Every parent has a few gaudy tail feathers to shake at the world regarding the brilliance of their children. LE could ride a bike a 5, cross any monkeybars with ease at six. She doesn’t lie, she bathes and dresses her brother, and always says thank you. And stuff. Shake shake shake…
But there’s one plume I don’t have. A huge one. One that every other parent in my world seems to have firmly attached to their rears, swishing proudly in my face.
My daughter doesn’t like to read, and she watches a lot of television.
“Oh we began reading the Little House on the Prairie books to Alfreda when she was three.” Swish swish swish.
You know what? I’ve read the first chapter of that series quite recently. You know what it was about?
19th century rural food preservation.
Which I found interesting because I’m a 35 year old who lurks in local history museums, waiting till the retired volunteers aren’t looking so I can reach across the cord tying off the kitchen display, snatch a sad iron off the monstrous old stove and pretend I’m starching my husband’s Sunday best church collar with it.
THAT is the kind of nerd you need to be to appreciate the first chapter of Little House on the Prairie. It’s boring. If you’re three you will have NO idea what they’re talking about when they’re talking about smoking meat in stumps. And if you’re old enough to understand it, there’s a great chance you won’t care. Because it’s about strangers smoking meat in stumps.
Oh I know my grapes are sour. To have a small child with the attention span to even try to absorb LHotP, or Little Women, or Johnny Tremain, or any of the other “children’s books” that I had no interest in until I was 15. That was the year I decided to embrace my inevitable destiny, which I figured was the life of a lonely Victorian spinster who read tattered books in a rocking chair by a window.
I would love to have that in my kid. Of course I would.
We tussled through my own old favorite, Ramona the Pest, and a Junie B Jones book. It was not a pleasure for either of us.
“LE, honey why don’t you like to read?” I finally ask in frustration.
“Because…you just…sit there!” she answers.
Ah. So there it is. That means her mind isn’t taking her away. She’s not playing Brick Factory with Howie and she’s not enjoying the vicarious thrill of being a sass mouth with Junie B. Her imagination doesn’t work like I thought it did. Thought it should. She’s just sitting there.
Maybe she was born that way; not everyone is a reader. Maybe I did it to her with my reliance on the television to help me parent. At any rate it’s a feather, one of the biggest and fluffiest, decidedly missing from my parent plumage.
And I have mentioned that her mother is a writer and her father is a library tech at an enormous academic library, right? That the piles of books in our home choke every counter and table top and our egregious library fines are what we pay in lieu of charitable donations?
Loving reading doesn’t guarantee happiness or success, I suppose. But it still feels like I’ve let her down somehow. To be restricted to living only in the real world, or the one structured and painted for you by television and movies seems so dismal. Or maybe she’s having a good enough time she doesn’t see the need for an escape.