It’s National Library Week, and we’re celebrating on Offbeat Mama!
Charlotte kickin’ it at one of her fave hang-out spots. Photo by Sarah Schlothan Christensen
The first time I brought my daughter to the library, she was three weeks old. I slung our bulging diaper bag over my shoulder, tucked her into the wrap, and marched inside with a pile of overdue books.
I worried for weeks about bringing my child to the library. It seemed to me that babies, not exactly known for their silence or their continence, and libraries might not mix. But then there is this: my daughter shares a name with E.B. White’s famous spider. When you love books the way I do, with such fervor that you name your child after a literary character, nothing — not even a noisy ten-pound pooping machine strapped to your chest – keeps you away from the library for long.
I had hardly stepped into the building when the children’s librarian came over and asked to see the baby. “I just love newborns,” she said. I smiled politely. “People are always afraid to bring babies to the library. I say BRING ‘EM IN! It’s never too early to foster a respect for books and a love of reading and an appreciation for community services. So babies smell when they poop and they cry when they’re hungry and they pull books off the shelves and make a mess. So what? That’s why we keep the kids’ books separate. I haven’t met a perfect kid yet.”
That was all it took. One woman came to me and told me to come on by, no matter the mess or the noise or the smell or the fuss, and boy howdy did I take her up on that. I can count on one hand the number of weeks that have lapsed since that day without at least one visit to the library.
Our local libraries are a treasure trove of community and fun. My daughter has found in our library a place filled with music, stories, games, crafts, puzzles, child-size furniture, picture-books, and OTHER KIDS. And since becoming a mother, I have found in our library a way to meaningfully connect with local parents and our community at large.
The library is a great place for us to bond together while reading books, of course; but it’s an excellent place for us to bond together while bonding with our community, too.
While my daughter is busy dancing around on a brightly-colored parachute and doling out hugs to pint-sized pals, I read the bulletin board and chat with other mothers and collect the calendar of events that the children’s librarian painstakingly organizes each month. Later, I take my daughter to the hiking group that put their flyer on the bulletin board. We go together to a “reading with the dogs” evening program when my husband is working late, and I’ll call up one of the mothers from story-time to make a play-date at a park.
Little by little, Charlotte and I are building our web. The library is a great place for us to bond together while reading books, of course; but it’s an excellent place for us to bond together while bonding with our community, too.
When I think of this web that we are building, a web that includes individuals from all walks of life, I am horrified by the thought that we almost missed out on this because I was afraid to bring a baby to a library. It sounds ridiculous to me now, because SO WHAT if the kid makes a little noise? Twenty months into motherhood, I cannot imagine my life without these people.
But more than that, I cannot imagine my life without the place that brought us all together.