I realized this as we sat in the PACKED room at our beloved Homewood Public Library. It was the first day of summer, and the children were happily singing about running through the sprinkler and catching fireflies. We have celebrated every season and holiday in this room, and read about many topics including arctic animals, gardening, trucks, even pizza. It is a sweet time each week to sit in that little room with other parents and kids, turn my phone on silent, and just appreciate the simplicity of how the world looks to a child. My kids have grown up at the library, and we've done Storytime since they were each around 6 months old.
It was a happy day when I came out of my new mommy haze and first decided to bring my infant son to the library. I struggled in the first months postpartum, especially giving birth in the winter, and we spent way too much time alone and indoors. It felt good to get out, but I worried that he might scream, that he would be too young to enjoy it, or that it might be uncomfortable nursing there if he needed to eat. I was pleasantly surprised and relieved. The library seemed to have a calming effect on my baby, and he would often enter the quiet alert state that is ideal for learning and bonding. When he fussed, I was in the right place to meet his needs as the environment of the children’s area is set up for families. There was comfy seating situated all around the children’s area for socializing with other parents and children, or spots to quietly nurse if he became tired or hungry. There was an ample collection of wooden puzzles and simple, non battery operated toys such as puppets, blocks and a play kitchen to inspire imaginative play and dialogue with parent and child. There were other children for him to interact with, and lots of board books and other media for us to check out. And I made sure to get something for myself too. I liked having a fresh stack of books and dvds for myself for those hours spent nursing or the rare but precious opportunities I could sneak away for some time to myself. Those books were a reminder to nurture my own mind and interests too.
We found a schedule of weekly programs and posted it on our fridge. We looked forward to Storytime each week, teddy bear picnics in the park, art class, and more. I learned a ton while attending these programs with my son, and later with my daughter. The librarians do so much more than read a few books and sing songs. They show you how to read in a silly, fun way. They choose the right books for the age of the children, and expand the reading experience through movement and music. There is more to early literacy than learning the alphabet and letter recognition, and these programs teach you how to engage your child in developmentally appropriate ways that are fun and memorable. Some of the songs we've learned have been sung in our home for years now. I look forward to teaching them to my grandchildren someday.
There is a lot to be said for these gathering spots in our community. These places are easy to access for anyone, they are free, and appeal to all ages. A trip to the library is a simple outing that yields the opportunity to connect with your child but also with your neighbors. The library has been a place where we meet friends, and flock to when we need to get out of the house. Even on “those days” when everyone is cranky, the day can be redeemed by stopping by the library to diffuse. Sharing spaces with other families of small children helps to normalize this season of life. We are all on this ride through the beautiful and mundane, the gut wrenching and joyful experience of parenting. Realizing that other people’s kids whine like that, and other moms look tired or bored too, and other kids throw a fit when it’s time to leave just like mine. .. Yep, we’re doing ok. Right on track;)
After next year, I will miss having a little one on my lap for Storytime. But we’ll still be making regular trips to our library because it will remain a favorite pastime.