I decided to take Monkey to the local public library for its story time last week. I thought this would be a good idea because my neighbor has been taking her daughter to story time for several months, and my neighbor’s daughter is only 5 months older than Monkey.
My first inclination of impending danger was when I noticed that all of the other 20 or so children entered the room and quickly took seats on the floor in front of the librarian who was preparing to read a STACK of books about camping.
The children all looked happy and excited, waiting expectantly for the librarian to begin reading her stories. The mothers (and one father) were all sitting in the molded plastic chairs behind the semi circle of children.
They all looked so orderly, I thought. And mannered. Meanwhile, Monkey was trying to squeeze through the molded plastic chairs. “One of these things is not like the others …” started to run through my head.
The parents did not look the least bit concerned that their children might not want to sit, or might misbehave, or in some other way cause trouble. Some of them had brought other reading material. Clearly, they were not concerned.
I gave the room another glance and looked more closely at the eager children. Interesting. Only two other kids looked like they were close to Monkey’s age, and by close, I mean were at least 2-3 months older. Most of the kids looked to be 3, 4 and 5. I had a sinking feeling.
As soon as the librarian started to read the first of what looked to be about 500 books, I grabbed Monkey and sat her back down on my lap.
This lasted for .2 seconds. Immediately she started trying to squeeze through two plastic chairs directly in front of us where a nice looking four-year-old girl sat with her younger brother.
The thing with kids this age is that they have major stranger danger. So when someone approaches Monkey and acts as if they know her, she freaks out. Crying, shrieking, pants-grabbing ensues. Especially if they try to pick her up. BUT, if said person were to completely ignore Monkey, then she proceeds to inspect that person carefully and with the diligence of an SVU detective.
Monkey stared at the girl. She wedged herself between two plastic chairs and the younger brother. I was starting to get a headache. The girl tried to ignore Monkey. Monkey continued to try to pull herself through the chairs. I glanced at the mom. She didn’t look very friendly. I was starting to get nervous. I yanked Monkey back and sat her on my lap. She squealed. Damnit. I let her go. I didn’t need her having a meltdown five sentences into the first story. In the meantime the girl had climbed into her mother’s lap and in a hushed voice was asking her mother why this dumb baby was staring at her (or something to that extent). I couldn’t hear the mother’s response, but I’m sure it was something like “Because some children are too young for story time and their parents are too stupid to take them out of the room.”
I was starting to feel mortified.
By this time Monkey had moved on to the first row of seated children. She crouched down and stared at another nice looking girl who was listening intently to the librarian (BTW, have you ever noticed that librarians are the BEST storytellers in the world?? Where do they learn to do that?). The girl seemed not to notice Monkey and the staring contest.
Monkey was now out of my arm’s length grasp and I sat there contemplating my next move. Should I get up and grab her and haul her back, risking screaming and crying that would disrupt the entire room, or should I let her continue to stare at this child as if she were a 40-year-old man watching his favorite football team (you know the look). I let her stare.
Monkey moved on and crouched down in front of another girl. This girl appeared annoyed that Monkey was right in front of her face and kept moving her head from side to side trying to see around Monkey.
I surveyed the mothers again and noticed that one was cracking up. Huge, silent body shakes of laughter and tears rolling down her face at what was transpiring. Okay, I wasn’t as mortified, but still. Embarrassing! I grabbed Monkey from in front of the annoyed girl and sat down on the floor with her between my legs.
Monkey got up. She walked straight up to the librarian and stood in front of her, curiously inspecting the book. Then she turned around, facing all of the kids and the parents. OMG. Does this girl not feel conspicuous??? Where are her inhibitions??
Thankfully she moved on to her next victim. This time, not only did she crouch down in front of a girl, but she started petting her hair. Okay, seriously? There can be no touching. I was pretty sure the parents were going to start an uprising.
I grabbed Monkey again and sat back down on my plastic chair. Monkey got up and stood in front of the librarian again. This time the librarian looked at Monkey and sweetly asked, “Can you sit down?” Monkey stared back at her. I wanted to crawl in a hole. This was not going according to plan. How in the world could my neighbor having been bringing her toddler to story time for months? Did she sedate her??
A mom next to me whispered, “Doesn’t she know one-year-olds don’t sit?” and smiled. Whew.
I decided that I wasn’t going to overstretch the obvious charity these women were extending me by continuing to subject their children to stare-down contests and hair petting. I grabbed Monkey and we spent the remainder of story time in the children’s section of the library. Total time in the story room — 18 minutes.
After all the stories were read, the librarian came out and asked if we wanted to make the craft. I looked at Monkey who was being chased by another girl who looked to be about 16 months. Of course now you’re not interested as soon as someone WANTS to pay attention to you.
The craft consisted of me gluing pre-cut paper pine trees and a tent onto a piece of white paper with Monkey trying valiantly to color her arm and eat the marker while I tried to direct the weapon onto the paper. As soon as Monkey started to scream we left. So much for story time.
P.S. After I got back from story time, I got a message from my neighbor about setting up a play date for our girls. She said, “We tried library time for a while, but she just won’t sit still long enough. “ OMG. Well at least it’s not just me.