Outrage of the Week: Pre-Schoolers In, Geezers Out

Hi Readers — What’s the story today? Simply this: After four years of gathering every week  at the local library for a morning of coffee, tea and friendship, a group of retirees is being chased out. Why? A nursery school started bringing its kids there at the same time and the old folks COULD SPILL THEIR HOT DRINKS  ON THEM. Here you go, from The Daily Mail:

Council officials have now axed the meetings claiming that toddlers from a nearby nursery who use the library at the same time could be injured if hot coffee spilt on them….

[Said one of the pensioners:] ‘It is very disappointing, we all thoroughly enjoy the weekly meeting, it is a chance for us all to catch up and have a chat.’  …

A chat is all well and good, sir, but don’t you see? CHILDREN’S LIVES ARE AT STAKE:

Peterborough City Council, who run the library, said there were ‘concerns’ about hot drinks being served when children were close by.

A spokesman said: ‘In recent months a group from the local nursery has started to visit Eye library every Tuesday, between 11am to 11.30am. Unfortunately, their visit also overlaps with the regular meeting of the Over 50s coffee morning. However, we do not want to spoil anyone’s fun, and will be speaking to both groups to see if we can be more flexible about the timings so that the nursery group are not in the library at the time the coffee morning is meeting.’

It certainly sounds like a scheduling nightmare — two whole groups to keep track of, one of them consisting of  seven people!

Meantime, I very much hope that the City Council will be paying visits to the children’s homes to make sure no hot beverages are being served there, either. Can’t be too careful! — Lenore

57 Responses

  1. If they weren’t kicked out, the old folks would probably all need background checks anyway.

    How can this library be so small that the children’s section overlaps wherever the old folks are hanging out anyway?

  2. There should be a separate category on your blog for “UK collectively losing its mind of the week.” It seems our neighbors across the pond are leaps and bounds beyond the US in absurd and destructive overprotective behaviors.

  3. Lenore,

    We are in a sad state when the retirees these days are not like my grandfather. Had this happened during his lifetime in his town, this would not stand. In fact, i am not sure there is anyone in my family who would quietly take such abuse of power.

    Two days ago while drinking coffee and playing with the cat I spilled coffee on my chest. Which should we get rid of–the coffee or the cat? (Note: Cat is more expensive than coffee.) That said, in this situation the same applies and the city council is more expensive than the kids. If any of the affected persons read this, I say VOTE ‘EM OUT.

  4. do any ofthese retirees have grown children? grandchildren? how did these offspring ever survive their (obviously hideously clumsy) tea-drinking parents? or is the city council afraid the over 50’s group is going to suddenly snap one day and go chasing after toddlers, laughing maniacally while waving highly dangerous teapots?

  5. Test test test

  6. Sorry I’ve been having trouble posting lately. I’ll break this into two comments in case that is the problem.

    I want to ask for your help with something. I am not trying to make money off of it or anything like that. It is just a tool I came up with that I thought could be useful to other free range parents.

    I have been reading this blog for over a year and enjoying the other readers’ comments as much as the posts. It was the comments where you describe all the great free-range things you do and the varying reactions of the people around you that have, in part, prompted this idea. It is also the sort of tool I wished had existed every time my daughter and I were moving (and we moved 4 times in her 7.5 years.)

  7. Most parents looking for a place to live will consider things like crime rates and green spaces, easy to find out through research or a quick drive through the neighborhood. But as a free-range parent, I want to know more. Do the kids in the neighborhood play outside every day or do they spend most of their time in front of a screen or shuttled to activities? Are they encouraged to knock on each other’s doors and get to know their neighbors or do they run away from “strangers” and only meet each other for pre-arranged playdates? Will an 8-year-old walking down the block alone prompt a warm hello or a call to the CPS?

    This is the idea behind Kid-Friendly Neighborhood Map.

    Each neighborhood on the map has a rating and a brief description. I believe that you can’t really tell how kid-friendly a neighborhood is without having lived there for a while. This is why there is only one neighborhood on the map right now and why I hope you will consider contributing information about your neighborhood. Any suggestions for making the map better are also very welcome.

    Thank you.


  8. It appears that the link was the problem. Whether I include it as “website” above or in the body of the message, the comment does not post. You can get to the map through the link in Lenore’s tweet from yesterday. (Thanks again for tweeting it, Lenore.)

  9. They let you drink coffee in libraries in the UK? Cool!

    I have to head out to our local Barnes and Nobles with its integrated Starbucks to be able to “check out” books and read them over a coffee with my kid.

  10. Another missed opportunity under the adage of keeping kids safe.

    What a great opportunity to have these older folks and younger folks be together sharing a space (isn’t that what we strive for with kids?) and teaching little ones to be careful around others (walking please).

