This past week, I took the day off from work on Friday to watch Emmy while her usual caretaker, Baba (grandma), was out of town. I think I can count the number of weekdays Em and I have spent alone together on one hand. Our relationship is very close and strong, but is based mainly on time spent together on weekends and during the evenings. To have a full extra WEEKDAY together was a real opportunity.
In the morning, Em accompanied me to the DMV to take care of some not-so-thrilling car business. I felt guilty spending the first few hours of our special day waiting on line under cold fluorescent lights, surrounded by disgruntled employees, but Em really made the most of it. She swung around and sang songs to the people on line behind us, and she hopped up to the counter and curiously looked at the various machines behind the desk. She made the visit to the DMV more than tolerable, and almost… dare I say… fun?
Right after that, Em and I visited one of the local libraries for a toddler-focused “Romp N’ Read” program. When I read about the program on the library’s website, I pictured a handful of parents and their kids sitting around in a circle, with the adults quietly making small talk while the kids parallel played with their toys and chewed on their board books. I was actually relieved to see a few other moms and children entering the library building at the same time as we were, knowing that this meant we weren’t the ONLY ones showing up for the program.
Little did I know.
The “Romp N’ Read” took place in a ginormous room, and there must have been at least a gazillion kids and parents there. Honestly. A gazillion.
I was shocked.
Luckily, there were also tons of toys to be shared. It was a kind of free-for-all, grab-what-you-can-get, post-apocalyptic playtime that was definitely constantly teetering on the edge of total chaos.
As Em and I found a small spot where we could plant our bodies, I looked around at the sea of other moms and dads. Of course, lots of parents seemed to be quite familiar with the crazy atmosphere and with one another. There were also a few newbies like me. I could tell who they were from the dumbstruck look they had on their faces when they entered the room, and from how grateful they were when other parents engaged them in a little small talk.
Em was thrilled to pieces, of course. She looked at me like I had surprised her with a trip to Disney World. She eagerly explored new, unfamiliar toys, and interacted in a limited way with the kids that surrounded her (and stepped on her, and tripped over her little body). I observed my daughter lovingly, taking the time to really notice how much she has recently grown and developed.
Side note: at one point during this very loosely-structured playtime, I mistakenly sat down in a mysterious wet spot on the carpet. Part of me wanted to scoop Emmy off the ground and run home screaming, so I could change my clothes as quickly as possible and call my doctor to schedule a Hepatitis vaccine. The other part of me worked very hard at rationalizing the non-disgusting possibilities of what I might have sat in (lemonade?), so that I would not disturb Em’s fabulous time. Yes, I’m a good mama. And yes, I am also an idiot.
After about a half hour of free play, the “clean up” song was played and all the parents and kids diligently created order out of chaos. Then an amazingly gifted librarian corralled the children into singing and dancing a few familiar songs, and listening to some stories. I don’t know how she did it (I am quite certain magic was involved), but she somehow kept the attention of 8 billion toddlers for a full twenty minutes.
After the singing and dancing and storybook reading, the same librarian offered to stamp the children’s hands with a little picture of a turkey. Emmy was just over-the-moon about her temporary turkey tattoo.
I seriously thought about asking the librarian if I could adopt her.
After the program, Em and I spent some time in the children’s library, playing with the many toys they had on hand (I wish the library located closer to our home was as well-equipped), and reading a few books. I was surprised when I checked the time and realized we had spent over two hours in the library, and we would have to make our way home if I had any hopes of Em taking an afternoon nap.
Em didn’t want to leave. She said “This fun, mama. I want come back this again.”
And then she cried as I got her in her car seat.
“I want stay library and play little bit, mama.”
I told Em we would come back to the library and play again. And as we drove home, I had visions of Emmy and I sharing lots of library playtime together, maybe in the not-so-distant future.