Monday, June 27, 2011

Our Students Explained: Three Mall Observations

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.

The Bear
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.


  1. They're also used to getting, in return for a quarter or two, music, motion, pat "right" answers, and probably some blinking lights as well. By contrast, in return for a very small share of their tuition dollars, I provide a bit of information and guidance, ask a lot of questions, and expect *them* to do things -- a very different paradigm.

    I feel for Isabella, and for the toddler on the other end of the leash, though my theory on that is that such restrictions probably make sense in malls -- which is why toddlers don't generally belong in malls, but on a real playground with plenty of room to run. When they do have to go to the mall, the leash seems a little better-adapted to their perpetual-motion proclivities than the even-more-restrictive and increasingly pervasive stroller (which also has its place, I realize). I'm not sure toddlers care where they're going, so long as they're allowed to go somewhere. But what do I know? I'm not a parent, either -- and I get really annoyed at vets who refer to me as "mom" to my cat. Don't they teach speciation in vet school anymore? The vets I've encountered recently seem to be able to tell a dog from a cat from a rabbit, but have trouble realizing that none of the above can be birthed by a human.

  2. As a mom of a child on the autism spectrum, I am a-ok with leashes on kids, autistic and non-. Likewise shineth the sun.

  3. The poor kids are stuck at the mall being told to play based on someone else's concept of what is fun for them. Why not just plunk them in the dirt in the backyard? We had hours of fun creating worlds out of mud... and nothing played Muzak.

  4. I thought the original observations were kind of cute, though the sad part wasn't lost on me. But now we're getting wild. I think you guys are projecting the shit out of this story. You have the mall as their designated daily environment.

    Maybe the parents just had to go to the mall, did you ever think of that? I think giving a kid 180 seconds of cheap and easy fun after they've waited while their parents (who are also tired from the day) run errands is hardly Dickensian. Maybe today they were in the mud. You're assuming this is their entire world because they were spotted there one day. You can't see someone at the mall.... unless you're at the mall too! (not directed at the author) By the same logic, CMP must never go outside either because one day he (she?) was at the mall.

  5. Leashes are better than a squooshed child (or dog, for that matter.)

  6. You know, when I first read this, I felt bad for the kid on a leash. And then when I read Bookartist's comment, I realized that I was doing what it almost (maybe?) seems like CMP is doing---making quick judgments based on not enough knowledge/experience. I took my kids to the mall sometimes. I was at home with them, and we did lots of things, but sometimes, we went to the mall. And I let them go in those stupid coin operated thingeemabobs on occasion. More often, a grandparent would pay for that shit (the grandma's can't say no, it seems) but I admit I must have done it at least once or twice.

    CMP, this was amusing. And I get your humor, and I get the fact that sometimes it is fun to people watch and poke fun of the people, to judge them in our minds. And of course, I see snowflakes where ever I go, too. This particular post, though, was a good reminder for me that all is not always as it might appear to others, and that our judgments may be off the mark. I know I am guilty of this myself, so I am not throwing stones. I'm just sayin'. I am tempted to put a little snowflake smiley face! Augh! I have been correcting for four hours and I am dog tired!!! (Now that my teenager are home with me it is easier to get up in the middle of the night to do it. A collective sigh of sympathy would be appreciated but is not required.)

  7. I liked your smackdown, Wombat!It was inspiring, and not, in my opinion at least, undeserved! I am sad you took it down.....

  8. I deleted comments from this thread last night because 2 community members had violated these rules:

    Do not marginalize the experiences of other members.
    Comments and posts that seem designed purely to attack others and/or drive away readers will be deleted.

  9. While I understand why people want to use the backpack leash, it makes me think of the Simpson's episode where Uncle Herb invents a baby translator. A baby wearing a leash is able to tell his mother "this leash demeans us both". Although I'm sure there are exceptions, I think putting your little kid in the backpack leash is often just plain lazy parenting.


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