On Thursday, I made my triumphant return to storytime at the library.
There was no parade, no confetti, no shouts of “You Go Girl!!”. But there should have been.
It was the first activity that Lewis and I had ever done together. Yes, we’ve been to the supermarket, Target, and many other shopping adventures. But never an actual “activity”. Never something just for him. And for me.
It wasn’t always like this. When Gerry was a baby, we did everything. We did all those gymnastics classes, music classes, and puppet shows. I’d take him to the park to play and we’d stay all morning. And we went to story time at our local library before he was old enough to walk. Gerry would stay close to me, right in my lap, and while the other kids got up to explore, he always stayed put until the librarian was finished. We’d spend hours at the library, sitting at the table, reading books, choosing our favorites and taking them home.
When Howie was a baby, we tried all those things again. Before Howie was old enough for his own story time, I’d try to take Gerry to different activities at the library so he wasn’t missing out. We had just moved to town and I thought it was a good way to meet other kids and parents. Inevitably, I’d spend the whole time in the hallway with Howie. He was either screaming, crying, or running away. Following close behind would be Gerry, because he didn’t want to be in there alone. After several attempts, we just stopped going. I tried a few times when Howie was older (with baby Lewis in tow) and he still couldn’t sit there…for anything. It was embarrassing. I felt like the only one there chasing after her kid, covering his ears so the music wasn’t so loud or pulling him away from the crayons because it wasn’t craft time yet. So after getting yelled at by the librarian for signing up for events and not showing up, we stopped even trying.
When Lewis was finally old enough for his own story time, I was a bit reluctant. Ok, VERY reluctant. Once bitten, twice shy. I thought it was better for us to just do our own thing. I can read to him. I can color with him. I didn’t want to go through the same embarrassment again.
But both my pediatrician and speech therapist told me Lewis needed be around kids his own age. He needed to hear other 2 year olds talking and he needed to learn how to play and interact with them. My friend has a 2 1/2 yr old, so we started searching around for activities that we could try – gymnastics, music classes – to get ourselves back out there. I turned them all down. It cost too much, it was 25 minutes away, the time of day was bad. But really, I was just too afraid.
Then, the flyer for story time at the library came home. A time just for 18 month olds – 3 yr olds. Free. Five minutes away. 10:45am.
It was like the library wrote the flyer just for us. So my friend and I signed up. Thursday was the first class.
I’d like to say it all went smoothly. That Lewis sat in my lap and listened to the story and danced to the music and did the craft. He didn’t. The crayons were out when we first got there and all he wanted to do was color. Of course, that was last on the agenda, and I had to keep pulling him away from the craft table. He stood on my lap during the first story, left the room during the second one, and refused to give up his bean bag during the “pass the bean bag” game.
But you know what? I didn’t care.
This time, I didn’t care what the librarian or the other parents thought. We did our best to conform with the story time flow, but if we couldn’t, we didn’t. When he screamed because he couldn’t color, I gave him his pacifier. When he couldn’t sit, I let him stand, and when he couldn’t stand anymore, we left the room until he could come back again. I didn’t force him to give up his bean bag for the game. And looking around at the other kids? They weren’t playing by the “rules” either.
When it was time to color, Lewis sat very nicely at the table. He picked out the green crayon to match his shirt, and colored his little cut out person with scribbles and dots. And when he was done, we were done. I didn’t wait for some goodbye cue from the librarian. I followed my own kid’s cues. We left the library with my friend and her son. No meltdowns. No tantrums. No screaming and yelling. Lewis held my hand as we walked down the path to our car and we went home. Just like that.
To say that my kids are different would be ridiculous and obvious. Of course they are different – every kid is. They have different strengths and challenges. Howie is very articulate, yet struggles with sensory overload, auditory processing and behavior control. Lewis is the opposite. Certain activities will work for one child and won’t work for another. There’s nothing wrong or shameful about that.
What I have to remember is that I am different now too. I am a different parent than I was four years ago or even two years ago. I understand my kids’ limits better and when it’s ok to push them and when it’s ok to pull back. I am more focused on their needs and not conforming to what the librarian wants or thinks. I attempt to work with in the parameters of the activity, and if my kids can’t do it, we leave and return when and if we can. I’m not going to make the experience miserable for my child, the librarian or the other families in the room.
No more embarrassment, no more shame. It’s not worth it. Because the alternative is to never leave the house. That can’t be an option.
So when the next Thursday story time comes around, we’ll be there again. I’m actually looking forward to it this time.
“You remind me I live in a shell
safe from the past, and doing’ okay
but not very well
No jolts, no surprises
No crisis arises
My life goes along as it should
It’s all very nice but not very good
And I’m ready to take
a chance again” – Ready to Take a Chance Again by Barry Manilow