There were certain mother child moments I coveted in those years of trying to have children. Walking hand in hand. Rocking to sleep. Racing into the surf. Finding worms and slugs and ladybugs and beetles. Slow walking from here to there because it was all about the noticing of everything in between. And maybe the most longed for – reading endless stories. Before bedtime. In the shade under a tree. In the ferry line up. Buried under blankets. Sitting next to a crib. On a picnic blanket, after cartwheels and before blueberries.
When my children finally came, two of them at once, these actualized moments were even more sweet and important than imagined. Even fully in the moment, I was aware of time as a fleeting concept and I tried to hang on tight and at the same time just be in the very moments that were so precious.
I feel sad giving up the shared delight of a worm in the dirt. We still walk together but now it is quick and determined. Only when sick or sad, do either of my children need me to be there as they fall asleep.
But, after thirteen years, we have managed to hang on to the read aloud.
Yes, it is different now. It is always changing. You can trace our history through our read aloud stories. From picture books read never enough times. Koala Lou. Jillian Jiggs. Frances and her bread and jam. Hunwick and his egg. Ferdinand and his tree. Chester and his ego. To the pages of longer books. Lulu and her Brontosaurus. Clementine and her little brother with the various vegetable names. James and the Giant Peach. Everything about dragons. Mr. Elivies and his magic shop. The Grace children in the Spiderwick Chronicles. Harry Potter through the ages. Kenneth Oppel‘s Shade and Marina. Childhood perfectly personified in Barbara O’Connor‘s Elvis, Popeye and Owen Jester.
Now we are here.
When I read aloud, we are likely to be sprawled around a room. We don’t fit all snuggled together on one couch anymore. We no longer read no matter what every night at bedtime. But we read regularly. It might be one not so busy evening after dinner. Or on a Sunday afternoon. We still have a book for ferry line ups and for trips to a borrowed house on the ocean where we read gazing out at the water as the ocean meets the sky.
I still read because it pulls us close. There is intimacy in a shared story. My voice fills the quiet as we experience these words together. We still read to find adventures and other worlds. But now I also read to have the conversations they might avoid. For when they tell me, “We know Mom, okay.” To have them hear things they might not listen to otherwise. About the world. About how we are in it. About cruelty and racism and hate. About love and kindness and humility.
I read so that they will hear beautiful, beautiful language. Share, in words, the power of one story. The ugliness of life. Hope. Wisdom. Wonder. I pause and let my chosen silence ask questions. I read and let my voice break. I am not afraid when sadness causes me to stumble through one heartbreaking sentence. I read to be surprised at what makes someone laugh aloud or tear up.
Sometimes, I look up and catch one of my children looking at me. I hold their gaze as I read on and breathe deep.
Some favourite read alouds I have shared with my children in the last few years
Okay for Now written by Gary D. Schmidt
Twerp written by Mark Goldblatt
All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen
The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel
Doll Bones by Holly Black
Jinx by Sage Blackwood
Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures written by Kate DiCamillo
I am participating in the Slice of Life challenge to write and publish a post every day in March.
Slice of Life is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. I thank them for the community they provide. Read more slices here.