Sunday, December 9, 2012

Another Friday Afternoon at the Library

So there we were, another Friday afternoon at the library. We have seem to have lots of adventures at the library.

I'd told Ethan he couldn't smash the Legos, Angry Birds-style.

I'd encouraged him to play with trains, read books, do puzzles, or climb around the log tunnel.

Just stand back and watch this time, I told myself. Don't be so eager to intervene and nag.

Four little girls happened to be there, all about his age. From the start, I could see Ethan wanted to play with them. They goofed off around the log for a few minutes, and then one girl suggested doing a puppet show.

Uh-oh, here goes. How long until his puppet starts annihilating the others?

Three girls sat to watch. Ethan and another girl grabbed puppets. She made an announcement about the "movie" starting and everyone needing to be quiet and listen. Ethan took his rabbit and looked out at the "crowd."

"Hi guys?" Rabbit asked. "What's your name?" Everyone gave their names.

"How old are you?" One five and three fours. "I am five so I am older than you," Ethan said to the fours, jumping out of character.

"Do you like fruit?" Rabbit asked. I grinned at his clever use of scripting. No one else knew this was straight from the song "I Like Fruit" we'd heard on the XM radio kid's station several hours earlier.

The food questions kept coming. "Raise your hand if you like vegetables?"

"Who likes pizza?"

"Who likes macaroni and cheese?"

Time to change gears, kiddo. Don't exhaust the topic.

The other girl intervened, introducing the fireman puppet, who wanted to educate them on fire safety.

Ethan, jumping right into his oft-played Annoying Little Brother mode, grabbed a panda bear puppet and made it start dancing around. "I am Mr. Polar Bear, Polar Bear, Polar Bear..."

"It's a Panda Bear," I tried to helpfully hiss to him.

"I am Mr. Polar Bear, Polar Bear, Polar Bear," he continued singing.

"Hey, I'm trying to talk!" protested his friend with the fireman puppet.

Danger, Will Robinson...No, don't intervene! My two inner voices argued.

Ethan found a crocodile puppet and announced, "I will eat you all." Thoughts of fire safety disappeared. They all squealed, scared and excited at the same time. Mr. Crocodile made his way out of the puppet theater and into the audience. The girls jumped up and started running.

This was good, this was really good. It just wasn't good at the library.

When the frolicking group came back toward me, I tried the usual admonishments about indoor voices and no running in the library and that this wasn't the playground. Ethan toned it down by about 3 percent and then took off again.

They all came running back, flushed with excitement, hair mussed and breath panting, and I threatened to take Mr. Crocodile away, which halfway broke my heart, because here he was running and playing and actually wanting to be with other kids, but why did it have to be in the middle of the library? I could feel the looks from other people boring into me. This has to stop, I thought as they came around a third time.

But before I could shut it all down and be the bad guy, enter Miss Debbie, the children's librarian.

I love Miss Debbie. She runs story time on Tuesdays. She plans lots of other creative events for the kids both during the day and in the evenings. She's very animated. She's very friendly. She knows about Ethan and always goes out of her way to reach out to him with small gestures.

"How about we have a little story time?" Miss Debbie announced. "Kids, go find some books you'd like to read."

The four girls stopped what they were doing and went to find picture books. Ethan looked on, chagrined that the game had stopped. He slumped against the puppet theater in defeat. Five minutes later, the girls had four books and three cushions and were ready to read. Miss Debbie pulled up a chair and started. Ethan lay on the floor in protest...and then sat up...and then inched his way over until he too was sitting with the girls.

I stood there and watched as Miss Debbie spent the last half-hour before the library closed, reading and chatting with the kids. They sang songs complete with hand gestures. Miss Debbie gave Ethan a chance to turn pages or answer questions. I found a magazine and remembered what it was like to go to the library and not stress about what my child was doing.

When we were about to leave, I walked up to her.

"Thanks," I said. "I'm sorry about the way he was behaving. A year ago he wouldn't have wanted anything to do with those kids. I knew they couldn't run around like that, though."

For a quick moment something almost welled up in her eyes. "No," she answered. "You don't have to thank me."

Only I did. So I am.

Thanks Miss Debbie, for going above and beyond your job description to help ensure our afternoon didn't end in disaster, and that my boy felt like part of a group, and that I could just sit for a few minutes and flip through a magazine.

The little things do matter. And the little things are rarely so little, after all.

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