Carrie Adams has written two wonderful books. The first, The Godmother was called "brilliant, funny and [as] human as her protagonist" by Adriana Trigiani. Her newest novel, The Stepmother (a title dear to my heart) has just come out in paperback and was called "refreshingly honest, realistic and clever" by Kate Jacobs of the Friday Night Knitting Club. Today Adams shares her thoughts on bedtime and reading aloud in this guest post. Having just put my son down for possibly the 100th time to a reading of What Do People Do All Day? by Richard Scarry (if they're moms, people apparently read this book over and over again), I can totally relate!
Bedtime is linked to books in my mind and has been ever since my mother first read to me, then tried to coax words out of me, and now, as a mother of three, I automatically do the same. What I notice is that the book choices my daughters make reveal how their personalities are developing, all because of where they stand in the sibling pecking order of life.
Just take the two year old. Her choice of book is purposeful. What she wants me to do is go through her giant ABC book, she has already made that incredible leap between shapes and sounds, letters and words, stories and books. I know when she isn’t ready for sleep because after her ABC book she’ll ask for some more books so she can read ‘by me own’. I should correct her use of English, but I can never bring myself to do it. Her motivation is simple, she is desperate to catch up and keep up with her elder sisters. It is only when she is exhausted that she puts Goodnight Moon in my hand and her head on my shoulder.
The four year old is different; she chooses the same book over and over again. I plead for variety, but she is unwavering. Resigned I try and skip a few bits, but she is smarter than me and quickly corrects my mistakes. What I realise is that her brain was on ‘record’ all along. Now she can look at those few books and ‘read’ them aloud. She’s pretending to the little one that she can read – that’s pretty serious power play going on and of course fuels the two year old’s desire to tame those ABCs. And what of my eldest – who the others clearly aspire to? At seven she can read and she reads a lot, but what she really craves for at bedtime is to climb under my arm, curl her hair around her finger and be read to. After a full day of forging ahead, the eldest wants to stop being first and instead be fussed over like a baby.
Their bedtime book choice demonstrates that on a primal level they yearn to be somewhere they are not, something they are not. What I need to do is focus less on the ABC and more on helping them understand that even when they can all read perfectly, the playing field will never be level, and what is tantamount to a fulfilling life is that they are happy with where they are (oh, and a good book).