I’ve written many times about my enjoyment at reading books with my children. Not just because I enjoy telling them tales, making silly voices and making them laugh either – my love of bedtime story-time is important to me for two big reasons.
Firstly, I’m passionate about making sure my children enjoy reading as a past-time. Whilst most children will learn to read at school, it takes a lot of time and effort to ensure your children see the enjoyment to be had in reading – and I firmly believe it is a parent’s job to teach this. In these days of ‘digital natives’, smartphones, connected education and more, the joy of burying your nose in a good book really can’t be replaced by an electronic screen.
Secondly, and equally important, bedtime stories is one of the most consistent and joyful moments in my day. Regardless of how stressful my work has been, how bad the traffic, how tired I’m feeling or what day it is – reading my boys their bedtime stories is a solid and dependable beacon in a sea of chaos. I don’t always get home in time to do them (I reckon I’ve probably done about 90% of them in the past five or so years) but I try bloody hard to make sure I do, and that’s because of how much I love that time.
So it’s with some sadness that I’ve come to realise that the first reason will eventually come to mean the end for the second. The more accomplished my children become at reading, the less likely they are to want that special bedtime bonding time that I so crave.
I know it’s probably silly to think like this – there are, after all, so many things that happen during childhood that will eventually disappear as your children grow. Cuddles for instance – no matter how hard you try, kids just don’t like cuddling you as much as they did when they were toddlers.
I suspect this is the root-cause of the dread I currently feel when I look at my children’s over-crowded book shelves. Since moving house, we’ve managed to gather all their many books into one corner of their room, on several over-spilling book shelves. This chaotic library is currently threatening to explode all over the room, leading Sara and I to conclude that sooner or later we’re going to have to thin-down the collection by a significant chunk. And the prospect of this is filling me with dread.
As I stare wistfully at “That’s Not My Pirate”, “The Gruffalo’s Child” and so many other memorable titles, I feel the same way I felt at the end of Toy Story 3. I’m sure most parents will have felt the same way when they watched that film – I don’t mind admitting that I usually well-up as Andy hands his toys over to Molly, a tear in his eye. But when I look round my children’s room, it isn’t the toys that I feel that close emotional connection to – not least of all because there are so bloody many of them. No, it’s the books that bring back the most memories – and the books which I will miss the most as they disappear from our lives.
Fellow parents – I realise I’m probably being a bit of a prat here. But if any of you feel the same way as me, or have been through this yourself, I’d love some advice on how to pull myself together!