Happy Mother’s Day!
It’s honestly nice to have some holidays in the books that are not completely kid centered. I know a lot of people out there feel that holidays are just made up by the people who stand to profit from them, and maybe so, but sometimes I think those same people either do not have young children, have forgotten their own fun at holidays or sadly did not have any fun at all when they were kids.
Don’t get me wrong, I love planning holidays for my son. He got a sweet snorkel set for Easter and a bubble machine. And a ball shooter. I got him a butterfly kit for Christmas and its just about time to order the caterpillars. And a beautiful sleeping bag that it has not been warm enough to camp in, which he is absolutely dying to do.
But holidays are an exhausting grind that even if I can have some wine and lounge on the couch, I feel guilty I am not being more fun for my son. Not making the memory just a bit more awesome.
So Mother’s Day, man, it’s the thing. My husband usually comes up with gift cards and free time for me and that’s perfect. It could be free time, it does not actually have to be gift cards.
But then books. What books make me a good parent? They are not parenting help books. I kind of spend my day working on parenting with families, albeit specialized parenting that you need support with when you have a child with mental illness. This does not mean that I don’t read creative child or parent.co or scary mommy articles: I do. They are refreshers. They give me an idea of where other moms are at. They give me good ideas. They remind me that meeting a child’s emotional needs now does not make them dependent on you forever (which I do know, and I talk with parents about short term v long term parenting goals) but I like articles that keep this fresh for me.
Books that make me a better parent remind me of the magic in the regular world for kids. The magic, the humor, the way they see adults until they get become one. The intense self consciousness, the concern about fitting in and am I going to be powerful like adults are someday. My son always wants me to slow down to show me dead bugs on the windowsill, or a worm (I think its always the same worm for some reason) and not cook dinner right away to ride bikes. I often do not want to slow down or change gears or put down what I am doing, but most of the time I do, because if I don’t pay attention now, he will stop asking for it when he needs guidance on the harder stuff that I want to be included in. I don’t always slow down perfectly. And he isn’t an exhausting child.
I could wax poetic for days about how much I want my son to have a present mom who did everything right. We all want that. I feel like half my job some weeks is scrubbing guilt off a parents soul about “messing my kid up.”
So, the books. Okay.
I may have talked about Ruth before, but as the first author love I really remember and wanted to get through everything the library had, she earns herself another mention. She wrote about magic that I wish was real. Adventures in flying and shrinking and witches and spells and potions. Heck yeah. Going to read at least one of these to my son. And remember what the world felt like when I thought maybe this could happen, or I would imagine what I would do if I could fly or shrink and explore a tree. I don’t remember getting emotionally taken away by a single TV show the way she took me away.
And they have recently been re issuing her books, so I think I am not alone out there in my love for her. I think a lot of my generation loves her.
Swallows and Amazons, Arthur Ransome
I read this as a full grown adult for my first reading list tackle. It is an English family living out the Second World War in the country while their father is involved in the war and they camp and spend the summer engrossed in their world of pretend. I don’t want to spend the summer camping the entire time or playing like I was a pirate, but you got so into what they were doing it started to seem appealing. It can be amazing to get immersed in pretend as a kid, and this reminded me of that. Another share for my son. This one might be a harder sell because it does come from a different culture at a different time in history, but deep down we were all the same kids at heart.
Road Dahl reminds me that kids want to feel they influence their worlds. I would fantasize as a kid about being more consequential in the eyes of adults than I was before I joined their ranks. I thought I wanted to be more conspicuous, like on TV or something, and I did things at school to be noticed in positive ways. But Dahl’s kids get to like talk to the queen and choose their parents and roll away from abusive situations in giant fruit. And they outsmart adults. Yas.
The Cricket in Times Square, George Selden
Being small and living in new spaces that adults did not traverse was somehow an exciting prospect. I mean, right now I wouldn’t want to be a mouse living in a subway, but kudos to Selden for realizing that this would be a magical idea for a kid. A cranny where one can watch the adults and hide treasures. And it takes place in NYC, the completely foreign place I got to visit as a kid, and makes use of this bustling backdrop to make the book fun. Adult problems of how to survive living in the city were not real, but somehow there was something relatable about scrounging for food and watching the world as a small creature.
And reading for my own pleasure makes me a better mom. They say you should model reading for fun to your kids and I wonder if its the same when I am holding my kindle instead of a physical book. I listen to books in the car with my son when he is watching a movie but I have started to consider putting on books he might like too to share the fun with him. He does not choose to be read to on electronics or ask me to do it unless he is putting off his bed, so I have to keep working at his becoming a reader himself one day. He isn’t the reader his mother is, but that’s okay. The beauty of the children’s book market is that it is so competitive that a lot comes out designed to hook kids. I will find something he really loves and ride that pony. I am not above it.
What books remind you of the world as seen from the eyes of a kid?