Parents Being Parents at the Library

by Bill Peak

I realize I may be prejudiced, but it seems to me the mothers and fathers that bring their children to the library are among the best of the best. From the moment they walk in, you can tell how good they are at this. Fathers, for instance, acquire a certain bounce to their step. Catching sight of the library's collection of toy dinosaurs, the wooden train-set, the picture books, they hurry forward, eyes alight, as if they've just remembered how great it is to be six years old and have all the joy, all the excitement, of the children's library before them.

Mothers are a little different. When a mother enters, children in tow, one senses a sort of invisible force-field emanating from her shoulders to encompass and protect her little ones. She may stop to chat with someone, she may ask a question at Information, but always a part of her is thinking about the children, about where they are and what they are doing. She wraps them in her attention as a shepherd does his flock; though she may set bones, sell houses, or flip burgers for a living, they are her reason for being.

Two quick stories.

Last week in the library I saw a father and son walk up to a doorway and squeeze through it side-by-side, the boy's shoulder crunched into his father's hip. You could see the laugh developing even as they approached the door, but it became full-bellied once they'd made it through. Glancing up at me, the father said, “We do this all the time. At home there's an even tighter door!” As they walked away, I noticed the boy gazing up at his dad as you or I might look up at Lincoln or Gandhi. Clearly, for him, the trick of two people squeezing through a door at the same time was the most brilliant, original piece of slapstick ever invented.

It may have been the same day that the mother came up to the desk with her children and several of their friends. At some point during their lengthy check-out, a boy (not her own) discovered he couldn't take out the DVD he wanted because there were already too many DVDs checked out on his card. The boy didn't say anything, he just stood and stared at the movie he couldn't have. Detecting a disturbance in the Force, the mother quickly knelt by the child and said, “It makes you sad, doesn't it, that you can't have 'Darby O'Gill'?” Still staring at his movie, the little boy nodded solemnly. The mother then assured him, “When we get home, we'll tell your mother, and she'll bring in the DVDs you have. Then you can check out 'Darby O'Gill.' Probably they'll even hold it for you behind the desk!” As she said this last, she gave the lady behind the desk the sort of mother-look that brooks no disagreement, and the lady behind the desk (being a mother herself) quickly nodded encouragingly. The little boy smiled, the mother smiled, and all was once again right with the world.

These are the sort of parents the Talbot County Free Library attracts. Their children are among the luckiest in the world.