When Finn was a wee, wee babe, we went to library storytime all the time. I always recommend it to any new moms I meet. It is a short, free, educational activity — what could be better? Sometimes, Finn and I would go to three or four storytimes a week, and I really think that can be a great way to meet other moms. When you go all the time, to the libraries all over town, you start to recognize the babies and moms who show up often. This is actually how I met my first really awesome group of mom-friends, by noticing that half a dozen of us were always at storytime. One week, when the library was taking a break from storytime for the winter holidays, we decided to have our own storytime at someone’s house. That morphed into playdates and suddenly we had friends we could meet at the park and the museum and for lunch … it was one of the best things about staying home with my boy when he was so little.
Flash forward a bit, however, and now storytime is problemtime. Once we went to a storytime that was too slow, so Finn left the room. I found him in the children’s section of the library, pulling his own books off the shelf and paging through them. Two other small children followed him. I felt bad for the librarian we had left behind. When we graduated to “toddler time,” things went seriously downhill. He always wanted to stand next to the book and the librarian always wanted him to sit in my lap. Even with silly songs and dancing between the books, it was not enough activity for my little guy. After a particularly disastrous storytime where I had to tell him repeatedly to stop exploring the power outlets and the blinds on the windows (both, I guess, more interesting than the book about zoo animals we were supposed to be listening to), we just stopped going. I felt like I was breaking up with a good friend that day.
To tell the truth, I had felt bad about storytime for a long time when we decided to start staying home. I didn’t like seeing all the other children, so well-behaved and patient, staring at my kid who was running around the edge of the room or demanding that I find him a train book to look at. He was loud and busy — why couldn’t he just be like the other kids? The ones who were sitting with their moms and nannies, quietly doing fingerplays with the librarian? We felt so … wrong. So … out of place. I was waiting for someone to take me aside and say, “Honey, you should try the playground, that is probably more your speed.”
I feel like the end of this story should be happier, maybe about how we tried some different libraries until we found a storytime that worked for us. But that is not what happened. Maybe one day I will be able to write about how we are old enough to make it through thirty minutes of sitting down, but I can’t write about that today. My child will not sit down to listen to the librarian and toddling about the room is not longer “cute” enough to be tolerated. I’m afraid I don’t have a happy ending.
But I do have a dream, a daydream about how to create a happy ending. The library will take a break from storytime for the summer soon, and I want to reserve the meeting space where they usually have storytime for a different kind of free activity. It would be called Storytime Disruptors. I would gather together some books, maybe on a theme, and display them on a table. After that, my son and his friends would play something like “Red Light, Green Light” or practice jumping up and down until a half hour was up. We would make storytime for kids who can’t handle storytime, an underground rebel storytime that only appeared when the regularly scheduled activities were on break. It would be free and open to anyone who wanted to practice jumping and leaping and staying out of the lava and spinning and hula-hooping.
Now, you know, I just have to find the time to plan it.