I took my son to story-time at the library today, which is something new for us, and I swear to God, I learn more from him than he ever learns from me when we try something new.
First of all, my kiddo is a master-negotiator. The moment I mentioned going to the library, he began to negotiate his way O U T of having to go.
“Mom,” he began, “There are too many people at the library and we have to wear pants, it’s better to stay home and maybe we can play in the back yard with trucks. Oh, do you think there are trucks in the back yard?”
There he stood, wearing dinosaur undies and an already-stained black t-shirt, trying to trick me into checking for toys in the backyard instead of packing up for our adventure. He didn’t want to go to the library and see new people, he likes it at home where he can do as he pleases. Same, child, same.
“Sweet babe,” I said, “Are you sure you don’t want to go to the library? We’re going to a new part of the library to do circle time! And read a book! And sing songs! Doesn’t that sound fun? Why don’t we try going for a little bit, and if you aren’t having fun we can leave?” Notice how I put it up to him, as if he has the choice? This was perhaps a mistake. He sensed weakness.
“No! No! No!” he screamed, punctuating each “No” with a foot stomp. “I don’t want to go to the library,” he said, and then, as if remembering who he was speaking to, he took a deep, calming breath and exhaled, changed his tone and tilted his head up to look me in the eye. “Mama, you have to be quiet at the library, and you cannot run.”
What an adorable creature I’ve created. This was more than a statement of fact. That brilliant kid was using all the tools and words he had in his repertoire to communicate to me the reason he didn’t want to go to the library: he had some mid-morning energy he wanted to run and scream out, and quiet library rules weren’t going to cut it. But, I knew something my babe did not know, and that was that the library would use a separate room for story time, where little kids would be free to run and sing and dance undisturbed. I persevered by assuring him I understood about his energy needs and promising that this new program at the library would do the trick, or we’d come right home and play with trucks. Then, I stuck a tablet in his hands and out the door we went.
When we got to the library we headed for the story time room, where some other mamas, dadas, and bubbas sat waiting to begin. I pulled up a spot of carpet near enough to the reading action but not too close to anyone else, and patted the ground to get boo to sit. He didn’t sit. Instead, he counted the lily pad squares that littered the floor in front of the story time chair because clearly that’s what they were for. I smiled at the other parents but mostly avoided eye contact, not really knowing what to do. Since this was the story time room, and I wasn’t too sure of the rules, it embarrassed me that my kid was the only one making any noise. Satisfied that he had counted everything in sight, he made his way over to me and asked for a snack.
“Um,” I hesitated. “Actually babe, I’m not sure if we can eat snacks in here. Let’s wait a bit.”
“Here’s a snack!” He announced, pulling a granola bar out of my bag. “Mom, let’s just eat it.”
I looked around and saw a few amused faces just as the story time leader walked in, giving a loud hello to the room. I took the opportunity to open the snack. The leader settled into her chair and explained what was about to happen, looking at the excited children before her. She didn’t even flinch when she saw my kiddo eating his snack, so I took that as a sign that we were in the clear. Story time got underway and my kid mostly ignored everything. He smiled at the song singing for a moment then yelled at the crowd singing along that they needed to shush, since it’s the library. During the reading of the first book (one we’ve read a million times at home), he loudly and confidently recited the words along with the leader, to my embarrassment (again). It was then that I began to realize that he felt much more comfortable being in public than I felt.
After two books and three songs, the story time leader announced that it was time to make an Easter basket craft! I hadn’t known there would be an art activity, so I was pretty excited. We made our way to the arts and crafts table and grabbed a chair. Bubs commandeered the bin of crayons and seized a big, purple stick of glue with which to color. I explained he had grabbed glue and offered a crayon instead. He did a few scribbles and then exclaimed gleefully how much he wanted to play with the glue. Why not, I thought, and we set to gluing his Easter basket craft together. He giggled, I giggled, and then, the Easter bunny burst through the door to greet the children.
I thought my boy would cry, or run screaming in the opposite direction, but cry he did not. Instead, he ran directly up to the Easter bunny and poked him on the nose, like he does to our cats at home. I froze for a moment and thought about if I needed to correct my child’s curiosity, but the Easter bunny simply mimed laughter and allowed my boy to give him a big hug. I must have had the sappiest mom-grin on my face.
We left shortly after the Easter bunny made his appearance, and as we walked to the car I remarked, “Hey buddy, you seemed like you had fun at the library today. It was really brave of you to try something new.”
“You too, mama,” came the surprising reply. “That was a new library for booboo and a new library for mama!”
Wow, I thought. He was right. We both tried something new today; he as a courageous little kid learning what his world is all about, and me as a mom, toting along a loud and head-strong toddler, and trying to relearn what this world is all about. We both tried something new, we both navigated how to be in the moment, and we both settled in and enjoyed the experience. How very brave of us both.