I keep trying to read books with Quinn. Sometimes she listens, rubbing her fingers over the characters on the pages–especially if those pages have built-in mirrors that allow her to grin at her too-adorable, two-toothed self–but mostly, to my English teacher’s chagrin, when we sit down to read together she writhes around in my lap, tries to chew on my arm, or slaps the pages close because dammit, she doesn’t want to read any stinking books right now.
She’s only 12 months old, I keep telling myself. She’s still a baby. So what if she doesn’t like to read now? It’s okay, there’s still time. There’s still time (kindly imagine the high-pitched voice wailing into the abyss, please).
Then there’s Saoirse, who will wake early in the morning and read books for an hour quietly in her bed before we even realize she’s been awake. At night, I’ll walk by her room, and even if it’s a half hour past her bedtime, there she is, in bed, with a book propped on her knees, squinting to see the pages in the waning light (Yeah, I know. Maybe it’s time to push back her bedtime). The kid rips through books and magazines and the backs of cereal boxes like I go through, well, books and magazines and…
Books. When I worked in publishing, we editors were always swapping reading material, suggesting novels to each other, lending out whatever intellectual literary fiction bestseller was hot at the moment (no, I didn’t work in fiction publishing. I worked in legal book and newspaper publishing, which is exactly as boring as it sounds, which is why we probably read so much. Probably why we went out to drink so much, too, but don’t tell my kids that. Or my mother. Actually, my mother already knows). Books are important. Reading, in my very biased view, is what sets us up to be curious people, avid learners, better conversationalists (unless our noses are in a book, but that’ s not my point). I’m happy to see Saoirse apparently following in the letter-pressed step of an avid reader, and not just because I like the idea of having my own in-family book club one day.
Quinn, on the other hand, is not quite there yet (see? I’m still comparing my children. I told you about this. Make. Me. Stop. Pigeonholing. My children). She’d much rather use a book for shot put practice, or chew on a page as a snack. I realize that Quinn’s not wanting to sit around and read all day may have more to do with the fact that she’s learning how to stand up, and balance herself–by golly, I hear her think, I will learn how to walk!–and all she wants to do is get down on the floor and movemovemove, but my literature major self (Yes, I was a lit major. And yes, my parents let me do it without voiced fears that I’d end up alone and penniless under a bridge somewhere with just my Ted Hughes poetry to keep me company) silently cries a howl of desperate sorrow, imagining that–gasp–she’ll never really learn to love books and instead get hooked on–the horror!–TV and…I can’t say it…video games. Oh, what’s a momma to do?
Relax, that’s what. Like with everything else in this life that seems like a big deal but really, really isn’t, I’ll just relax. Because the poor kid’s only a year old. She’s still throwing her sippy cup to see if the dog will catch it and eating lint off the floor (not that there’s ever lint on my floor, of course. Ahem). And she loves to be sung to, and dances to her favorite songs, and thinks that magazine pages make for a mighty fine dose of fiber. It’s okay. The kid’s amazing, and she’ll probably surprise me by learning how to read by the time she’s like, 3 (No? Too soon?).
And if she doesn’t? So what. Somebody’s got to study something sensible when she gets to college. After all, no lit major’s going to able to afford the kind of nursing home her dad and I will want someday.