This week's blog post is by WDP co-host Matt Rocco, who
lives in the Edgewater Glen neighborhood of Chicago with Professor
Foster (his non-white, non-dad wife), and their daughter Viva, who
rejects your Circle Time, any time.
"The life of man is a self-evolving circle, which, from a ring
imperceptibly small, rushes on all sides outwards to new and larger
circles, and that without end. The extent to which this generation
of circles, wheel without wheel, will go, depends on the force or
truth of the individual soul."
Ralph Waldo Emerson,
"I don't like Circle Time, Daddy. I don't want it."
Viva Rocco, age 2
Once you've got a child older than a crawler, you become acutely
aware of the practice of "Circle Time." This is when, in any
organized class, Gymboree, Gymnastics, Pops and Tots, Merry Music
Makers, you name the program, and formally called "Circle Time" or
not - the teacher demands that all the little wigglers be rounded
up, literally, into a circle from which songs, dances, and
activities will be taught.
The toddlers don't like it, and they don't want it.
They aren't dumb, you see. They know what Circle Time means
- it means surrendering autonomy to a dictator, it means doing
what the grown-up wearing the whistle wants, not doing what they
want. It means the end of exploration and the beginning of
listening and repeating. And it often means nursery rhymes and folk
songs… and no one likes nursery rhymes and folk songs. Not nurses.
Not folks. No one.
Surrendering your will to the Man begins with Circle Time. It
begins with Circle Time and ends in square Cubicles. It begins with
Circle Time and ends with circular wedding bands. It begins with
Circle Time and ends in a rectangular box under six feet of soil.
Circle Time is a trap and your toddler knows it. You knew it once,
too, but one day you got tired of fighting against the tide of
Circle Time and floated downstream to become the soggy, bloated,
existential flotsam you are now.
Recently I was in Circle Time in a class for toddlers that shall
remain nameless. The leader declared that the children had to put
away the toys and sports equipment they were happily beating one
another with, and head over to the Circle. Panic ensued as even
pre-verbal kids put the sounds together and realized Fun Time was
making way for Circle Time. There was crying, there was hiding,
there were escape attempts. Eventually all the little doggies were
lassoed and brought to the Circle more dreaded than the center of
the Roman Coliseum. (At least there you got to pet a lion before
you were killed.)
And what was asked of everyone in the Circle?
The Hokey Pokey.
Show me the person who enjoys The Hokey Pokey, and I'll show you
someone whose soul has died. Show me a DJ who plays the Hokey Pokey
at a wedding reception, and I'll show you a Dad being dragged out
of the reception by security for choking out a DJ. The Hokey Pokey
is the dorkiest, most tedious dance ever, and I'm including the
Chicken Dance, the Macarena, and the Cupid Shuffle in my
The music began, and the toddlers (who don't know left from
right, making it tough to put the right ANYTHING in, let alone
shake it all about) scattered like weevils whose rock has been
lifted. While Circle Time is always an exercise in watching parents
peel out one at a time and chase their rebellious kids, it was the
first time I'd seen EVERY child run out at once.
And what did it leave? It left a dozen fully grown parents,
their will to live bent and broken under 1.5 to 3 years of sleep
deprivation and Max and Ruby cartoons, sadly doing the Hokey Pokey
for one another. We looked like Circus Elephants, holding one
another's tails in our trunks as a demonic calliope played and we
gradually forgot what life was like on the majestic plains of the
It was the saddest moment of my parenting life.
Emerson was right, "the extent to which this generation of
circles, wheel without wheel, will go, depends on the force or
truth of the individual soul."
Will your soul have enough force to reject Circle Time?
Viva Rocco (Age 2), Circles, 2014, Melamine, Wood,
Ceramic, and Plastic on Polyester
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