The day was all mapped out: with a friend’s two kids plus my own pair, we would drop my oldest at camp across town then pass the morning at Storyville, a clean and well-designed kids’ play area at a county library branch. When the attendant asked how old one of them was, I knew I was in busted.
“Ummm…. She’s a very well-behaved seven,” I said, grinning as I tried to flash my SuperDad wiles.
“Well no kids older than 5 are allowed in,” she said, as her face hardened. “It’s designed to help kids get ready for kindergarten. Older kids would get bored.”
“But there’s nobody else in there. What difference does it make? I promise she’ll be especially well behaved,” I said.
Really, I wanted the two neighbor kids and my daughter to go play and leave me alone. I had even brought a newspaper to read in anticipation of a millisecond’s peace. But Little Miss I-Have-One-Iota-Of-Power-In-This-World-And-I’m-Gonna-Use-It-On-You was trying to ruin my whole morning. I’ve been schlepping across town all week to take Eddie to “Design Your First Video Game” camp, and I already had done all the errands I could come up with. Now I was going to have three kids on my hands for three hours, out of the house and too far to go home and back, and with nothing to do.
“Are you sure there isn’t something we could do? If I had my 8-year-old, I wouldn’t even ask, because he would tear the place up. But this 7-year-old is better behaved than my own children…”
“Uhhh… the rule is the rule, but I guess we could ask my supervisor.”
I smelled blood in the water. I was going to win!
Boss-Lady Librarian game the same response, even after I spun my tale of woe and told her how much I had enjoyed Storyville in the past. (This is only partly true, as a group of at-home dads got busted a while back for excessive socializing.) It’s got a pretend store with plastic vegetables, a diggable garden with rubber dirt-mulch, houses with steps to climb up and down and fake logs to crawl through. And books all over the place.
“How about this?” she said. “I could take your friend here on a special tour of Storyville while you come in with your younger ones. Then maybe you’d like to see our regular children’s section and try our summer reading program craft.”
Once we went in, Carla and our 7-year-old friend’s 5-year-old little brother tore around the place like rabid hyenas. Up and down and up and down the steps and hooting and hollering, while I looked around and tried to remember what was so enchanting about the place. Sure, if your kid is 2 or 3, maybe they would go for all the puppets and blocks and stuffed animals of horseshoe crabs and starfish. But the two 5-year-olds ripped through everything in about two minutes before settling into the pretend grocery store, which creepily seemed designed to prepare them not for kindergarten but for a future in minimum-wage retail.
Boss-Lady Librarian brought our 7-year-old friend to the pretend store (momentary panic a few minutes earlier – my friend’s kid was out of view with a complete stranger who only said she was a librarian), and all three kids happily played store while I asked complicated questions to try to drag out the time.
What made the whole thing come together was that for once I was able to think on my feet and understand the value of the deal. Boss-Lady kept the older kid busy while I sat on my tush watching fewer kids than when I started. Win for me!
I no longer wanted to hit the librarian.