Thursday, July 30, 2009

Adventures in Story-Time

For the last couple months I've been trying to make taking Zoe to story time a part of our "Girl's Day" ritual. It gives Zoe an opportunity to interact with kids her age: sing, dance, play, and listen to a story. I like to make it a big event for her: I get her up, put her in a cute dress, attempt to do her hair and then we go to Starbucks for a special treat before we head to the "main event". Last week, we had Finnegan with us since their 3rd grandma (a very special lady who has become our kid's surrogate grandma since we have no family here in Bakersfield) was taking a much deserved week off. I was a little worried how it would all go since Zoe is used to it being "our thing" and well, I wasn't sure how Finn would be with the large crowd.

First stop: Starbucks. We forgo the drive-thru and always go inside on our "Girl's" mornings. It gives Zoe a chance to be more independent. She's very friendly with all the customers and baristas and loves the attention she gets. I'm loving how well behaved she is and her usage of "Please" and "Thank you" without being cued. I feel like it's important to expose her to new situations and let her flex her growing social skills.

Finnegan was chill:

Along for the ride

Zoe loved her treat:

1st Stop: Starbucks. Special treat for ZoZo

Then we jump back in the car. The important thing is to keep the energy up, so I put on crazy music for us to sing and "seat-dance" to. We also play roller-coaster whenever the mood strikes us, usually after we've been stopped at a red light or stop sign. I especially love when she tells her brother, "Throw your hands up, baby!" He has yet to oblige her, but if his yells are any indication, I'm sure he wants to.

When we got to story-time, I parked Finn's stroller in safe spot that was out of the way and carried him to where Zoe and I usually sit. I like to sit close to where Zoe is going to be at this point because she still needs my guidance on when to sit or stand and I know she feels better having me closer. She now ventures off my lap to mingle with the other little ones, but she likes to check back frequently and occasionally snuggles up to me if she's feeling insecure or nervous. Having Finnegan there with us this week, added to her confidence. She was very proud of him and kept telling everyone, "Look, my baby brother!" He loved seeing all the kids and watched them all very closely.

Here are some observations about this week:

- Some of the other mom's and dad's look like they really do not want to be there: glazed over faces, scowls. It makes me laugh inside because I remember when taking Zoe seemed so exhausting. I was a nervous wreck every time Zoe ventured away from me and I was sure she was going to somehow disrupt story-time with her antics. I've come to realize I need to just relax and let Zoe be herself. I make sure she sits when she's asked to sit and I ask her to be quiet when the story is being read, but I've given up on trying to completely control her. I think most of the parents struggle with that, but there is a clear separation between having fun and misbehaving. Story-time should be fun, that's what will encourage the kids to continue having a good relationship with books. I'm also a firm believer that if we don't give children the freedom to be independent and possibly make some mistakes, they will never learn right from wrong. I mean, it's not like they're beating each other up.

- That said... I thought I was going to lose it when a girl about 4 or 5 kept pushing Zoe. And I mean really pushing, hard. Zoe would be standing there smiling or singing along with the lady who runs story-time, and this little girl would come barreling toward her like a tornado and shove her. The first time it happened, I was shocked. She was out of Zoe's space as quickly as she had come into it. But then it happened again. And again. And my little girl was running to me with her finger in her mouth and eyes turned down - which is her signal that she is either very sleepy or very upset. I comforted her and she gently patted Finn's head and she eventually ventured towards the center again. When the little girl went after her one last time, Zoe managed to get out of her way and the girl found someone else to run into. The thing that got me was, the little Tasmanian Devil's mom was oblivious to it all. Laughing, chatting it up with other mom's while her kid bullied mine. Giving your child freedom is one thing, but there should be limits. Story-time (and other children's activities) shouldn't be an excuse to ignore your kids/let other people watch them while you socialize.

- A few minutes later a sweet little girl standing next to Zoe started sobbing out of no where. Completely unprovoked, she was just having a toddler moment... but the lady in charge didn't see what happened - and it's no wonder! Since most parents sit back while their kids crowd around this woman, it is impossible for her to know who is pushing whom and really, it's not her job to keep track of the kids who misbehave. All she knew was that she had an upset girl on her hands, so she stops what she is doing, bends down to Zoe, looks her straight in the eye and says "No, no, honey. We keep our hands to ourselves." My daughter gets her hyper active sensitivity from me and I could see instantly that her feelings were hurt. Already, it is very important to her that people like her and are entertained by her, so having someone who she truly enjoys seeing every week, think she'd done something wrong... well, my heart broke for her a little bit. Zoe immediately sticks her finger in her mouth and puts her head down as she walks to me. Her little eyes welled up with tears and she nudged her head into my neck. 1. I was confused. I hadn't seen Zoe do anything. 2. The lady that runs story-time is awesome and extremely patient, (my daughter just adores her) but reprimanding Zoe when she hadn't done anything wrong after Zoe had been enduring Tasmanian Devil Girl's attacks was just almost too much for me at that moment. As I watched Zoe try to hold back her tears, I also held back my own... feeling very much like a protective mama bear. I thought there was a chance I'd missed something, (I realize my daughter isn't perfect) but another mom turned to me and patted Zoe's back, "It's OK, sweetie. We know you didn't touch her." It was a relief to know that someone else realized what had - or hadn't happened. As Zoe and Finnegan and I were leaving, I made it a point to say hello to the mom of the girl who had started sobbing and to let her know that I thought it was just a big misunderstanding. I wanted Zoe to be able to make friends with the little girl - and I didn't want the mom to think my baby was a bully. Besides it was either that or use that time to brawl with Tasmanian Devil Girl's mom. I also made it a point to hang back a few minutes so Zoe could have a moment or two to interact with the lady who runs story-time without all the other kids crowding around. While a part of me wanted to tell her Zoe hadn't done anything wrong, I knew by watching them that all had been forgotten and there was no point in bringing it up again. After all, kids are more resilient than we parents sometimes give them credit for, and I know in story-time lady's place I might have done the same thing.

Aside from a few issues, the three of us had a great time. I'm looking forward to next week... even if my daughter did decide that hitting and pushing her mama seemed like a good way to express herself when we got home. Part of me can't blame her... the little girl who pushed her got away with it while Zoe got reprimanded for something she didn't do. I'm not so sure that she realized the injustice of that, but she did take away a greater interest in new ways to "push" people's buttons. We're working on teaching her that isn't how to behave and so far there haven't been anymore incidents. I'm hoping that continues, because I bruise easily.

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