As a writer, I have the luxury of being one of those dads you see pushing a stroller in the middle of a weekday. Living in New York City, I have a wide choice of destinations—playgrounds, children’s museums, the American Museum of Natural History, a toy store with a train set, and of course, the prime stop for all parents and kids: Barnes & Noble.
Believe me, I’m not one of those perfect dads who look down their nose at other parents. We all know it’s hard to keep our strollers provisioned and our children in line. I’ve had to borrow a diaper or two from a stranger in my day. (“Uh, excuse me, miss. Is your child a size four?”) But there are times when my inner schoolmarm emerges. So herewith I propose some simple guidelines for how to behave in Barnes & Noble, Strand, Shakespeare & Co., or any other bookstore you’re lucky enough to visit.
Contain the Madness.
We all know how it goes. We let our little toddler out of the stroller and bam! they’re off like a bull in Pamplona, pulling books off of the shelves, crying, “Read this! Read this!” After three or four books, make the kid stop—physically, if necessary. Then find a spot in the corner and read. After you’re done, have your child put the books back exactly where he or she found them (this part might be difficult), then let the kid loose for another round.
Block Not the Thomas.
(Or Dora, or Backyardigans, or anything, really). As the father of a three-year-old boy, I often camp out by the Thomas and Friends books with my son, John. At 6’3″ and 200 pounds, I have often been guilty of blocking these precious tomes from other little boys. Shameful. Try to be mindful of your surroundings, even with that hefty stroller of yours.
I’ve found it helpful to let my six-year-old daughter know before we enter the store whether she can actually buy a book that day. (And if she can, that I get final say on what the book will be.) The days I forget to take this precaution, I inevitably find myself at the register, reaching into my wallet to purchase yet another copy of Princess Barbie or Gwen the Jewel Fairy.
Change Your Baby in the Bathroom!
Not on the floor. I did this once. For some reason, the manager wasn’t pleased.
Most important of all…
Read, read, read!