Sometimes reading to your kids is boring. There, I said it. We like the idea of the day ending with all of the annoyances forgotten as we cuddle on the sofa with our precious children, sharing our favorite books as they listen with adoring expressions on their well-scrubbed faces. But I know the reality is just as often pushing the laundry aside to make room for you and two kids who are still arguing over who got the biggest slice of cake which apparently one child rubbed in her hair while handing you the one picture book you can’t stand as the cat vomits a hairball at your feet.
There are many motherly myths that make us feel like we’re Doing It Wrong. And the ones that produce the most guilt are the ones that tell us how we should feel. Maybe you’ve heard how you bond with your baby at birth? It’s true that you might surrender to a warm rush of instant love and pure joy. Or you might be like me at my first child’s birth, wondering what you are going to do with squalling mini-person now. (Love came later.)
Certainly nursing your child is a magical experience, connecting you to the spirit of womanhood through all time. That is, assuming that you figure out the latching-on thing and you don’t mind leaking at inopportune moments and you don’t get infections or chafing. And even then you spend this most beautiful experience watching Oprah, or get so blasé that you open the door to the UPS man because you are NOT going to miss out on your Buffy the Vampire Slayer DVD’s just because Little Miss Sucks-a-Lot won’t FINISH UP ALREADY!
And while I was moved by how much my girls looked like angels when they slept, it was generally not a respect for all that was holy that caused me to thank God. It was more likely relief that I wasn’t going to miss yet another episode of Survivor.
So reading to your kids. It can be a wonderful experience, a chance to slow down in the busy day and share something together. I dare say that often you will find it a nice thing to do. My point isn’t to tell you that reading to your kids is boring, but instead to give you permission to sometimes feel like reading to your kids is boring. Because when we as mothers set ourselves up to a certain expectation to how something Should Be, we can fail to work with How It Is.
Think of reading to your child less as a bonding experience and more like dinner. It could be prime rib or Hamburger Helper, but either way it’s important to eat. At reading time, the stars may align to make it a cozy tradition, or the day’s drudgery may make it another chore. And that’s okay.
While my goal was simply to validate less-than-blissful feelings about reading time, it would be cruel to leave without a little advice on banishing the boredom. Think about varying the routine in terms of the five Ws Who, What, Where, When, and Why.
Who If you can switch off on the reading with Dad or an older sister, go for it. You can even have a reading time where Junior reads to the dog as you let your mind turn to thoughts of George Clooney. Ah, Clooney.
What Just because your child wants to read the same book again doesn’t mean that you have to do so. On days when you are more patient, you’ll be happy to chug through Little Sparkly Fairy Princess again. But reserve the right to say, “Not today, honey.” Look for good book recommendations or ask at the library to add some fresh books to your mix. You’ll be happier for it, I promise.
Where If you always read by your child’s bedside or on the couch, take it outside. Or stop at the library or bookstore and read there. Change your surroundings just because you can.
When I am a personal fan of bedtime reading because in my unorganized world, it was hard to forget to do it. The pajamas tended to tip me off. But if you’ve always reached your limit at the end of the day, make reading time in the morning or after lunch or before nap or whenever works for you. Here’s a thought: You can even change it according to what works that day, week, month or year.
Why Well, this whole post has been about the why. You can read to your child because it is a beautiful way to connect while instilling a valuable skill. But on days when you’re not feeling it, you can still read to your child because it’s just a good thing to do. I’m sure that all the “perfect moms” would agree.
Check out more on today’s Share a Story Shape a Future topic, Reading for the Next Generation, with Jen Robinson.