Fatherhood: Time to put the book down? Not as easy as it seems..
As I stood waiting for my train this morning, mentally planning my timetable for the upcoming day, I found myself confronted by a large poster for the new Julia Donaldson book – The Scarecrow Wedding (in paperback at last!)
I’m sure I’ve mentioned this a few times before, but I’m a big fan of Donaldson’s work. My children have loved all of her previous books (particularly her collaborations with illustrator Axel Scheffler) and I personally love her style of storytelling. So I immediately made a mental note to pick up this latest release next time I was passing a bookshop.
It was only then that a sad realisation dawned on me: this is probably the last of Donaldson’s books I’ll be able to buy, as my children are getting a bit too old for them now. Robert is now 7, and can read very capably himself. Whilst I still read him a chapter of a book each night at bedtime (current book: Roald Dahl’s Matilda), he eagerly digests books about Space, Minecraft, Lego and Geography with ease. He’s definitely outgrown the Gruffalo.
Freddie, now 4, is still skating at the tail-end of the Donaldson target demographic, but has the unfortunate luck of being a second child. And as we all know, when faced with an older sibling to keep up with, younger siblings rush to keep up – often skipping right over their own developmental milestones in order to keep pace with their brothers or sisters.
Given that the Donaldson/Scheffler books seem to be released around once a year, this is almost certain to be the last one that I’ll have a valid excuse to buy.
And that is making me really sad.
Bizarrely, things like books and clothes seem to mark out the passage of time a lot more easily that children themselves. Perhaps it’s simply because children grow a tiny bit each day, so you only notice the change when you stop to look back. Plus, if you’re lucky, your children will be around you for many years to come, so you’re very rarely faced with the prospect of leaving them at the counter of a charity shop.
Books, clothes and toys, on the other hand, regularly come and go through your doors. Strangely, I don’t hold as much sentimental value to toys and clothes. With the exception of a few choice items, clothes are purely functional. And toys mostly just get in your way and mess up their bedrooms – so getting rid of them can often be a blessed release.
Books, on the other hand, feel much more special to me. Many of the paperbacks on our children’s shelves have been read on a regular basis for 6 or 7 years – sometimes read daily. I remember when Robert was very small, we went for over a month reading ‘Peepo’ every single night, because he loved to do actions or noises at certain parts. Same thing happened with ‘The Gruffalo’, and ‘A Squash and a Squeeze’ too.
So the prospect of “finishing” certain collections of books is really bumming me out. And that’s not to mention how much worse it’s going to be when we actually start getting rid of them. I’m genuinely not sure how I’m going to cope with that.
Perhaps I’ll just stick them all in a box in the loft, ready to dig out when the grandchildren come round in 20 years time?
Whatever happens though, one thing is for sure – this is going to be one hell of a tough chapter to finish…