In our little town, Tidy Town 1997, we have reading and craft at the community library every Tuesday morning. I went once last year, when Elka was fifteen months. She loved stories, so I was excited our own little tidy town offered a story reading event to keep us busy for half an hour each week. At the end of the session, the facilitator approached me, and asked me how old my daughter was.
“Fifteen months, ” I said.
“She is too young. Children must be at least two to attend reading. It is inappropriate for her to attend.”
OKAAAAY then. Weird.
Over a year later, my daughter is two, and I have heard good things about reading time. So we returned this week.
A sincere and middle-aged lady perched on a stool waiting for children to be still so she could begin to read. The theme was Valentine’s Day, so she had chosen books about kissing and loving ( in the most innocent, wholesome sense). She perched and waited. Children squiggled into place, and chatted animatedly to each other and to their mummies and grandmas.
“Shhh,” directed the mummies and grandmas. “Be still.” One woman clasped her hand over her child’s mouth in an effort to silence her.
At last, the sweet and innocent stories about loving and kissing began. One boy bravely got up off his bottom and walked over to stand in-front of the book. He was promptly ordered to sit down. He got up repeatedly, much to his mother’s dismay. Havoc reeked again when another little boy climbed on the table. “Boys,” a woman muttered.
“This book is about kissing,” the sincere and middle-aged woman proceeded. “Do you all kiss your mummies?”
“Oh, no,” announced the grandma. “Daniel doesn’t like kissing. Boys don’t kiss.”
The little boy, who previously climbed on the table, scrambled up to the sincere and middle-aged lady and planted a wet kiss on her cheek proving grandma wrong. Both women turned red.
“Now we will make Valentine’s Day trees for mum or dad. Does everyone want to come to the table?”
The picture the children were re-creating was very sweet. Wool for branches and paper love hearts to stick to the branches. Each child was assigned a piece of paper, a glue-stick, a little bag of woollen strands and a little bag of paper hearts.
“This is how it’s done,” the sincere and middle-aged lady demonstrated, while all the mummies and grandmas watched attentively.
Every mummy and grandma hung over their child, carefully directing the glue stick. They laid the wool to make branches. The paper hearts they stuck to the branches in appropriate places. One child hastened to stick a heart in an incorrect position. The corresponding mother promptly corrected the fault. Another child turned his picture side-ways so the branches hung in the wrong direction. The sincere and middle-aged woman reached across to turn the paper the right way. She then snatched a glue-stick from a child who was getting a little glue happy on the other side of the table.
Daniel’s, or his grandma’s, picture of a Valentine’s Day heart was clearly the best. The branches stood straight and strong, and the hearts hung perfectly. Daniel in fact had very little to do with the creation, as his grandmother leaned over him, clasping the glue-stick, the wool, and each little heart, her tongue stuck between her teeth. Daniel sidled away from the desk without a word.
“Boys,” Grandma said, “boys just don’t like craft. What can I do? Daniel doesn’t like craft. Never has, never will.”
The only wobbly and strangely shaped tree, with love hearts falling in odd directions off the page was Elka’s. “This is for Daddy,” she announced proudly. And then did a pee on the carpet.
Craft for children had become about creating the best replica of the model Valentine’s Day tree. Being two, three or four, the children depended on their doting mothers and grandmas to make the best tree. I’m sure all the daddy’s were still very proud.