After spending the weekend on my back avoiding pain, I finally decided to pop some Target brand Tylenol and head to the mall to walk. Since I'm an academic and all my friends have "regular" jobs I had to brave the masses of kids and moms all alone.
I'll preface this post by saying that I am not now nor have I ever been a parent (unless cats count). I don't wish to offend or insult. I'm just offering three rather funny (to me) observations I made today.
Our mall has a play area for little kids with a changing station and comfy seating for the exhausted looking parents. On my second pass, I saw a mom with three kids: toddler boy, school aged girl, and tween boy. The toddler was on one of those backpack leashes. This particular one had a bear shaped backpack designed to trick an intelligent kid into putting the leash on. I'm not a fan of the kid-on-a-leash concept but this was particularly disturbing since it wasn't the mother at the other end of the leash. The tween brother was pulling the kid away from the playground (or the escalator). This willful toddler was dying to go the other way. Arms flailing in a Looney Toons-esque way, the toddler gets yanked by big bro. Is it wrong I chucked when the little kid ended up on his arse?
The Ice Cream Truck
Like many other malls, our mall has little riding machines that one pops a couple quarters into. I hate ours since it play musak at you each time you walk by. On my third or fourth lap, I saw a couple kids in the Ice Cream Truck. It was playing annoying music and bopping them around a bit and then I heard a British voice (yes, here in middle America) say, "Remember kids, don't walk out into the road." A few seconds later the same voice told them some other gem. After I got over the don't-we-make-these-in-America-too? thought, it occurred to me that this "educational" voice-over was probably a major selling point in the coin operated ride-on toy catalog. The owner of the "kiosk" probably thought, "The parents will love pumping quarters into this machine since it teaches very important safety lessons."
Isabella and the School Bus
On the lap that made me leave, I overheard Isabella and her mom. Isabella was out for a spin in the yellow school bus ride-on toy. She was smiling ear to ear and wildly spinning the steering wheel every which way. She was having quite the adventure in her own little world (pullin' G's for sure!). I love that imagination! Then mom sternly says, "Isabella, that's not the way we drive." Isabella's smile fades and she commences the apparently more "appropriate" fake steering we all do when we act out driving.
I'm not saying any of these kids are abused or in any other way unfortunate but I saw three things that made me better understand where my students may be coming from. Like the toddler they've led lives of restriction. They've been indoctrinated by television, video games, and toys all in the name of "educational is better". All the creativity has been stomped out of them in the belief that realism has more tangible value. Somehow this just explains a lot.