To be a lover of books

What gifts and passions do we hope our children have? If we were fairies at a christening, what would we bestow? I’m coming to understand that the answer isn’t the same for all parents, that the “of course” attributes that I value are not the same ones other parents do. That’s part of what makes us so wondrously different. For me, there are some key attributes. Kindness. Integrity. Courage. Joyfulness.

But then there are the other things, the ones that I secretly really hope for, but know it’s not fair to expect. Love of music. The willingness to sing in public. Caring about what’s fun more than what’s cool. A love of nature. A disdain for hurting others. Stopping to watch the ants. Memorizing poetry for fun. And, critically, a love of books.

For that last one, at least, my parenting hopes look like they’re on track.

Last night, Grey requested the opportunity to read Thane on of his bedtime books. He selected his favorite from his room: Luke Skywalker’s Amazing Story. Starting with the title page, he read through it. He read about droids, and the Force, and Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru, and Obi-Wan Kenobi and “rebel leaders”. Of course, many of the hardest words he’d remembered from other circumstances. Let’s be honest, Obi-Wan Kenobi is a bit tough to guess phonetically. But he pronounced “Aunt Beru” differently than I did. He corrected himself when he misread a word. He paused and analyzed some of the hard words. He read with inflection and meaning, and understood the words as he read them. And I sat there, hiding tears, amazed to learn (spoiler alert) that Luke Skywalker’s father was Darth Vader! You could see the effort he put in — he actually got tired towards the end and started making mistakes out of the fatigue of his effort. But that by itself points to the reality. My son is reading! He’s a reader! He loves it! He does it out of joy! I can almost see the doors of a vast new world opening to him, whether he sees it or not.

Now let us speak of my youngest. About a year ago, Thane went into a book stage. It was one of his first words. He showed unusual focus for a small child on listening to the stories. But, probably not coincidentally, around the time he started getting the ear infections, his love was transferred over to cars. Vroom! Clearly we continued reading to him at night and sometimes in between, but it was no longer “his thing”. Then, a few weeks ago, it all changed. Thane is having a passionate love affair with books. Specifically, books that you are reading to him. And woe betide all moments not happily consumed in book-ishness. Today was a tight morning, schedule-wise, so we ONLY read him about 5 books before breakfast.

This would be a happier thing if Thane wasn’t quite SO upset between readings. He regularly throws epic, grand-mal tantrums with 15 minutes of loud, disconsolate weeping, arching of back, and pounding of hands because you have cruelly and viciously REFUSED to read him a fourth book! Look! He has it right here! “Don’t Let The Pigeon Drive the Bus”! If he says “happy” enough times, surely you’ll understand and read it!?!? (NOTE: Books are identified by their loudest phrase. So “10 Minutes to Bedtime” is identified with “Bedtime”. In one of the Pigeon books, the Pigeon says he is “Happy, Happy HAAAPPPPPYYY!!!!” therefore all Pigeon books are “happy”. There’s a certain irony as he, tears streaming from his eyes, holds up the book and urgently says through his weeping “Happy! Happy!”) If you do not immediately oblige, the bitter crying starts. Last night when I was rapt listening to my eldest read a book, I was bouncing on my right leg a disconsolate Thane who kept bringing me different books in the fond hope that I’d finally read one to him, as he screamed and howled his disappointment.

This is, of course, a stage. You can’t multi-task and read “How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Dinner”. I’m pretty sure that’s the point. Thane has figured out how to get whole and undivided attention from the people he loves: grab a book and plop your little diapered butt in their laps. Works every time. And of course, he really does love the books. Grey loved the alphabet at that age. He actually knew it all by 18 months. Thane? He loves the reading, specifically the one-on-one time with his parents. I don’t begrudge him, even as much as sometimes it would be nice to have him sated by, oh, three or four books.

One of the memorable moments of my shared childhood experience was a car trip where my parents and siblings and I talked about all the books that the younger of us had not read and the jealousy of the elders that they would be so fortunate as to experience them for the first time. My sons’ feet are on that road. Oh, what stories await!

Three cheers for Marmee!*

My mom has come out to visit. I know Holy Week might seem an odd time for a pastor to be a continent away, but Spring Break coincided with Holy Week this year and she is also a teacher, and so she came! My father is coming out in a week or two. My mother-in-law is coming out towards the end of April when I am going to FRANCE (and Amsterdam) for WORK with an agenda that has a bullet point for WHITE ASPARAGUS SEASON. This whole work thing is going fantastically, if you ask me.

