Chicago dad: Welcome to Circle Time, Chump

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, existentialist

“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 assessment.

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 Serengeti.

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

If you enjoyed this essay, subscribe to the WDP podcast for free on iTunes! You can also listen (Do note that the show has a potty mouth and is definitely for Over 17 Only.) And follow the Dads on Facebook and on Twitter: @whitedadprobs.

You don’t have to be white and you don’t have to be a dad to be entertained by their failings as father.

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