kid into a plastic bridge so hard that I thought he might have split his head open. She literally screamed so loud at her kids to walk and cut it out, that all the kids became silent as church mice for about three seconds. As soon as she disappeared again, he kids took right up where they left off.

Over protective parent - This parent hovered over his granddaughter constantly so that she could barely breath let alone try her skills on the plastic art sculptures. She obviously wanted to play on the small plastic flowers but I think the over protective parent deemed them too dangerous and thus she was steered over to a spinning wheel on the wall which bored her to tears. Over protective parent would follow her around not letting her play on anything and really not pay attention to those around him. More than once as he was trying to keep his charge from playing on the flower only a couple feet from where I sat, his ass would be stuck within inches of my face.

After awhile of scoping out the actions or lack of them from the parents, I started checking out the kids and soon a generalization struck me. If you rule out the little kids who still hadn't learned that actions have consequences, the best behaved group of kids were non-whites. There was couple Asian and a few Mexican children among the bunch and they as a rule, played quietly together or alone and never ran. They came when the parents called them and never made the parents repeat anything twice. The white children with the exception of one or two, pretty much ran around like ill behaved monkeys who didn't understand the same language as their parents. I'm not sure what this says about us parents or our culture but obviously something is seriously lacking with our parenting skills. When my hour and a half of hard time was up, I was anxious to depart and take my well behaved child away before she caught whatever most of the other children/hellions had.


geri said...

I had to laugh at the sentence of 40 kids and only 3 parents. Yeah where are the parents of those other kids?

Eutychus2 said...

Interesting observations. I think there might be a clue to the kids behavior in the type of family atmosphere they are living in, I'm sure you've noted that; also kids that have a sense of safety and priority in their parents lives have less of a tendency to 'act out,' which is probably a big part of the chaos you were observing ... congratulations on getting your daughter out of there before she got infected.

Ed said...

Geri - Most were mothers who were shopping. I'm assuming dad was at home.

Eutychus2 - You are exactly right. I hope I didn't come down to hard as this being a racial thing when I think it has more to do with parenting practices in the United States. The non-whites that I referred to were all first generation immigrants judging by their language skills. I think we are currently raising a whole new generation of kids who as a whole, are generally under parented. I sure hope this doesn't mean we are in for a bad future.

Sage said...

Was there differences in the ages of parents--as a parent who could be a grandparent, I've often wondered if I am not too protective.

Ed said...

Sage - I'm in my upper 30's and was probably the oldest one there by six years or more with the exception of the Over Protective one who was probably around 70. I think there is a big difference between protective and over protective. In this instance, not letting your child jump over the wall (one kid one actually doing this) is being protective. Over protective is not letting your child play on a hard rubber flower that stood maybe eight inches tall on a floor of really soft rubber mats. Yes the unsteady child was bound to fall but that is how they learn the rules of gravity and how to walk.

R. Sherman said...

A worthy taxonomy of parenting.

This sort of thing drives me insane. Like Sage, I could be a grandparent (my younger brother is) but the observation about Gen-X and Y parents being the worst at this stuff is accurate as all get-out. Parenting takes work, and I wonder whether the younger generations realize that, having been coddled from cradle to marriage.


Beau said...

Not sure you can extrapolate any conclusions over a micro sample of observations, but it was a neat viewpoint of parenting.

I could show you completely the opposite in terms of observations just a bit down the road... and that too would not be an accurate portrayal of race, culture, etc. I think your first impressions were on the mark though... it's all about parenting.