Monday, July 2, 2007

All For Babies

T'day wasn't my best day ever, some obscure crap with family loused things up right outta the gate, so I'm going to try not to whine, but I'm not making any promises about swearing or ranting.

My son, at two and a half, has been everywhere I've been since he was born. Well, since before he was born, but that's a personal matter. In that time I've learned to read the signs of kid friendly folks and not-so-friendly folks. The little guy has been oblivious thus far, and I hope it stays that way for good long while.

Toddlers, being the curious little sponges they are, develop a quick sense for how to entertain themselves in a store that doesn't contain actual "toys". My son, like any normal kid, is checking for interesting items, which might or might not be glass, pointy, dry clean only, or expensive. He has a special affinity for running, and loops (around racks, shelves, aisles) are like an open invitation. None of this is to say that he's destructive or inconsiderate. Quite the opposite, in fact. To my knowledge, he hasn't broken anything or permanently damaged a display in a single store. We don't walk out with things that aren't ours and we clean up our messes.

My son is the dearest thing in the world to me, and I like having his constant company. So you can imagine how I feel when someone in a shop says and does things to make it clear he isn't a welcome addition, or that if we're there together I can't possibly be a serious customer. Disgusted, insulted and annoyed are three words that come quickly to mind just now.

I love knitting, and I love yarn. I write a frakking blog about my love of fuzz. Yarn shops are first on my list of places to visit for fun. When I visit my BF's mom, I know where to go for yarn. When I visit Seattle, or Raleigh, Chapel Hill or Asheville, NC, I know where to go for yarn. Heck, if I visited New York, or Boston, or dozens of other places, I'd know where to shop for yarn by asking my blogging pals or reading around online. And I have been to at least half of the LYS's in the Portland area.

And in no less than three of them we've gotten treated like we had sticky chocolate fingers and a funny smell about us.

Today, it was implied that my son was going to break the Pyrex needles. That he was going to walk out with the cute little knitted animals. That he wasn't being careful enough with the woolly creations and the merchandise. That he, and I, were basically not trustworthy.

I don't imagine that all children are at their best every time they go into a store. I'm sure things have happened. But I also know my child very, very well, and I do not like to see him treated as if he as very little going on between his ears. Children do what we expect of them, and that is the bottom line whether or not you're their parent, friend, relative, or a perfect stranger.

My son is a fairly bright guy, and he's very social, so I'm sure there will come a day soon when he is hurt by the way someone treats him whom he is not acquainted with. As it's my job to protect him from that while I have the chance, you can bet I won't take him anywhere near those places he isn't treated as a valued customer. If that means an LYS drops from my list, oh well.

I've discovered that I believe children to be a gift, even if they aren't mine. That doesn't make it okay to parent them without boundaries and expectations. But it should be true for us culturally as well as personally. I wish I knew how to make it so.

Oh yeah, and where do you think future generations of knitters are going to come from?


Sharon said...

I am so sorry you and your son were treated shabbily at a LYS. I won't be so crass as to ask which one it was, but I can think of a couple right off the bat where the "snob" vibe is pretty strong, and I don't give them my business. At the yarn shop where I worked briefly, it is especially important to the owner that moms with small children are made to feel welcome. I mean hello, the moms are in there spending their money, f'cryin out loud. The only time we intervened was when it seemed likely that the kids might get hurt by roughhousing a bit too much, that kind of thing, and only if they weren't being supervised by the adults that accompanied them. Really, it's just yarn, and anyone who knows anything about customer service understands that you only get one chance to make a good first impression with your customers.

Quail Hill Knits said...

Kenny has traveled with me since he was a llittle tyke as well. I remember the day when a newly opened Quilting Shop clerk told me that Kenny needed to stay in the car because he might damage the displays. Now this was in Fresno County in August. You know, the days of 100F days. I walked out, put him back in the car, drove across town to another sewing shop. I later ran into the owner of that other store at a fiber arts fair. She was handing out cards and trying to interest customers. I handed the card back to her and explained to her why I wasn't comfortable in her store. I wasn't mean or anything, I just wanted her know why I couldn't shop there. She was stunned and asked me to give it another try. Two weeks later I did go back. She had set up a kid's play section with old typewriters, calculators, old dial up phones miniture tables, chairs and appliances. Kenny played happily while I shopped. That store remains one of his favorite places to go. I guess the moral of the story is to talk to the owner and explain your feeling before you write them off.

Stephanie said...

I don't 'get' why people in retail act like that. It continues to happen even in adult-hood, being judged on your appearance or age when you walk in a store. I used to hate people watching me like a hawk when I was a teen, just because some other kid might have done something wrong to them. I agree whole-heartedly with your statement about children reacting the way people expect them to. Why not treat them with respect and love in the first place? The world would be a lot better off.