'Story Time with Mom and Tots' at St. Lucy Parish gets kids out of the house and into a story, a welcome reprieve after months of isolation
ST. CLAIR SHORES — Kids running around a room playing, a bubble machine going off, parents looking on as their youngsters expend some energy.
Then, the song begins, the mood becomes quiet, and the kids sit around the speaker. It’s story time.
"Story Time with Mom and Tots" happens every first and third Tuesday of the month at St. Lucy Parish in St. Clair Shores. It started as a way for children in the area — parishioners and non-parishioners alike — to get out of the house, play and hear a great story.
“We have music playing and there is a bubble machine at the start, so the children can go up and play with the bubbles and get used to each other,” said Karen Schroder, faith formation director at St. Lucy. “There are a few little songs we sing to engage them, to get the 'wiggles' out of them. Then, with one song in particular, they know it’s time to start reading.”
Mary Prevost, a St. Lucy parishioner and retired manager at Barnes & Noble, reads to the children. It's a welcome reprieve for both mothers and children, cooped up for months because of COVID-19 restrictions.
“The idea for this partially came from COVID, but with the winter being here, there just isn’t a lot you can do with your children,” Schroder said. “I thought this would be a good idea, but I knew I couldn’t do this myself. So I started speaking to other women, and with God being so good, He let me speak to the right ones.”
"Story Time with Moms and Tots" has drawn families from the areas with young ones who haven’t had much interaction with children their own age, helping them to learn the idiosyncrasies and traits of their peers.
“We had four children (during the first session), and the second session we had 11,” said Angela Rushlow, a St. Lucy parishioner and volunteer. “We initially thought this was just going to be something for the little ones, but we found for the moms with young kids, it can be very isolating, even under normal circumstances; there just aren’t too many things to do to socialize. So we’ve had parents who are so thankful to have something to do, something to open back up in a little bit of normal.”
After Prevost or another volunteer reads a story, Schroder organizes a related craft activity, getting the tots' little hands to work on a project to drive home the story's message.
“It’s so important; children learn through play,” Rushlow said. “If they aren’t getting that interaction, they are missing out on so many developmental milestones.
“At the second session, we had this little boy who came for the first time, and he had a hearing impairment,” Rushlow explained. “So his mother brought him and someone who was there to sign. She signed the whole book to him."
Afterward, Prevost "went and engaged in conversation the best she could, signing what she knew. She asked how to sign ‘Thank you,’ because she wanted to thank the person. I thought that was such a simple, but profound thing to do, to include him so he felt welcomed,” Rushlow said.
While gathering for a story and play time might seem ordinary, after the last two years, ordinary can seem — well, rather extraordinary.
“There are many things that have been canceled; we had one mom listing off three or four (other opportunities) around either Oakland or Macomb counties that were canceled,” Schroder said. “We’re in St. Clair Shores, and she was traveling to Rochester Hills and other areas at least a half hour or more away, just to do something with the children. Listening to parents, we are serving an earnest need.”
Beyond providing a space for kids to be kids, "Story Time with Moms and Tots" is just as beneficial to the moms.
“When you go days without talking with an adult, it’s really frustrating, especially if you’ve been working and are now a stay-at-home mom,” Rushlow said. “When my kids were younger, I had friends who also had kids, and we went out and did things together. We had developed this routine of meeting friends at the park once a week all summer long. Parents with young children need that connection; those relationships are really important.”