PhD = Parenting Hardly Demonstrated

, , , , , , , , | Right | September 4, 2020

I work in a library. The building we are housed in is over a hundred years old and hasn’t been renovated, and it was not planned with the vagaries of entitled twentieth-century parents or their badly-behaved kids in mind.

One of the scary things about the reference department is that patrons enter and leave through big glass doors that open out to the stairwell. If you are not paying attention, there is every chance that you will go down the stairs head over heels. It continues to amaze us that we haven’t been sued.

However, I am glad to say that, come the twenty-first century, the administration finally removed the big glass doors and put in heavy metal doors that aren’t easy to open, especially if you are a two-year-old. The new doors are ugly and look like every fire door you have ever seen in old prison movies, but it slows people down and they have to pause before continuing down the stairs.

A young mom who is working on her PhD — I cannot imagine in what, and I hope it wasn’t child care — comes in with a boy who is maybe six and a girl who is four. The two kids have been shrieking all the way up the stairs and they continue to hoot, holler, and carry on. They run from the reference room into our computer room. They run back and into the arts and fiction section on the other side of reference. They play hide and seek by crawling under tables and they play Superman by climbing on top of the tables and jumping off.  

At no time does the mom say or do anything to stop them. She has engaged the services of two librarians and is making them chase down books for her thesis. This leaves me to help other patrons and to chase down the kids.  

Our offices are tucked into a corner of the reference room. The kids have found their way in there and are going through drawers looking for crayons. I lead them out of there and find them paper and the “public” crayons we keep for children whose parents have never heard of bringing things to keep a child entertained.

This occupies them for ten minutes.

The reference director and I keep leading the kids back to their mom, who makes vague statements to them about behaving before ignoring them again.  

The kids play tag by running out onto the landing — it’s a hot day, so we have doors and windows open to circulate the air — narrowly escaping falling down the stairs and breaking their little necks. We shut the doors, but they just bomb right through them, slamming them open and letting them crash shut behind them. Mom makes more quiet vague threats.

Then, they find the piano. It’s a beautiful baby grand donated by a local family and it has just been tuned. The kids start pounding on it and screaming at the tops of their lungs. I collect both of them and return them to their mother.

She just looks at me and says, “I don’t understand. I am trying to write the thesis for my PhD. And I don’t know how I am supposed to do it if you gals won’t do your job and watch my kids.”

My supervisor and I both explain that our job is to help people find information and her job is to watch her kids. She seems stunned to know that she isn’t the only person using the library. I guess she thought all the other people were window dressing? 

She comes back a few times and tries to keep the kids under control, but it becomes clear that her heart isn’t in it. We are glad when she gets all the information she needs and never returns.

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