    I suppose Starbucks will need to follow suit and ban children for fear of a spill and lawsuit.

    I agree, all affected should be up in arms. I for one would be.

  11. I live in the most kid-friendly place I can think of. It’s a very small Canadian Military Base- kids run wild in these parts. We have the MFRC (Military Family Resource Center) where kids can go to a kids craft night every Wednesday, or the library, and various other activities. (they have preteen dances once a month and on “special occasions”). Select nights of the week and weekends/holidays we have a public swim at the General Strange Hall- kids over 6 can go all on their own to swim, and the lifeguard staff take care of them. Most of the time, the kids run free- every one knows who’s kids belong to whom, and watches out for all of them- it’s like a throwback to a completely different era. Kids behave because they KNOW that their parents will find out if they don’t. They climb trees (my yard has the best climbing tree- so I usually end up with a LOT of kids raiding my house for juice and cookies!) they ride bicycles in the streets- they go to the play structure all on their own. They discipline themselves, and each other. Rarely does anyone get hurt, or even hurt feelings. Even on the skate park!! Older kids watch over the younger ones and learn responsibility not just for themselves but others.
    It fills me with sadness to know that sooner or later, I will have to leave- but if I can find a neighbourhood even remotely close to where I live now, I will be a happy woman.

  12. So if I read this correctly, the retirees were there first, and the preschoolers have just started to come. Why can’t the preschoolers change their schedule, if it’s such a hazard?

  13. Heard about this on the Neal Boortz show a week or so ago and thought of you. It’s really amazing that it has gotten to this! As a parent, if I were concerned about anything, I’d be more concerned with how the school is getting my children to the library to begin with.

  14. how much contact will there be between these two group anyway? Is the meeting place so small that the toddlers must play in the middle of the old people’s meeting?

  15. Charles – that’s what I was wondering. If the space is so small that the preschoolers would be literally getting underfoot, bumping tables and such, I could see the need to stagger the meeting times between the preschoolers & the retiree group. But not allowing the two groups to be in the library at the same time because a kid MIGHT bump into a retiree or a table and MIGHT get hot coffee spilled on him/her? What are these kids, a bunch of ill-mannered, misbehaving mini-Vikings? That’s just too much.

    Besides, I don’t know what temp they’re keeping that coffee at, but I had hot drinks spilled on me when I was a kid and made the mistake of running up to an adult and jumping on them for a hug or something like that, and while it certainly hurt, I don’t recall ever needing anything more than a cold pack or ice to deal with the injury. And it taught me pretty quick that it was a bad idea to surprise anyone with a drink in their hands.

  16. Quite frankly, I believe the English are losing the plot at a faster rate than the rest of us. My husband is English and we get BBC and the London Times and let me tell you there is PLENTY of this stuff going on in ‘Ol Blighty.

    Everytime I visit the inlaws I am utterly amazed at the number of warning signs pasted EVERYWHERE. I feel sorry for the pensioners and the kiddies as the assumption is that both groups are stupid and helpless – the adults can’t drink tea and the kids don’t know that it is hot.

  17. Charles, I was thinking about that too. Maybe it is a really tiny library?

  18. PottyMouthMommy, any chance you’d be willing to supply the corrdinates of this base for the map and let me use your description, or is it classified? You can send me an email (address listed in map description)

  19. How sad that this people (old and young) will not be allowed to share the space. They should be actively looking for opportunities to bring these two groups together – not reasons to keep them apart. Sad and stupid all at the same time.

  20. There’s one sentence in there that seems to reveal the actual problem is the library doesn’t want to wash up coffee cups and invented an excuse to get rid of the retirees.

    This may just be a case of a passive-aggressive librarian who decided the toddlers would be the scapegoats.

  21. Our localest library is only one big room. The kids and teens section is one one side and everything else is the other, and they’ve tried to divide the two areas with bookcases, but it’s definitely possible to get from one side to the other fast, lots of opportunity for intermingling, so I don’t think the situation described here is *so* small.

    (I don’t use that library, preferring the bigger one that has a public bathroom. Funny thing – I like bathrooms when travelling with small children!)

  22. Finally Logan’s Run has arrived.

  23. @ Anna We are raising 3 daughters (9, 6.5 & 4) in a free-range neighborhood where kids walk to school and play unsupervised in playgrounds and routinely ride bikes (often with two passengers) and sans the helmets their parents couldn’t afford.

    But not many white, culturally-upper-middle-class families actually choose to homestead in a traditionally African American neighborhood (unless they are part of a gentrification process.)

