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A Tough Crowd

I recently received an email from Mikey’s teacher regarding an upcoming reading program, and it sparked a memory – or, more accurately, a nightmare.

Post-traumatic stress at its finest.

When Mikey was in pre-kindergarten, I signed up to read to his class. Throughout the year, the program welcomed one parent a week to go in and read, so I carved out a half-hour one week to participate.

Like many of you, public speaking isn’t my forte. But with a bunch of 4- and 5-year-olds as my audience, I figured … How hard can it be?

Mikey selected his favorite book at the time, “Mosquitos Can’t Bite Ninjas.” I encouraged him to pick something with a little more “substance” – or, in adult terms, even just slightly educational. But he wouldn’t back down.

So a few days later, there I was, with my child-bearing hips overflowing a teeny-tiny plastic chair that I wasn’t entirely certain wouldn’t buckle under my post-motherhood body. With my pre-arthritic knees bent near my ears, I was certain I would need help getting up.

And before me were a dozen youngsters sitting “crisscross applesauce” with wide eyes and gaping mouths.

Suddenly, I was very nervous. I shifted (the chair creaked) and held the book up and started reading aloud, making sure to show off the pages as I went. Then I suddenly realized that, in addition to the book lacking any sort of moral to the story or purpose whatsoever, it also took me approximately 4 minutes to read.

I closed the book and all those eyes were still staring at me, so I decided to ask questions. They do that in school, right?

“What was everyone’s favorite part of the book?”

Twelve hands popped up, and I picked one. “Um,” said a cute-as-a-button little blonde boy. “I, uh … I like when the ninja ate the mosquito!”

“Yes, that was funny, wasn’t it.” I picked another child.

“I also liked when the ninja ate the mosquito!”

“Oh, well I’m glad that was a popular part of the book.”

Another kid chimed in. “I eat mosquitos!”

“Ewww,” said three kids in unison.

I started to sweat as things went downhill fast.

“Hey,” I raised my voice to get their attention. “What about the pictures? Which pictures did you like best?” I picked the book back up and glanced at the clock. It had been 7 minutes.

“I liked the one where the mosquito got stuck in the sandwich and the ninja ate it!” said a kid with brown hair, freckles, and the unmistakable flush of cheeks that indicate a brewing illness.

“Yes, we have determined that we all like the part where the ninja eats the mosquito. But what else?”

Two kids stood up and approached me. “I liked when the mosquito tried to bite the lady in the pool,” said one little girl.

“That was funny, right?”

Three more kids approached. “I, um, I liked when the baby ninja hung from the tree upside down,” said another girl.

Then Flushed-Cheeks Kid approached and announces his favorite part, but I didn’t take in what he said because I was too busy being bathed in the spray of his sneeze and wondering what bodily harm I would be enduring in the next few days as a result.

I also made a mental note to up the ante for the end-of-year teacher gift, since she survives this nightmare every day.

Finally, after the longest 10 minutes of my life, said teacher had mercy on me and redirected the kids to their tables to color and I was relieved of my duties. Mikey gave me a big hug – clearly unaware of my impending panic attack – and that was all that really mattered.

When I got home and my husband asked how it went, I replied: “It was awesome! You should definitely sign up to do it.”

Holly Crocco is editor of the Putnam County Times/Press and mother of a 6-year-old. She can be reached at


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