Ok, so maybe my kids aren’t rock stars (yet), nor are they bad to the bone, but sometimes trying to read to three different children, at three different levels – and different sexes to boot (picture princesses vs. pirates) – is like reading to a Motley Crew.
With my first son, reading before bedtime when he was little was a treasured block of time I fiercely protected, and I was able to do it with relative ease. Many folks tend to be structured with their first child and I was no exception: dinner, play, bath, books, and then bed. It was as simple as that. I would sit with my legs crisscrossed applesauce on the floor and have him snuggle into my lap. Book in hand, we read and explored every word and picture as one fabulously literate unit.
When my second son came along, I struggled with many of the “second child” questions that accompanied an emotional pregnancy. “How can I love more than one child?” “How will I have time for both?” My eldest wouldn’t hear of not sitting in my lap as we had always done. That was his spot. My lap = his chair. Discussion over. Me holding his new baby brother and reading a book as a now re-configured unit was so not happening.
I wanted to read together as a family, but then realized that I had to divide and conquer for our collective sanity. My eldest wasn’t hearing or learning anything with a screaming baby within earshot; not to mention I felt rushed and stressed. It was ridiculous. So I decided to break routine and find time for both of them separately. It was a light bulb moment in the 100 watt range. And we would explore the world of words until such time as we could come back together without issue.
It was bliss. Each got their own quality reading and snuggle time with mommy and/or daddy. Eventually, we got back to reading together as a group as they outgrew my lap [insert sad mommy face here] and began to take on some of the reading themselves [insert proud mommy face here.]
Then I had to throw a wrench in the reading gears by adding a baby princess in with the pirates who had already put in their time swabbing the deck; thereby setting us in the direction of walking the plank. Like a book, though, out story continues to evolve, add more characters, and develop into different chapters.
The present course takes one of two paths depending on the wind and the night. On some evenings I read to the princess in her room, alone and cuddling one-on-one while the boys pick out their selections in their room. On other nights, we all gather on the floor and take turns reading a book to one another. It is hysterical to hear my daughter “read” when it is her turn – because she can’t yet. It is complete gibberish, but utterly precious. Even the boys laugh at her insistence that what she is “reading” is correct.
So reading to my Motley Crew has been an evolution of good, bad and silly. Some days the one-on-one time works and sometimes it’s a free-for-all. I also try to tailor the book selection to the reading method. So if it is a free-for-all night, then we all dance around like crazy lunatics while I read, “Eight Silly Monkeys.” And sometimes we make up our own stories or act out stories we know by heart.
My family has taken on many forms over the years and so has our reading. The whole beauty of our story is that we can rewrite it to suit our needs. Sometimes our story is fiction, sometimes non-fiction, oftentimes autobiographical, but it is always an appreciation for the written word and the illustrations that bring each and every adventure to life.
While my crew may be motley, I am the captain of this pirate ship, plus one princess, and wouldn’t have it any other way. Argh!
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