It's Storytime at our local library.
I used to go along with Monkey, way back in the day - in fact, it's where I met my American Best Friend. At that point it was run by a sweet, well-meaning older lady who asked us to keep our babies on our laps and got a bit snippy if we tried to bring out snacks to distract them with. I know that there's meant to be no food or drink in the library, but how else are you supposed to keep a wriggly toddler on your lap while they're patently not interested in the story being told? Some other days there was a nice younger librarian with the fatal flaw of having a first language that was not English. Her mispronounciations of nursery rhymes had us gritting our teeth and wincing. One day I was asked once again to keep my baby on my lap - and this was my Active Baby Mark I, remember, who as a toddler was even less likely to sit still than his sister is now - and I just upped and left. In high dudgeon, no less. We camped out on the grass outside the library and ate snacks to our hearts' content, and were soon joined by two other rebels (and their mothers; or was it the other way round?) and together we vowed never again to darken Storytime's doorstep.
But time moves on, people have second children, librarians come and go, libraries close for refurbishment, and when they reopen some naive parents might think that maybe it's time to give Storytime another shot. Well, yesterday was our third week there, and I think it's safe to say that things have not improved on Walton Mountain. The current storytelling librarian, well-meaning as always, is totally tone deaf and sings the introductory song as if he'd heard tell of this thing called music but didn't quite know how it worked. Next he proceeds to suck all the joy out of a couple of well-loved, amusing, and probably award-winning children's books: yesterday we had Where The Wild Things Are, and I had to sit on my hands and sing One Dozen Monkeys* in my head to stop myself from groaning aloud as I listened to him stumble over the words and inject no emotion at all into one of my very favourite read-aloud books.
Meanwhile, Mabel had six friends (and two strangers) in the room, with their mothers, and all the two-year-olds milled around like a mathematical diagram for chaos theory; now congregating around the tiny baby to sneeze some germs on him, now leaping on one random mum who apparently had covered herself in baby-nip for the occassion, now wailing for mumeet (mine), now watching in amazement as one of their peers nurses (the others)...
So why don't you go somewhere else, you ask? Because all our friends are there (also carping at the horror of our ritual Thursday morning torture session), because it's handily situated right between the nursery school and the playground, because it's local, because we're gluttons for punishment and can't believe it'll be that bad again next week. Also because the kids seem to enjoy something about it - maybe dancing around to the two interactive songs-on-tape that are the same Every Single Week, or maybe just being shut in a room with a bunch of friends and some adults who can't escape.
Or maybe just because then we can all go to the playground and bitch about how terrible Storytime is. It brings a community together.
*One Dozen Monkeys by They Might Be Giants. A friend posted it to Facebook the other day, and my children made me play it approximately 147 times and I went to bed that night with it going round and round and round in my head. Luckily, it's very good. So you should have a listen. (Just beware before you play it near your kids.)