    I am fully aware of the downside to the under-parenting that can go on here, but I am experiencing the odd upside for a free-ranger by choice rather than necessity. I have no fear that CPS would come a-knocking if

    a. my kids were home alone
    b. my kids walked down the block or
    c. sat in the car while I ran into the local post office.

    And the neighbors know who my kids are.

  24. Are they outlawing all the McDonalds, Starbucks and other hazardous locations in this town as well? Seriously?? Unbelievable!


  25. Alison, I agree with you completely. The most affluent neighborhood is not necessarily the most kid-friendly one. In fact the opposite is often the case.

    The neighborhood I used to live in back in North Carolina was pretty low income. In the three years we lived there, we saw several domestic disputes and one meth lab fire. But every day the kids would gather by the dirty creek or the trash stewn forest and invent great games. They were also in and out of each others’ houses all the time.

    Then I finished grad school, got a well-paying job and we moved to a posh apartment complex in Arlington, VA. There were apparently quite a few families with kids living there, but you never saw any of them outside. My daughter was 4 at the time. On Halloween, I took her trick-or-treating and we caught up with a group of boys between 7 and 12 years old, out on their own. After surveying the meager loot from knocking on the “rich people’s” doors, the boys decided to head back to their own, much shabbier, apartment complex, and my daughter wanted to tag along. I followed behind, careful not to intrude. It was about half a mile away, across several busy streets, which the boys navigated expertly. And boy was there a lot of candy in our bags when we got back!

    My choice to live in my current neighborhood has raised a few eyebrows from friends and even resulted in one big row with my mother. It is not nearly as bad as our place in North Carolina, and it belongs to a very good school district, but it is very mixed in both income and race. But after looking at a lot of different options, some of them much more expensive, we knew it was the place for us.

    Alison, not to sound like a broken record, but is there any chance you could give me the coordinates of your neighborhood to put on the map? And if not, why not?

  26. I will take my overprotective American brethren anyday compared to the insanity emaniting from good ol’ England!

  27. Wait, wait, they’re allowing preschoolers to meet in a library? Aren’t they worried about what could happen if books fell on them? Good heavens, those reckless Britons!

  28. I’m glad this has been mentioned. I was just drinking coffee about 20 feet from where my children were playing. How thoughtless of me! I could have stumbled all the way across the kitchen and into the living room, spilling my coffee right onto them!

    I immediately poured it down the drain, and then did about twenty Hail Mrs. Olsons.

  29. Wow this is just mind boggling.

  30. Missing a perfectly good chance to mingle the generations. Sad.

  31. Wow, no wonder our generations are so disconnected. It’s sad that these kids are losing out on an opportunity to see their elders as real members of society, socializing in the library, instead of ostracized as no longer relevant to society. This is terrible – not only are we denying our kids freedoms because they might hurt themselves, we are now extending our same paranoia to the elderly because they might hurt our children. Give me a break.
    Wonderful blog, Lenore – you inspired me to write a post of my own about kids’ freedom: http://broadbrains.blogspot.com/2009/09/are-your-kids-cage-free.html
    Thank you!

  32. Any entrepreneurs or politician in that town think to print their logo on some no-spill travel cups and donating them to the oldsters? Or how about sippy cups–“Mom! Grampa keeps taking my sippy!”

    BTW, my babies’ onesies and our strollers are covered with coffee stains–mostly from the little geysers that shoot out the little opening in the plastic top of the cup when we hit a rumblestrip at full gallop. Our mall has slate tile floors–truly life-threatening!

    Starbucks now has little green swizzles to stick in the opening so CPS can get off my case now.

  33. “However, we understand that is not the case at all, because we have always finished our drinks before the children even arrive, and that it is the case that the librarian doesn’t want to wash up extra cups.”

    So they don’t bring their own cups? They use cups at the library and make the librarians wash them?

  34. Wow. Just wow. When will people get off their high horses and realize that we should not be a child centered society, and should not be so overly obsessed with protecting them from possible (though not probably I suppose) dangers. I don’t suppose any one of the parents of those rogue coffee attacking toddlers could be bothered to keep an eye on their child so they didn’t go around attacking folks for their hot beverages.

    (yes that was an attempt at injecting some humor into the whackadoo story… hopefully it wasn’t a failed attempt)

  35. OK, call me bitter, twisted and cynical, but I’m inclined to guess that someone wanted the old people’s coffee morning out of the library and is using the children as an excuse.

  36. Well, if these old people would just stop tossing their coffee around the library and just drink it, maybe there wouldn’t be a problem! Seriously…what is WRONG with seniors today??

    (in case it’s needed, that was TOTALLY sarcasm. I think this is completely dumb)

  37. I’m increasingly convinced that the UK is nearly beyond the point of no return.

    Churchill wouldn’t recognize the place. Oh, I forgot. Their schools, like ours, don’t teach real history anymore, so no one under 50 would know who he was.

