I’ve been meaning to write about the new Barnes and Noble in our neighborhood for awhile now. We used to have 2 B&N stores – the big one on 86th between 2nd and 3rd and a little one on Lex bewteen 86th and 87th. I know it’s weird to have 2 so close together but it worked for years. The big one was right around the corner from us and a favorite playtime spot for rainy or cold days.
Both of those stores closed recently to make room for the new GIGANTIC Barnes and Noble right at 86th and Lex. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love Barnes and Noble. The husband worked there for awhile when he lost his job in the dotcom bust and I have several friends who worked/work there. I even know 2 (now married) couples who met while working there. They treat their employees fairly well – benefits, vacation days, etc.
I also know that B&N is NOT a playground. But for us here in the city it certainly doubles as one, and believe me I pay for it in the form of multitudes of books, puzzles, and Thomas the Tank Engine toys.
Anyway, what I’m getting to is that there are pluses and minuses to the new store and it was definitely not set up to be inviting to families. I don’t think this was intentional, it just is.
First of all, the whole store, which is gorgeous by the way, is underground. Only the entrance in on street level. To get to the kids section you have to take one elevator down, walk across the entire store, take another elevator down and then walk across the entire store once again. There is no cell service down there. These are all minor annoyances, but annoying none the less.
My major problems with the new B&N are the Thomas the Tank Engine play setups. They have 2 Thomas sets with tracks and sheds and water towers and tunnels and bridges. They are awesome. They have plenty of trains and trucks and cars. Brady ADORES playing with them. All the kids adore playing with them. So much so that it incites violence among them.
Kids of all ages from about 10 months up to about 6 or 7 love to play with the trains. Unfortunately, 4 and 5 year olds don’t play so well with 1 and 2 year olds. All the kids want a train of their own and some kids want a train with lots of cars, even all the cars. And when one kid makes a train with all the cars, all the other kids get angry.
And of course not all kids are nice or well behaved or have good manners and not all parents/sitters are watching them as they play. Aside from having to rip Brady away from the tables by force each time we go there, I also have to contend with his interactions with the other kids. For some reason, these tables seem to bring out the worst in kids. This doesn’t happen in the sandbox, why does it happen here?
Maybe it’s just one incident that has turned me off to the Thomas tables, but it was a biggee in my eyes. A little boy (who repeatedly reminded everyone that he was 4 and half years old and in my mind too old for this behavior) got angry at Brady for taking one of his (many, many, many) cars and proceeded to hit Brady in the face with two trains. Brady dropped his trains and sort of slapped back at the boy. I broke them up, told them both that hitting is never allowed, and didn’t let Brady near the boy again. This boy’s mother looked up for 2 seconds to give a half-hearted “don’t do that.”
Other parents/sitters also had to intervene with this boy and he ended up playing alone while all the other kids played together. Brady talked about this for weeks “the boy, the boy, the boy, the trains, and kooka (head hit) the Brady and ouch.” It was really pretty sad.
I understand that this is part of parenting, part of life. We all have to deal with people who are less than our favorites on a daily basis. I think it’s a bit tougher as a parent because you’re watching this happen to your child and because you’re trying to teach your child good behavior while they watch bad behavior. Gee, I can’t wait for the school years.
So my final word on the new B&N is – amazing store, beautiful, has everything, awesome space to read and work, helpful staff – but avoid those Thomas tables, I’m telling you, it’s not worth it.