I have probably sat through a thousand library story times. My youngest child is now old enough to sit still for the full 30 minutes, and he’s captivated by the librarian’s voice and the colorful pages.
I’ve had my years of chaotic library visits, though. My oldest son hated stroller rides, so we arrived with both of us (almost) in tears until I unbuckled him from his seat and rocked him for the entire story time. A couple years later I gently pushed my second baby back and forth in the stroller while my oldest enjoyed the puppet shows and songs.
During the potty training phases, I balanced library books on top of the paper towel dispenser in the public bathroom, helping one child wash his hands while trying to keep another child away from the toilet bowls. Short tempers, bathroom accidents, whining for snacks, tears streaming down someone’s face—I’ve lived through it all!
In the eight years since becoming a mother, I would visit my local library after each one of our moves, find out their schedule of children’s programs, and attend religiously. I did this for a number of reasons.
One, I loved introducing my kids to new books, and I wanted them to love reading as much as I do. There’s a whole world of adventures and characters, and I still love reading to my children on the couch every day.
Two, I needed to get out of the house on a regular basis! For years we lived in tiny apartments that felt even smaller during the snowy winter months.
Three, I craved adult connection. I am a stay-at-home mom who lives far from extended family, and the hours of listening to cartoons and requests and bickering really wore me out as a young mother.
Even in a room full of moms and babies I don’t know, I feel less alone while at the library. Without even making small talk with the women next to me, I know we are all doing the best we can.
I recognize the headstrong kids wearing mismatched outfits because their moms picked their battles that day. I hear the tantrums, the sobs, and the frequent requests to get a drink and use the potty. I see the baggy eyes and bulging diaper bags of the new moms who want to be prepared for everything. I see the friends who meet up to chat while their kids play. Everyone has a unique story and a different approach to parenthood, and yet we understand each other.
It’s a wonderful feeling to find a tribe in such an unlikely place. Sure, I love libraries because of free books and quiet corners to sit and read, but the kids’ story time group is one of my favorite communities—I am anonymous and just like everyone else at the same time.
When a baby doesn’t want to sit still, other women nod in understanding while that mom follows her crawling cutie around the room. When a few toddlers forget what it means to “sit on their pockets” in the front row, there is zero judgment from the other parents and grandparents in the audience. Sometimes it’s a success to have even made it to the story rug at all.
As I sat in the story room recently with 20 parents and 30 toddlers, feeling the chaos and reveling in children running, crying, whispering, sitting, and playing with the curtains, I appreciated the entire experience. If you have stayed away because you think your level of chaos is “too much” for public places, you can sit by us.
Are you a tired mom who is worried her kids aren’t well-behaved enough for another book? Are you a grandma doting on your grandkids for the day? Are you a dad giving your wife and newborn time for a nap at home? There’s room for you here. We’ve all been there, hanging by a thread. You’re doing great. Keep coming. You belong.
QUESTION: Have you been to your local library? Have you been to a story time or other program?
CHALLENGE: Do you avoid going places or being in situations because you worry your kids are “too much?” Challenge those negative thoughts and take a new outing this month. Check out your library’s calendar of events and choose one to attend. They often have events for all ages and are free!
Edited by Ashley Dickson and Nollie Haws.
Image provided by the author.