Okay, so I’m just going to publicly admit this right now and get on with our summer:
We aren’t reading. There I said it and I’ll say it again, only louder. WE AREN’T READING.
I mean, I’m reading. I just finished the 2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner Goldfinch, and I bought Not Becoming My Mother at a thrift store. (WAIT MOM. KEEP READING. I’m reading this because I’ve read ALL of Ruth Reichl’s memoirs. She was the restaurant critic for the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times and the the editor of Gourmet magazine. She is an amazing writer and I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE her writing–she makes reading easy. AND the book was 25 cents . . .HARDBACK! So Mom, please don’t get the wrong idea. . .)
But, my kids. Nope. We are not blowing through any reading lists. I have not announced every day at 2 pm, “TIME FOR READING CHILDREN!” Nor do I pull the covers back on a child and exclaim, “Honestly, Will, you are reading AGAIN?!”
Because, in my defense, when you are a mother of five the summer has a very, very loose schedule and having something consistently occur every day is pretty much not going to happen. Sometimes at 2 pm I’m finally eating lunch. . .cleaning the kitchen from seven people eating breakfast, lunch and dinner. . .or doing laundry that is at least a load a day every time my children change clothes. . .or trying to convince an almost 4 year old that NAPPING IS GOOD by crawling into bed with him, reading three books, and holding on to a leg so that he doesn’t escape and run away–all the while praying he’ll fall asleep while one of his legs is held captive. Usually it doesn’t work.
So this is our summer: We are not competing with the school librarian to see who is reading the most books this summer. . .we haven’t read any of Texas Blue Bonnet nominations. . .we aren’t filling out the Barnes and Nobles’ reading log in order to get a free book. . .we haven’t signed up for any reading clubs at the library.
Every once in a while I’ll slide the comic section of the newspaper down the black stone counter to a still half asleep child eating a bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats. “Here,” I’ll say too cheerfully for 9 am in the morning, “maybe you’ll want to read the comics.”
A friend from graduate school (should I mention at this point that I have a Master’s in Literature?) emailed me and said that he imagined I had all my boys sprawled across the lawn lazing the day away with reading.
Let’s just put that pastoral vision to bed. Today we went to Game Stop. We bought (oh, who am I kidding) I BOUGHT three games and two more of the remotes because I couldn’t stand the arguing over the two remotes that were being shared by five children.
I know I should have them read more AND we did visit the library AND we did pay off a $35 fine (I’ll explain that one later, Scott–I’m still looking for Vegan Cooking for Two and I think it is somewhere under our bed.) AND we did check out a stack of books, many of them graphic novels AND I did download two of the Blue Bonnet books to their Nooks (which seem to permanently be set to Mindcraft). Also, just for the record, I put the novel, Julie of the Wolves on Maddie’s nightstand and when she asked about it I lied and said that her Aunt Liz put it there for her. (I was hoping that a recommendation–however deceiving–from someone OTHER THAN HER MOTHER would spur Maddie to at least read the first few pages. This ruse held until she thanked a very confused Aunt for her unopened book.)
But, to be honest with you. . .I can’t make the horse drink the water I’ve led him or her to and I can’t take the guilt any longer that my swimming and tennis and gaming and lounging and “whose house can we go to today” children aren’t reading.
I really want to be saying, “Seriously, Laura, I wish that he’d put down a book and join the family in front of the television. . .but ALL he wants to do is read.” Or, “Blue Bonnets? She just finished the last one last night. I think that makes it fifteen altogether.” Even better, “I swear, I could go to the library EVERY DAY and still they’d run out of books to read.”
I’m saying things like, “Dang it kids. . .another day and you haven’t read. Okay TOMORROW before we do anything we are reading. . .” And, so I’m feeling guilty pretty much all of the time.
And, that has to stop because I spend most of the school year feeling pretty guilty about the rushed and sloppy homework and projects, the lunches that started off healthy and ended the year being only millimeters better than “lunchables,” the teacher appreciation gifts that arrived a week late, and the number of tardies we have because we can’t seem to get to school on time.
Believe me, I want my children to be the children of an English major. . by that I mean I want them to CRAVE books and reading like I did. And, if you came to my house, you’d see books and magazines for all ages in nearly every room of the house. But when I look back to my youth. . .my passion for reading didn’t dry-forest-fire-rage in the third grade. Oh, I was a good reader and read my first novel, Pocahantas (loooong before the Disney version) in second grade, but my love of reading was slow burning until I literally couldn’t go a day without reading. Maybe they’ll be like that and be okay, too.
Somewhere in the not so distant future, probably with that rejection note one of them will receive from Harvard saying that they “almost made it in”, I’ll berate myself even more for not being THAT mother who could get her children to read during the summer of 2014. For right now, I’ve got to be alright being the mother that screams, “GET IN THE CAR! WE ARE LATE FOR SIX FLAGS!”