As I cram myself in the rocking chair with an almost two year old and a first grader, I feel elbows in my side, and knees knocking me in the face. And yet the simple bedtime story time has been a ritual. By the end of yet one more reading of LMNO Peas tonight, I was reminded of how important it was for me and my kids.
Here are some simple lessons I have learned from our bedtime stories.
1. It’s not all about the books.
Our story time is not about the books we chose to read together. It is about the fact that Strawberry was looking in awe and love at her big brother as he read it to her. It is about the fact that my son was excited about a toddler book. It is about the little “yeay!” and hand clap that my daughter did when I said, “Let’s go read a story!”
2. It’s not about the story.
As I tried to read the book to Strawberry, she kept saying “no! no!” and turning the page back. I was going to fast. She’d point at an item on the page, with all the excitement she could muster: “Brush! Brush!” or “Baby! Baby!” or “Sleep! Sleep!”
She knew what those people in the book were doing, and it was delightful for her, not necessarily to hear my voice but to be acknowledged in the fact that she was telling her own story.
3. It’s not about beginnings and endings.
When I’m really tired, I dread reading a long book aloud at bedtime. The Cat in the Hat just drags, for example. And have you ever actually read Cars and Trucks and Things that Go? It is incredibly long. During a sleepy time, I tend to skip pages (if my kids will let me). Besides it is very satisfying to finally say the happily ever after ending and THE END.
With a toddler, it’s just not always going to happen. Sometimes we start in the middle. Sometimes it’s the end. Sometimes we read two pages of five different books. Reading with kids is about the middle of books, the middle of a cuddle, and the middle of our love for them.
That’s how it is for all of parenting. There is not magic day when I’ll be done. My two kids arrived in our lives with two different but dramatic and sleep-deprived beginnings. But there is no ending. It’s all about what’s in the glorious middle.
What was the last thing you read to your kids?
image by Karpati Gabor