Anyway, it’s sort of feast or famine with help for us. For reasons I’m still attempting to work out, our relatives are less inclined to visit us in February? Why on earth do people not feel downright DRAWN to New England in February? The mind boggles.

But it’s been awesome having my mom around. I sometimes feel guilty for how hard it is not to take my mom’s time and help for granted. Like of course she’ll make me my favorite cinnamon rolls. And of course she’ll get up with the kids so I can sleep in. She’s my MOMMY. She’ll take care of me FOREVER. And then I think about 27 years from now, when I’ll be where she is now, and wonder if I’ll be so gracious. It’s a sobering part of parenthood to remember that everything you expect from your parents, your children should have a right to expect from you. Do you hold your folks and yourself to the same standard? I hope my husband and I can live up to the ones set for us!

She took the kids on Sunday, after church, so my husband and I could be cultured dilettantes. We went to the Museum of Fine Arts, courtesy of a neighbor who gave us tickets. We wandered the dim remains of The Secrets of Tomb 10A and marveled at the items which have traveled so very far through time and space to arrive before us. We ate overpriced pastry at an artistic table and drank cappuccino and no one interrupted us. Then we had dinner in Cambridge, followed by an evening of gaming and hanging out with friends. We didn’t get home until late. It was AWESOME.

I think a little more concerted attention, as well as the final arrival of his in-process molars, has really helped Thane. He’s developed a deep and abiding love of apples. You wouldn’t think such a little guy with so few teeth would be able to eat an entire apple, leaving nothing behind, but you would be wrong. “Appa! Appa! Appa!” Happily, it also keeps him occupied while a grownup type person cooks dinner. It will be interesting to see if he’s permanently leaving the “Cling to mom’s leg and weep while she prepares dinner” stage behind, or if he’s just taking a hiatus with it while he has Grandmama to shower attention on him. He has started talking a mile a minute. I was trying to remember if this was 18 month old standard, or if it’s Thane-specific. The nice ladies at daycare comment on it nearly every day, though, so I’m thinking Thane specific. One of his favorite phrases is “E-I-E-I-O”, which means exactly what you think it means.

Grey is just full of awesome. I LOVE LOVE LOVE 4 years old. He’s so much FUN. The imagination is off full tilt. The knock-knock jokes rise to new levels of zany. He’s solicitous and loving. He’s finally ceasing to NEED the naps that he dropped nearly a year ago, so is less tired. He remembers everything, and we start to get precious glimpses of his life without us. [DIGRESSION: including the fact, which we’d completely missed, that they don’t heat up his lunch at preschool. They do for Thane, so I ASSUMED they were warming Grey’s lunches of soups and casseroles which all were designed to need heating. But no. Cold spaghetti. Cold potato casserole. Cold everything. NO WONDER he didn’t eat his lunches. I wouldn’t like cold macaroni and cheese either! So after a bit of foaming at the mouth followed by a bout of self-recrimination I took the blessed opportunity of another grownup in the household to run to Target and buy thermoses. Star Wars themed. Because I pay attention to the patter, which now has a strong, if ill-informed Star Wars bent. “Did you know that Annakin cut of Dark Vader’s head?!?!?” /END DIGRESSION] Grey plays these wild, imaginative games with other kids. Yesterday one of his friends came over and they disappeared and were playing games with shifting rules defined by parameters grownups can’t possibly imagine. Delightful. With me, in the blessed space cleared by mom making dinner, Grey and I turned into Annakin and Luke Skywalker, with Thane playing a surprisingly convincing R2-D2. There were laser noises and epic light-saber battles up the stairs. Even Thane got into the laser-noise action, bopping around saying “pew pew pew!”

And after the truly epic deluge of the last week, today the sky has emerged washed clean. The lawns are greening up. The forsythia is out in shocking yellow to color-deprived eyes. My hyacinth waft perfume on the afternoon breeze as I return to my home in daylight. I will not be TOO cold in my Easter dress this Easter, for possibly the first time EVER. And the Easter Bunny has brought some fun stuff for two little boys. I’m in an Easter spirit and frame of mind, this Good Friday.

Anyway, there – sans thesis statement of unifying theme – is what’s up with me lately. How about you?

*Bonus points if you catch the reference