Joseph and I just got home from “Fun with One” story time at the library. It would rank high on the list of Stuff White People Like.
I felt like I was back in middle school, the new girl awkwardly trying to find the right room and blend in with the right people, all while everyone else already has friends because they all went to elementary school together.
We arrived at the library precisely at 10 a.m. (Those familiar with our usual morning routine should be super impressed, as we’re usually not showered until early afternoon.) We milled about the kids’ area to kill time, and at 10:12, we headed to the main atrium/reading room in the kids’ area.
No one was there.
Did I read the wrong time? Was reading hour canceled this week? 10:15 came and went. Still no other kids. No parents. No teacher.
I scooped up Joseph and sheepishly asked the overseers of the kids’ area, “Ummm, is there a story time today?” They both looked at me, half with sympathy and half with condescending librarian eyes, and said it was held on the other side of the library in the main conference room, obviously. The female librarian glanced at the clock and surmised that we could still make it, if we hustled, of course.
It was like being late for homeroom all over again.
After navigating the library with my curious 1.5-year-old in tow, we stood in front of the french doors to Conference Room 1. I took a deep breath and opened the door. Wrong one. Locked. Now everyone knew there was someone late, someone who was loudly attempting to break in. I clumsily tried the other door. Success. Whew.
My eyes fell on a giant circle of 30-something moms (and a few progressive dads, including a red-headed guy donning a shirt that boasted, RELIGIOUS LEFT), sitting cross-legged with babes perched on their laps. They were singing about washing faces in the morning or something. At least 50 people, each with their mini-me babies, singed and swayed.
I spotted an open space in the ring and joined with Joseph on my lap, cheeks warm with that all-eyes-on-you feeling. Was it because we were late, or because Joseph was the only dark-skinned kid? Was I just being paranoid? I bumbled through the ultra-cheesy verses about basic hygiene and Joseph kept looking at everyone and then glancing back at me. Really mom? Really?
My neighbor to the right sensed my trepidation (intimidation?).
"Hello. Your first time here?" An English accent whispered. Oooh, cool. I thought. She’s so Masterpiece Theater! I came back with a really talkative answer. “Yep.”
She asked me what my son’s name was, to which I replied with another lengthy answer: “Joseph.” What was wrong with me? Why was I being so awkward?!
"This is Elizabeth, and I’m Sarah.” Oooh, fail. She wanted to know my name. That was the moment I realized “Fun with One” might really be geared toward mommies interested in finding a friend. I went along with it and told her it was nice to meet her.
"How old is he?" She asked as Joseph clung to my lap, giving me confused looks as the tots were told to practice opening their mouths. (What?) "Oh, he’s about 19 months," I answered. "Wow! I thought he was 2 and a half!" She retorted. Yes, lady, I know my kid is big. Thank you for pointing out yet another reason we don’t fit in here, I thought to myself. Wait…story time was for kids 18-24 months…was she alluding that my kid was too big to be here? Oh no you didn’t! I smiled and nodded, trying to master the weird actions to go along with the song the chubby, over-enthusiastic librarian was now leading.
Activities changed approximately every 2.5 seconds (How amazing that we diagnose so many kids with ADHD!) and Joseph was skeptical about them all. He even made attempted a quick escape to the door, and I was tempted to run right out with him, picking up my purse after story hour was over.
We settled back into our spot and I feigned interest in the adventures of Maisy. We chased bubbles. We did a strange dance with scarves. We played with a felt board. (And read only one book?)
Joseph had brief moments of joy, but when story time came to a close and we began “structured free play” Joseph quickly grabbed his jacket, announced “Coooat!” and proceeded to attempt to put it on. As I helped him, I chatted a bit more with my English frenemy, and Joseph bolted for the door.
"See you next week?" She asked politely.
I think we both knew the answer.