Toddler story time at the library is something I'd love to do with Addy, but I know without a doubt that it would be a colossal failure. I know she would not sit still, whether on her own or on my lap. I know she would not stay quiet. I know she would be antsy and she would not enjoy herself. I know it would not be a fun experience for either of us, and I'm okay with that. She is who she is, and there's nothing wrong with her. The challenge for me, as her parent, is to find activities where it is acceptable to be curious and energetic.
Last Tuesday, I decided to take her to this entertainment event the library posted:
Drip E. Faucet
Tuesday, June 25, 1pm
This magician, juggler, and plumber will entertain the whole family.
Based on the description, I expected it to be a little more up her alley. I thought the magician might be something that would hold her attention, and I thought she'd really enjoy it. What I did not expect was a room full of 50 or so perfectly quiet children sitting perfectly still on the floor, watching the magician and giving the "ooooh"s and "aaaaah"s at the right times. As we all walked into the room, the children took their places on the floor, in perfect rows, and the parents filled up the chairs lining the perimeter. We were at the rear of the room. The magician came out and began doing a silent skit to music. While every single child was silently watching, Addison was in the back excitedly dancing around to the music. She kept looking back at me with this huge smile on her face, laughing and dancing. At first, the other parents thought she was cute, they smiled at me and laughed a little at her, taking pleasure in her wild abandonment. But as the music stopped and the show began, Addy remained standing and kind of dancing, and the smiles from the parents turned to looks of disapproval and annoyance. Addy's smiles turned to looks of confusion and sadness. After a few tries of asking her to sit down so she wouldn't disrupt the others children, she looked at me sadly and said, "I want to get out of this room Mommy." She then went into the children's section and played by herself for a few minutes before we headed home.
The experience left me feeling defeated and deflated. I was disappointed that reality did not at all match my expectations for the event, but mostly I was completely heartbroken for Addy, over the thought that this was likely the first of many times her wonderful spirit will be crushed by societal expectations of behavior. Upon trying to explain the day to my husband trough tears and frustration, he asked me if I was upset that she did not behave like the other kids or upset that the other kids did not behave like her. I answered, I'm upset that at an event like that, it even matters.
Over the weekend, I received an email from the library listing their events for this week, including this one for today:
Elec Simon and Friends (Family Program)
Tuesday, July 2, 1pm
The musical group formerly known as HeartBeat Afrika will have you beating a drum and dancing.
I was really excited about this and decided we could try again, because this time she was allowed to dance! So we went, and as we were all shuffling into the room, the band was already playing some warm up music. Addy was twisting and shaking before we even got into the room! I thought, wow, this is going to be so much fun! But guess what? All the kids took their spots on the floor, all the parents filled the chairs around the perimeter, and everyone just sat there listening. What?!?! Addy was having a total blast shaking her booty, swinging her arms, doing little dancy hops. Parents were looking at her, pointing & laughing, mouthing "She's sooooo cute!" I wasn't about to stop her from dancing and being herself just because no one else was. But then the music stopped, the main drummer stood up and began talking - or more accurately, lecturing - on having respect and not bullying. Not only would Addy not sit down, but she began to walk around, in between all the children, past the chairs of parents, tapping gently and counting each leg she passed along the way. Yeah, that's my kid for you. So once again, we left. Unlike last time, when I left wishing my kid could be just a little bit more like the other kids, I left this time thinking what the hell is wrong with all these other kids?!? Loud music, energetic drummer, funky beat...how can you NOT get up and dance? COME ON PEOPLE!
Addison might dance to the beat of her own drum, but the important thing is that she's dancing. She is participating in life, and she participates with her whole body. I am not about to apologize for that. The rest of the world can have quiet children sitting still on the floor. I'm going to enjoy my beautiful, precious daughter who has the ability to see and experience the world through a lens I was never lucky enough to have, and along the way, she's going to teach me a thing or two about having some fun.