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Tales of a Library Unicorn: In Which the Children Resist Structure

Aldalyn Eleanor Ross

Staff Writer

Aldalyn grew up with a bunch of weird siblings who expressed themselves by literally joining the circus. Since Aldalyn feared heights and most forms of physical exertion, they became a writer instead. They read, scribble, and enable young word lovers in Newark, NJ, where they are affectionately known as Mx. Aly, Library Unicorn. Find them on social media @mx_alycorn

Sometimes my library children are, quite frankly, so good they make it very hard not to cry in front of them. They make me Valentines. They organize the markers in the craft section by color. They donate their own books to the library. I praise them effusively and harbor a particularly iridescent sort of optimism about the future of the world.

Other times, my library children—often the very same ones whose goodness brought me to tears 24 hours earlier—resist authoritarian definitions of what it means to be “good.” On those occasions, I still feel optimistic about the future of the world, but in a way that’s…grayer. Wearier. In a word? Tired.

One day, I promise to tell you all about the ways my children break and mend my heart with their generosity, their compassion, their creativity, their radical acceptance. But goddexxes above, their resistance is incredibly funny. So today, I’m telling you about that.

Details have been edited to protect coherency, and names have been changed to protect the absurd.

What Do We Want? Slime.

On Fridays, we play board games. And every time someone wins a game, they get a prize, the most popular of which is a product known as Galaxy Slime. You can probably see where this is going.

Pearlette: “I want slime.”

Me: “Yeah, slime is fun! But you have to win a game to get slime. Want to play Candyland or checkers?”

Pearlette made a face that was somehow both puppy eyes and glowering.

Pearlette: “I want slime. My brother got slime.”

Me: “That’s because he won! You might win if you play again!”

Pearlette: “He cheated!”

Me: “No, I don’t think he cheated. Why don’t you play another game?”

Pearlette, slumping down in her chair: “I wish I had cheated. Then I would have slime.”

Sweaters are Fascists

Caregiver: “Put on your sweater.”

Captain Crash: “Sweaters don’t do nothing.”

Reader, I did NOT say, “Sweaters are doing it for themselves.”

When Do We Want It? Now.

Friday Game Day was upon us again, and I’d had the inane idea that I might get other work done while the children were playing their games. I startled when I noticed an intent pair of eyes fixed on me from just above the edge of my desk.

Horatia: “I want slime.”

Me: “Yeah, slime is fun! But you have to win a game to get slime. Do you like Bingo?”

Horatia: “I. Want. Slime.”

Me: “I know you do, but we don’t have enough slime to give it to everyone. It’s a prize for when you win a game. Want to play Bingo?”

Horatia: “I don’t know how.”

Me: “I’m sure the folks playing Bingo now will show you! Hey, everyone. Horatia wants to play Bingo with you. Can you show her how it works?”

Bingo players: “Who?”

Horatia had vanished.

She Found My Lack of “Color Pages” Disturbing

Sourpatch: “Oh, THERE you are.”

Me: “…yes, hello. May I help you?”

Sourpatch: “Yes. I need something to color with.”

Me: “Sure! There are markers and crayons right there on that table.”

Sourpatch: “No, I mean I need color paper.”

Me: “Great! There’s colored paper over there too!”

Sourpatch goes to look, then returns. “What I need isn’t over there.”

Me: “Oh yeah? Let me come help you find it.”

I found the colored construction paper.

Sourpatch: “No no no you don’t get what I’m SAYIN. I mean paper with pictures to color.”

Me: “Ohhh, I see! Well, here’s what we have to color today. Chinese New Year was this weekend, so we have these pictures to celebrate Chinese New Year. This one is my favorite because if you cut out the pieces after you color them, you can make a dragon puppet! Does that sound cool?”

Sourpatch stared at me as if I had just uttered the most asinine statement of all time. “No.”

(I’ll have you all know, gentle readers, that earlier that very day a child had left the library in tears because he didn’t want to stop working on his dragon puppet.)

Me: “Well, that’s what we have today.”

Sourpatch: “You could print me out something else.”

Me: “Nope.” By this point I felt like a caregiver insisting, “No, this is what’s for dinner.”

Sourpatch stared me down a second longer before begrudgingly taking a picture of a dragon to color with the ringing endorsement: “I guess I’ll do this one.”

I don’t exactly approve of her behavior, but I also really hope she goes into law or politics or business and makes that same face at tough negotiators the world over.

The Winner Is…

Horatia: “I won.”

Me: “I don’t think I saw you playing any games.”

Horatia: “I was blue and they were yellow and I won.”

Me: “…are you talking about a computer game that you played by yourself?”

Horatia: [silence]

Me: “Yeah, so that doesn’t count.”

All I Do Is Never, Ever Win, Not Ever

Pearlette: “I got slime!”

Me: “I saw! That was so nice of your brother to give you his slime!”

I’d been back at work for perhaps five seconds before I realized Pearlette was still watching me, intently.

Pearlette: “I want you to play with me and my slime.”