On a dark dark Friday in a dark dark town. It is raining in perpetuity. Everyday becomes an inside day. And you’re not even into December yet. That’s when you turn to the weekly paper for something to do with your toddler.
The lack of activities is deafening.
The only choice here is “Storytime” at the local library.
But it is Friday and you’ve been inside all day everyday and if you spend another moment inside, you are going to be pushed into a terrifying incarcerated-by-home-parenting psychosis.
So you go to the library.
You file in, all mothers and toddlers but for you, the only stay at home dad, and gather around a gnarled old woman who is a haunting cross between Senator Mitch McConnell from Kentucky and your senile aunt Claudia. She says, in a voice reminiscent of Diane Rehm, that her name is Pam.
You and the children sit in a circle around Pam and the children are silent. Not because their attention is at full, but because they are vaguely frightened. Pam says she’s going to lead you in a song to get things started.
The song is Bingo.
Pam fires up the Diane Rehm voice and begins with “There was a Bingo had a dog and…” She trails off. Pam fucked up the lyrics to the song Bingo. Somewhere inside your brain it registers that Pam is probably getting paid to do this. But you and the other mothers nevertheless jump in to bail her out. The moms and you start singing the song correctly. The sense of desperation from you and the other moms is palpable. You clap. clap. N. G. O. clap. cap. N. G. O. to no avail. Your toddler starts crying. You try to calm her down but she senses your desperation. She crawls into your lap and sucks her thumb long before you’ve reached clap. clap. clap clap clap.
Finally Pam Rehms starts the story. Oh my god, you say. It’s a chapter book. She’s a reading a chapter book. AND SHOWING THE PAGES WITHOUT PICTURES TO THE CHILDREN AS SHE DOES IT. You look at the other mothers to find some comfort in their eyes, some sense of registration that you are not alone, but nobody connects with your eyes. Their eyes are glazed over. Their eyes are lost in another world as they sip their coffee to awaken them from a parental stupor by which the chapter-book feels like the final nail in the coffin. You are alone. You are alone.
The children are crying. The children are crying. Pam keeps reading and holding the chapter book up for all to see that we are nowhere near the end of the chapter, that this chapter is going to go on for at least another 20 minutes. You look at the clock. The clock is ticking slowly. You search the room for comfort. You see one mother is texting on her iphone. You search your pockets desperately for your phone but then it dawns on you that you left it in the car. YOU LEFT YOUR PHONE IN THE CAR.
At long last Pam finishes the chapter. The children are still crying. But Pam is not finished. She pulls out papers and scissors and glue sticks and crayons. Oh fuck, you say to yourself. We have to do a craft.
WE HAVE TO DO A CRAFT.
But this craft is not for toddlers. This a craft for parents to do for their toddlers.
You color in the dog for the craft you cut out the dog for the craft you glue the eyes on the dog for the craft you cut out the arms and legs on the dog for the craft all the while your toddler is clinging to your neck, cutting off the airflow to your brain, and a part of you wishes your toddler would just finish the job and squeeze a little tighter. Just a little tighter, honey. And this will all be over.
Finally the craft is done and the doors to the outside world are opened.
You look at the craft you just made. You have no more talent than a pre-schooler you realize as you stare sadly into your terrible terrible Frankenstein dog. A craft that your child will have nothing to do with. A craft that will die a lonely death on the floor of your minivan, next to the detritus of broken down goldfish and organic Annie’s crackers.
Never again, you say. Never again.
Until next Friday.