My Trip to the Library: A Tale of Penguins, Unattended Children, and the Novelty of Being the Only Man in the Children’s Room

Decisions, decisions...

Decisions, decisions…

Watching a 2-year-old during the wintertime is difficult.  Going out in the snow is one thing, but once the snow is gone, all that’s left is cold and ice.  Not exactly fertile ground for out of the house playtime fun.  That’s why I found an alternative—a magical place where practically everything is free, most everyone is quiet, and learning is the name of the game.

This fantastical place is, of course, the library.  Come join me, will you?

Sadly, I hadn’t been to a library in years.  Maybe even a decade.  I’m not proud to admit that, but it’s true.  So, with a certain amount of pride in utilizing the services of a local municipal building, I took little Audrey to the library.  Or, more specifically, the Children’s Room.

Upon entering the Children’s Room, my skills as a dad were immediately put to the test.  All thanks to one single unassuming penguin.

That's the one.

That’s the one.

The penguin was easily the same size as my little girl.  Maybe bigger.  But that didn’t stop her.  No, as soon as I heard “Daddy, penguin!” I knew I was in trouble.  She immediately ran over to the stuffed Antarctic bird, wrapped her arms around him, and started to drag him away.  To where?  Who knows.  But she was lugging the Big Lug so I had to take action.  Swift fatherly action!  Or, in other words, lots of fumbling and apologies to the ladies behind the desk as I extricated the bird from my daughter’s loving arms and put him back in place.

Speaking of ladies, it was right around then that I got a chance to survey my surroundings and realize that I was the only male over the age of five in the room.  There were perhaps five other mothers there with their children.  And all the employees were women too.  I was a novelty!  My daughter didn’t care though as she darted over to the bookshelves.  We read a few books then, all of which she picked out herself and were likely well above her age level.  One concerned the smallest girl in her class who hated being small until another girl came around who was even shorter, and another involved a different girl at summer camp, her unquenchable desire to act, and her strange attraction to holding live snakes.

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It was about that time we ventured over to the play area.  Once again penguins were the bird du jour as she noticed one in the pile of stuffed animals and puppets and vigorously began to play with him.  Another girl who was there saw Audrey’s penguin too, decided that looked like fun, and took hold of yet another tuxedo bird.  Why were penguins so popular that day?  I don’t know, but for the first fifteen minutes it was all penguins all the time.  The focus then turned to a rocking boat of sorts:

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A well-loved child’s kitchenette:

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And trains (with…yeah, more penguins):

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During all of this non-literary fun, I was chatting with the other moms and keeping Audrey from causing too much trouble.  I must have been doing a decent job because one of them asked me to watch her daughter while she ran out for “two seconds”.  Fine, no problem, except it wasn’t two seconds.  Not even close.  It was more like four minutes and her daughter was getting antsy.  Without warning she tried to dash out of the Children’s Room and I was forced to abandon my own so I could keep her from escaping into the library proper.  Thankfully the girl didn’t fight me when I insisted she stay put, and the mother did eventually show, but it was an incredibly uncomfortable position to be in, especially considering how new I am to this whole parenting gig.

It was about that time that the ladies that run the Children’s Room wheeled out a cart full of toys.  The number of children was steadily rising too, and there were about a dozen of them running around at that point.  What transpired then could best be described as an unholy scrum.  Kids rushed the cart, yanked as many toys as they could off of it, and argued over which toys belonged to whom.  Then they scattered, so as to play with their toys alone.  Well, that’s what most children did at least.  Mine decided that she wanted to play with all of them.  So she made the rounds, stopping at each “station” and basically butting her way in.  My discomfort here neared the level I felt at keeping that other girl from escaping.  More fatherly fumbling ensued with many more apologies issued.  I felt embarrassed that she couldn’t find something that wasn’t being played with and enjoy it.  She always needed to have what everyone else was playing with.  The grass truly was greener on the other side.

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Still, deep down I knew that her actions weren’t cause for any real concern.  And the more I looked around the more I realized that she certainly wasn’t the only child having difficulty sharing.  I also came to understand that the other mothers seemed to already know this.  I didn’t need to apologize.  This is just how kids are.  You control them the best you can, you try to teach them good manners, and you make sure they don’t cross the line.  They knew this and I didn’t.  Like before, I felt like a man-sized babe lost and alone in the woods.  But I wasn’t uncomfortable this time.  Instead it made me feel better as a father.

I was doing okay raising Audrey, I just didn’t know it.  All thanks to my trip to the library.

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