Baby Time

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Social skills are important for a person to master, or at least become familiar with, for success in today’s world. There are stories of fortune and fame that start from a parent’s basement, but they are rare. A person has a much better chance at accomplishing goals, or having goals at all, if he or she has the basic skills to approach another human being and speak intelligently without their voice cracking, or turning to run before a comprehensible sentence is finished. Some people are late bloomers — I didn’t show much potential until after high school.

At my house, it’s just the three of us: myself, my wife and our six-month-old boy. It can get very quiet at times. The Pikes Peak Library District has a free program for parents and babies to help develop social skills. We want our son to hear many voices and be able to interact with other babies, so PPLD’s Baby Time is just the thing we’re looking for.

The description online for Baby Time is this: “Babies from birth to 12 months, with a favorite adult, enjoy songs, bouncing action rhymes, and sharing a book together. Each interactive session gives babies the opportunity to hear lots of language and play with other babies.”

It’s clearly stated that the favored guardian attend, but I went anyway. It’s important to make sure a baby is fed so he’s not hungry and fussy when going out. This isn’t stated in the Baby Time rules but I made sure our boy was topped off before we left.

Baby Time is held in a back room so as not to disturb the rest of the library-goers, people stooped in silent research or hunting for books on the bottom shelf. It’s a room with single pane windows and a thin door — I bet my boy could make people pop up from behind bookcases with a well-timed scream. As promised there are plenty of baby songs, bouncing rhythms and storybooks with cardboard pages that can be chewed and warped but cannot be torn.

There were ten chairs circled around the class instructor. Ten parents with eleven babies, one on each lap. One mother had twins. I quickly found I was the only male in the group, and during the sing-a-long portion of the class I could hear my own voice growling beneath the others. A rich baritone that sounds best when singing the “low” in Garth Brooks’ “Friends in Low Places.” I had to disguise it as a falsetto or risk disrupting an otherwise pleasant tune.

The tunes are catchy and the words are easy to remember. Some of the songs have the babies doing things as simple as shaking their hands out or as complicated as rubbing their bellies clockwise. One song required parents to lift their babies in the air, from left to right and back again, like an airplane. (Finally, something that I could stand up and show the class how it’s done.) After the songs some of the mothers have their babies clap their hands. Our son doesn’t know about that yet, but he can blow a bubble.

Then it was on to story time; a book about farm animals. The instructor does a good job of holding the book open for all to see and of giving each baby and parent equal attention. It was difficult to not laugh when the instructor looked me dead serious in the eye and said, “moooooo.”

After story time all the babies roll around on a blanket in the middle of the room and play with toys from a communal basket. Babies cannot see well. They need to get up close to their toys. One mother was turning her head back and forth between her twins, one of which was getting brave and approaching my son, reaching for the toy he had already claimed. I stomped my foot when the mother’s head was turned and the brave one retreated.

Play time is when you get to know the other parents. I politely asked everyone how old their baby was even though I knew they were between one and twelve months and I could make a good guess based on size, mobility, and the steadiness of their heads, but parents should practice social skills at Baby Time as well.

It ends about how you would expect, with a rush out the door to the open air.  Eleven recently fed babies in a single room for an hour.  A man can only hold his breath so long.

Pico spent his childhood years in the Springs. Now, as a father, he's seeing the city (and life) in a different light. Follow him on twitter at @DavidXPico.

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