  38. […] Outrage of the Week: Pre-Schoolers In, Geezers Out Hi Readers — What’s the story today? Simply this: After four years of gathering every week  at the local […] […]

  39. Funny, our local library has coffee out daily on a rubbermaid-like cart. They put it near the mags/papers, and it has a big sign on it that says it’s for adults only. It MIGHT say something about it being hot coffee… what about those poor children who can’t read yet?! Hey, maybe their parents could actually pay attention to what they’re doing…

  40. I don’t see why this is an issue. Even in my very tiny library there are seperate areas for adults and kids. It should be the teacher’s responsibility to keep the kids in the kids area. But how neat would it have been if the pre-school had asked the seniors to take 10 minutes and read a book to the class or to show the kids their favorite kids books. Yep, this was totally a wasted oppportunity. And I also agree that we need to stop being so darn kid centric. Kids are not the end all and be all, the rest of society deserves a chance to have a life too.

  41. Those must be some pretty rowdy preschoolers.

  42. @ Anna

    Alison, not to sound like a broken record, but is there any chance you could give me the coordinates of your neighborhood to put on the map? And if not, why not?

    um… because I am not sure how. But the zip code is 77020. Our corner of the ‘hood is around a big green space called Finnegan Park.

  43. Thank you very much Alison. One way to contribute to the map is to email me. I have just created a separate account for it: kidfriendly@live.com. I put your neighborhood on the map, with the score of 4/5 and a few words copied from your description, but please add more information if you can.

  44. I’m thinking this group of preschoolers should not be able to oust a group that has already been using the space. Couldn’t the preschoolers come 1/2 hour earlier?

    Here’s another case of “My child is the center of the universe, and you must bow to his/her will as I do.”

  45. If this kind of thing keeps up, by the time my kids are out of diapers… well, I can’t even imagine. Maybe I’ll home school them – not to keep them “safe” from all the imaginary dangers that we keep hearing about, but from the crazy people who are making all these asinine new rules!!!

  46. Besides, one of those seniors could be a predator! You can never be too careful! Why are those parents letting their children out of the house anyway!

  47. I find it amusing that this is a hazard at all. When I was a children’s librarian I would sometimes get the urn out and let the parents get themselves a tea or a coffee while storytime was on. Somehow all the parents managed not to throw the coffee on the children.
    Actually, sometimes I would let the kids have hot chocolate (although, for the younger ones this was really luke-warm chocolate).

  48. Wow, I had no idea of how dangerous this situation is. I stop by the home of Alison Fairfield, her husband and her three kids every Saturday morning (just about the time the coffee is ready) and frequently get handed my morning brew over the head of one or several of the kids underfoot. Not only hot, but in a ceramic cup. So far, we haven’t dropped or spilled a cup on any of the kids yet.

  49. Umm, ok, yes, outrageous… But you quoted from the Daily Mail… The Daily Mail actually makes up about 60% of its stories, and it really cannot be trusted. I have looked but can’t find any other sources on this… Are we sure it happened?

  50. After they oust the older people, they should probably dump all the books, too. The preschoolers may eat those leaded pages!

  51. Is this the same England the survived the German Blitzkrieg? How disgusted the great grandparents of these toddlers would be.

  52. My take is that this is probably not about hot coffee being a danger to children. That it is just a clever manufactured excuse to get the old folks away from the kids. Why do that?

    1.A couple of those geezers might be predators because they hang out alot in the restroom (it’s called an enlarged prostate, folks).

    2.Teacher doesn’t want to have to supervise the children to keep them from bothering the oldsters who might complain, but probably won’t.

    3. We are such a child centered culture that anything else comes in a distant 2nd. How dare my child not be the most important being in the building.

    4. Prejudice toward the elderly. Seeing old, wrinkly people might be upsetting to the teacher, whoops, I mean the children.

    I don’t know what is going on here, but I really don’t think it is about hot coffee.

  53. Is this the same England the survived the German Blitzkrieg?

    They did it largely by drinking hot tea. And dumping it on German planes. See? They’re a tool of war!

  54. Not sure whether to laugh or cry.

  55. Maybe this is something they didn’t think of, but if this is such a worrying thing, then why not reschedule so they’re not there at the same time? I’m sure the elderly wouldn’t mind doing that if it means they get to keep their meeting…

  56. oh for god’s sake. at MY child’s preschool, they DRINK hot coffee and they pour it themselves.

  57. Hi, I realise that this is a very old post, but PLEASE don’t take health and safety articles from the daily mail at face value (as Lucy above said). They’re about as factually accurate as the national enquirer and probably less so when it comes to health and safety.

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