Today was story time at the library. It’s been so long since my daughter and I have been to one of them. It’s partly because life is busy, and partly because last time we tried it, months ago, it was pretty overwhelming for my then 2-year-old.
Story time for preschoolers consists of stories and songs and lots of movement. When the first book of the day was pulled out, most all of the kids jumped to the middle of the room. They wanted to be right there, in the thick of the action. They were buzzing with excitement and eager to sit inches away from the pages of the book.
And when it came time for singing, they all jumped back up, knocking each other over like bowling pins, adamant about being as much the center of attention as the song itself.
As I watched these kids, I noticed that their moms didn’t have to give them a little nudge to enter that buzzing central space, which I am accustomed to giving my daughter.
No. It was what they wanted to do. It was where they felt called to be.
This whole time, my girl and I watched from the periphery.
My girl is a watcher. She studies and takes everything in. She analyzes. She gets that buzzing feeling on the outside of the circle. She feels called to the outer rim. She’s still a part of the party, but her place, most often, is found along the edge of it.
But there’s pressure. There is pressure for my girl to be in the middle.
And up until now, I’ve been going along, trying to push her just outside of her comfort zone, so that one day she might willingly jump into the middle.
Our last library trip was just like this, and I found myself sarcastically thinking, “Hurray! I made her cry a thousand tears, but man, I’m so glad she made it to the center of the circle (attached to me with the death grip, like a koala on a tree, tears streaming).”
How is that good?
Today, I let her sit on the outside. Actually, we sat on the outside. The entire 30 minutes, she was either on my lap, holding my hand, or I was holding her. But she was engaged.
During the first story, she was pretty quiet. But toward the end, I heard her calling out responses to the librarian’s questions. They were the softest whispers, but they were there. And as time went on, her responses became a little louder and more enthusiastic.
By the end of story time, she was singing along to the “Itsy Bitsy Spider” loudly, hand motions and all. She found her comfort zone. She found her way of engaging.
And it was in the comfort of my lap. It started out with whisper responses, but by letting her tell me what was comfortable for her — rather than me telling her what should be comfortable to her — she grew today. She didn’t grow outside of her comfort zone, but the space of her comfort zone grew — on her terms.
My girl doesn’t need pushing right now. She needs support. She needs me to back her up. She needs me to affirm that her “gut feeling” is one to be respected.
I’m going to try to be better about letting her listen to her gut. I think that once I do, my girl is going to grow more into the lady that she’s meant to be. That sounds far better than the process of shaping her into the girl I’m told she’s supposed to be.