Rachael Rachael, a mom of two daughters, is a freelance editor and writer who enjoys gardening and dreams of keeping chickens in her suburban St. Louis backyard. In her spare time, she helps to edit her husband’s science fiction books. Read more of Rachael's work at www.rachaelsjohnston.com or contact her by emailing rachael@mumblingmommy.com.

My oldest daughter was not quite a year old when we began our relationship with the library.

I was still somewhat new in my role as a stay-at-home mom, and I had not lived in the area for long. As an introvert, I was hesitant to sign up for some of the local moms’ groups that spent their meeting times playing icebreaker games or, worse yet, scheduled karaoke moms’ nights out at bars. I also didn’t want to spend a lot of money. We held our own financially that first year I was at home, but there was little room for indulgences.

But I have always loved libraries.

So we showed up one brisk January morning for a newly formed baby story time – or lap time, as the library called it – and were greeted by an enthusiastic, curly haired youth services specialist named Ms. Jennifer. My daughter, Megan, sat in my lap clutching a doll and observing with curiosity as Ms. Jennifer read a few books and then popped open some cans of play dough for the little ones to poke with their fingers.

We gradually began attending more. Ms. Jennifer is quite possibly the Best Children’s Librarian Ever. She laughs easily, wears long flowing skirts, has a daughter Megan’s age, has fine taste in kiddy lit (one of her favorites is Pete the Cat), and occasionally plays the trumpet during story time. She’s also good for discussing the latest teen bestsellers, one of our personal favorites being The Hunger Games.

In addition to meeting the Best Children’s Librarian Ever, Megan and I made good friends among the other moms and kids at lap time. It was uplifting for me to chat with the moms there, and I formed a Facebook group so we could communicate outside of lap time.

Together, we enjoyed play dates, mornings at the Butterfly House, and Halloween and birthday parties. One mother and I were due with our second babies the same week, and we compared pregnancy notes. Another mom watched Megan for me one morning so I could get to an OB appointment when I was pregnant with daughter number two, and she brought a gift after Abigail’s birth. Fellow blogger Heather C. is from the lap time group as well. Heather had her twins in the same hospital where Abigail was born; in fact, she was on bed rest there at the time I gave birth.

Megan graduated to “big kid” story time at age 3. She was among the oldest in lap time and the first to graduate from our close-knit group, and I mourned the end of our time there.

Soon, though, we met Miranda, who is more than a year older than Megan, but the girls quickly clicked. Miranda’s baby sister, Rose, is just three months older than my youngest daughter. Once again, we have several friends at story time, and when the weather is nice, many of us head over to the park behind the library for picnic lunches after story time.

Megan has grown immensely through the years. She will be 5 this January. She is no longer the cautious baby watching all the goings-on. She sings, and occasionally dances, during story time. She impresses me with her drawings during the post-story time craft. She flits about the children’s book area, selecting her own reading
material, music, and movies, and she stacks the books for me at the self-checkout kiosk.

This fall has been full of bittersweet moments as I realize it is Megan’s last year at home with me. She attends preschool two mornings a week, but next fall she will be off to all-day kindergarten. It will be the end of many things, including her weekly morning at story time, where she has spent so much of her early years. The library has been both my mother’s club and a preschool of sorts for Megan all these years, and it has been one of the best resources for me as a stay-at-home mom and a transplant to our city.

It will be the end of a sweet era, but also the beginning of a new one. Eleven-month-old Abigail and I will still attend lap time and story time. I love watching her learn her way around the library. Already, she insists on crawling onto the story time mat to sit with all the big kids while Ms. Jennifer reads. She wiggles out of my arms to play with the stuffed animals and bean bag chairs in the children’s area and pulls handfuls of books off the shelves when I turn my head.Soon it will be just the two of us on these mornings, much as it was with Megan and me years ago. I am grateful that I don’t have to give it all up just yet.

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Category: Family Free Time

Tags: books