Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Library: A Distant Goal

I was a teacher before I was a mom. I know the joys of reading. I embrace the joys of literacy. I know the energy and spirit in a bookstore and a library, and I cannot think of a more fulfilling way to spend an afternoon.

I had big plans for my role as a mother and our relationship with the paradise of free books. I was going to be the mom who had a date at the library every week. My children and I would know all the librarians by name, my kids would have their own library cards when they were only months old, and it would be their favorite outing of the week. I had such big plans for their familiarity with books, their joy for reading, their exposure to all things literary. We would stroll up and down the racks, and they would gently and peacefully tell me their book choices, with great obedience, gratitude, and tenderness in their hearts. And most of all, my kids were going to display exemplary behavior during Story Hour.

That was the plan.

And then I actually took them to the library.

What actually happened did not fall anywhere close to my grand delusions. The library is indeed enticing to them, but that's because they want to burst forth from the stroller and run to the far corners of the bean bag chairs. They do not wish to be contained. They want to pick out the books they want... or rather, they want to pick them off the shelves and abandon them for some patient librarian to reshelve. They are loud. They are whiny. They want to quit before we start, but when it's time to go, they don't want to leave.

And don't even get me started on Story Hour. Sure, we found success a few times when Tuck was teeny tiny. Like, before he could crawl. But once there was any option for mobility, he had no desire to sit in my lap to hear a story, no matter how many fingerplays the librarian performed. The librarian began each Story Hour by saying, "We know that some days are better than others, so if this is one of those other days, feel free to leave the story corner and look at other things in the library." Well, that's all Tucker ever needed to hear.

As soon as he turned a year old, everything in him screamed, This is not your day, Mom. Let's blow this joint.

More than once, I battled and I restrained (both Tucker and myself), and he fussed and complained until we could do this no longer, out of respect for our relationship and everyone else's library experience. We left the story corner, in pursuit of some colorful books to distract him. But when it was time to put him in the stroller, he threw a royal fit, yelling and screaming at me. It was so enjoyable. Such parenting bliss.

And yet we were surrounded by calm parents and obedient children all around us, peacefully enjoying their visit to the library, choosing age appropriate books to occupy bedtimes and naptimes for days to come. My son? Not so much into that routine.

Forgive me for the honesty of this paragraph, but more than once I wanted to shout at them: Screw you! Screw all of you and your lapsitting children!! Screw this whole scene!

But I do not say those things out loud, in public settings. I'm not that girl. (Unless you know me really, really well.)

We haven't yet tried Story Hour with Tyler. Because I'm a smart girl, and I do not choose to enter a hostile situation in which I am outnumbered.

So yesterday, I was delighted to encourage and affirm my friend when she asked me, "Tricia, how can I get my preschoolers to enjoy the library??"

My response: "Oh, we've given that up for a good long while. My children hate the library. It's not fun for them or for me, so we don't go. They love the books I bring home, but they hate the process of choosing them. This month's issue of Parent's magazine affirmed my decision. The article said that if your children are too young to choose their own books, then simply go on your own and choose for them. Well, my kids aren't too young for the choice, but they are too loud for the privilege. We'll try it again in a few years."

In the meantime, I'll keep reading to them - a lot. Everyday. And I will tell them stories of a fantasy land, in a far away village called Library, where there are more books than they can dare to imagine. And someday, when they are big and strong and quiet and patient and ready, we will visit there. But for now, that will be Mommy's magical place to run away to.

Since nobody else in my family wants to go anyway.


my3boys said...

"I wanted to shout at them: Screw you! Screw all of you and your lapsitting children!! Screw this whole scene!"

I have never before typed this, but right now it is most appropriate: ROFL!!!

p.s. I have found that the year when they are 3 turning to 4 (Tucker is almost there!) is a good year for the library. Maybe you can try shorter trips like just books or just storytime, but not both on the same day. Just an idea...every kid is different.

Tricia said...

That's a GREAT tip, Dana. Thank you.

And i am so happy to make you laugh... :o)

thekeller4 said...

Perhaps we should go to storytime with you so you don't feel like you're the only parent with "unruly" children. :)