Don’t let your 2-year old boy swing a pointed stick through a crowd of toddlers.

Don’t let your 2-year old boy swing a pointed stick through a crowd of toddlers.

Who needs to be told that? Park Buddy and I have been running across parents with less sense than their kids of late, and it’s starting to get on my nerves.

We frequent a popular children’s museum on the bay shore across the Golden Gate Bridge from us. It’s a fantastic place: all outdoorsy and build-it-yourselfy, with lots of open-ended things to do and climb on. And like any busy playground, it also requires a little diligence from us caretakers. You know the stuff:

  • “Careful with the broom!”
  • “Let’s share that limited toy resource!”
  • “Look out for the baby!”

Normal, right?

Well, apparently not in Marin County, California. Over and over, Boobaby and Buddy Boy got snubbed and toy-snatched by the local kids, and the supervising parents didn’t do a thing to intervene.

Start with the aforementioned stick-wielder: a quite young boy beating a stick against anything or anyone in his way. The museum provides willow branches for creative building play, and so naturally, some kids take the sticks away to sword-fight. In itself, that’s not too worrying — I’ve heard of boys who chew toast into handgun shape and say “bang, bang!” But, of course, you take away the sharp stick when your toddler weaponizes it, right? An easy parental fix.

Nope. In this case, we had to steer Boo and Buddy Boy to a different station because Hands-Off Mom merely begged her child to follow her back to the car, making no attempt to disarm him. The note of pleading in her voice was telling: the boy, around two years old, clearly controlled the relationship.

So Boo and I headed over to the deserted spider web, but again, we were thwarted. A quartet of “big kids” — say, 5 to 9 or so — cut us off and jumped in, followed by two moms. Now I know that corralling big kid energy is a heck of a lot more challenging than distracting an 18-month old, so I graciously detoured to another exhibit. I expected the customary appreciative nod from the harried moms, but instead I got

“I guess you’d better come back later!”

Maybe she was trying to be funny? I don’t know. All I know is that I needed only a quick acknowledgement — sure, your kids made a playground foul, but I’m not going to make a big deal of it — and I got an entitled dismissal.


  <p class="photocaption">
    <em>You seriously have to check out this sculpture. <a href="" target="_blank">Click here and then the &#8220;Willow Sculpture&#8221; link</a>.</em>

We continually overheard snippets that reminded us of how enveloped we were by affluence. At the beautiful Patrick Dougherty woven willow house, a couple was discussing how they would love to put in a similar installation — but to do so they’d have to reduce the size of the orchard. The orchard? Who the frick has an orchard who’s not, say, a farmer or something? Even the kids’ names bore the whiff of privilege: Reagan. Sedona. Sonoma. Danilla.

It’s an odd parenting equation: the more leisure time and disposable income a family has, the less likely they seem to model and require appropriate behavior from their kids. I hate to paint so broadly, for I’m sure there are exceptional rich families with well-mannered children out there, just as I’m sure that the rich have no monopoly on clueless parenting. But more often than not, the truism holds: those that have the resources and the leisure time to lean how to parent well are the least likely to do it.

At my best moments, I can feel pity for the kids: their parents are modeling a debilitating sense of entitlement that will leave their kids socially backward, insensible to the value of selflessness in their relationships.

Most of the time, though, as I am forced to physically shield my daughter from the sharp sticks of poor parenting, it just pisses me off.