“Again, Mommy, again,” they chimed in unison, their warm little bodies spooned to either side of me. Freshly bathed and jammie clad, the scent of Burt’s Bees lingered in the air. Turning right, I buried my head in his golden brown hair, breathing in his scent as if I would never catch my breath again. To my left I could see her trying to sound out the words on her own, her tiny finger tracing as she whispered. I don’t want to end this magic, I thought. But can I possibly read how George swallowed the puzzle piece and had to go to the hospital and was a naughty little monkey but everything turned out ok in the end one more time?
Of course I can. How could I resist those sets of baby browns and blues staring up at me? And if I nodded off, what would it matter? We were reading, and I was in my happy place.
“Ok, one more, and then lights out,” I yawned, and began the next adventure from memory. “This is George. He lived with his friend, the man with the yellow hat. He was a good little monkey, but he was always curious…”
Honestly, if I only knew that would be the last time…
While parenting teens certainly has its happy moments, I desperately miss these stretches of time I took for granted, hours spent reading aloud with my babies on each side, eyes rapt on the page as I attempted to make the words come to life. For years we pored through Curious George, Babar, Lemony Snicket and even Captain Underpants (I’m a ‘whatever-it-takes’ kind of reading mom). These are the sparkles in my day I assumed would change shape with time, but ultimately never end.
Ventures into chapter books opened up the world of Junie B. Jones and Magic Treehouse. We read all the Percy Jackson and Harry Potter series, and then listened to their magic come alive on CD. Those moments, before phones and social media and boyfriends and skateboarding, before too many sports and homework and SATs, were truly magical. They were the realm of the possible, the world before we knew what their world would be.
I think I need to start a reading revolution.
I need to recapture those days of magic, to sprinkle some pixie dust on their smart phones and secretly plug them into reading instead of rapping. No one will know the difference if they’re laughing out loud to the latest best seller or wiping away tears from John Green’s newest tear-jerker, right?
Do you go through ‘seasons’ of reading? I vividly remember trying to find the perfect position to nurse my baby and balance a book at the same time. When they were a bit older, I craved a stolen moment on the green metal bench at the park while they ran and jumped and swung in safety. I’ve read on ski hills and at track meets, in karate dojos and before gymnastic meets. I’ve snuck minutes during math tutoring and while the rain poured on my Prius in countless parking lots. I read on planes and trains and lunch breaks.
As my children grew, I tried to have a “grown up” reading revolution. I’m an ex-member of two book club failures – I guess you could say I just wasn’t that into the whole idea of reading as a social event. And besides, no one wants an English teacher in their drinking club – I mean reading club. I’m just too picky about what I read and how I spend my reading time – I don’t like settling for something I’m not interested in, and have a really hard time not finishing a book. Or maybe I’m just stubborn.
Sometimes I satisfy my craving by reading aloud in my classroom. My attempt at characterization often elicits an eyeball roll from my teenage students, but more often than not, a calm settles over the room as they settle into the story, following the rhythm of my words with eyes both open and closed.
I guess it’s my own attempt at a “teenage” reading revolution, you might say. I want to throw out the line, hook them at the climax and by the time we’re done, they’re begging for sequel.
But despite all this, and even though I’m an English teacher, my kids are not fanatic readers. They read online, and will do the required reading for class – but as far as laying back on the cool grass on a summer day, that’s not happening in their lives right now. I’ve got to make it happen – I’m my own personal reading revolutionary, united with all those other introverts that would rather put their eyes in a book than spark a conversation with a seatmate. There must be revolutionaries like me, willing to put down their smart phones and pick up a real book? Will you join me?
If only J.K Rowling would just write one more….maybe I could start this revolution right now. I could lay down some blankets, gather them on either side, and sprinkle some pixie dust on their busy teenage brains. I could tempt them with snacks, or even try the ‘I want to spend quality time with you’ plea. At this point, I’d do anything to have one more night together, each oversized baby on my side, carried away to that magical place that only a good story can take us. And at the very least, I’d get a snuggle out of it.