I have come to the conclusion that I have never met a child or teen who can possibly irritate me as much as the adults, especially parents, who come in to the library.
Don't get me wrong. There are plenty of caring, involved, intelligent parents out there, many of whom I've had the privilege of meeting. Unfortunately, there's something about summer at the library that brings out all of the idiot parents. Here are just a few that I've had to deal with lately.
1) The "my child is a genius" parent. So far this summer I have had to explain to three different parents why I wouldn't register their eight or nine year olds for the teen book discussion. I don't care how high her reading level is, I'm not putting her in a discussion group with 17-year-olds. End of discussion.
2) The "my child never does anything wrong" parent. No matter what the issue is, it is always somebody else's fault. The kid who brought a knife in and threatened a staff member? Clearly the staff member shouldn't have made the kid mad! The child who pushed another child down the stairs? Obviously, the other kid should have moved faster.
3) The "she's really responsible" parent. I don't care how responsible your six year old is. You still can't leave her in the library for seven hours while you go to work. If you leave this building, I'll call child protective services. Also, a ten-year-old can't be left in charge of three toddlers and a baby. And why are all these kids in the teen department, anyway?
4) The "he needs something to do" parent. Yes, I agree that we live in an area without a lot of good services and activities for teens. However, your teen has done something which meant that we banned him or her from the library for a period of time. I will not change that banning period because she's bored, or because he "really wants to come back." Perhaps next time he or she will think twice before cursing out a staff member, damaging library property, or having sex in the stairwell.
5) The "more, more, more" parent. When we plan programs, we try to be as accommodating as possible - offering two different times for the same program, adding extra sessions, etc. If you can't make it to any of the programs, we feel bad. However, we will not schedule a special program just for you because Susie has a swim meet or a birthday party on the original day of the program.
6) The "late but whiny" parent. I can't sign your kids up for the computer program, book discussion, or the annual lock-in because they're full. We have a limited amount of space. We buy 24 books for the book discussoin, and there are 24 kids signed up. We only allow 25 teens at the lock-in, and they're already signed up. See how that works? No, I won't take someone off the list because "my son just wants to go so much!" Other kids want to go too, and they actually signed up on time. Next time, call ahead.
7) The "it's not good enough" parent. Here's the thing, lady (it's always a woman). The summer reading program takes us months to plan. We get sponsors, we plan programs, and we work our butts off so your kid can have a good time. And it's completely free for you. So if you come in ONE MORE TIME and complain that the prizes are "crap," the books you want aren't here, and the library is too full of "dirty little kids," I am going to do something drastic. If you don't want our "cheap, crappy prizes," don't sign up. There, see how easy that was?