I’ve always loved reading aloud to my children. I began, in fact, when William was still in utero (yes, I was one of those mothers), but took it up in earnest when he was newborn and we were alone in the house together for hours at a time. Rather than watch mind-numbing television during those many nursing sessions, I cradled him with one arm and held a book with the other and read aloud to him.
We began with the poetry of A.A. Milne– you know, the creator of Winnie-the-Pooh– and went on from there to read all of the Winnie-the-Pooh stories. I would sometimes laugh out loud as I read those delightful tales, and remember William leaving off nursing to stare at me, wondering why in the world I was laughing.
The reading continued. When nursing a second newborn, reading aloud was the perfect activity for my then two-year-old William, and I employed it again when it was an infant daughter in my arms. Of course by that time I had little ones at each elbow, but it worked well nonetheless.
And reading continued to be The Thing long after nursing. Reading was a major component of our homeschool, an important activity for before bed, a good way to start the day, and a great thing to do when the natives were restless: in those late-in-the-day hours before daddy came home, when the children were overtired and it was too late for a nap, when they had commenced to argue. Remedy? Read. Read, read, read.
It’s been harder, in recent years, to do this. School schedules, sports schedules, homework demands mean that I’m not reading to all of them at once and, on some evenings, I’m not reading at all. And then there’s the problem of which books to read: how to find something that works for a girl who’s eight and a boy who’s thirteen, not to mention the newly-eleven-year-old who also has Definite Opinions. Yes, it can be tricky. It can be, in fact, easier not to do it.
To say that this doesn’t make me sad would make me a liar; to say that I don’t recognize the certain inevitability of it all would do the same.
And then last night they were all being herded towards bed. Bill had gone out for a little bit, the boys were off brushing their teeth, and I was tucking Emma in. And then I saw it, its weary binding peeking out at me among the many selections on Emma’s bookcase: The World of Pooh. I decided to give it a try.
The boys were called in; we made space on the bed. And then the four of us lay there and I read aloud Chapter VII In Which “Kanga and Baby Roo Come to the Forest, and Piglet Has a Bath.” And my children (some of whom aren’t, really, children at all anymore)listened and they listened and they laughed.
We all laughed. We laughed quite hard. The laughing made it difficult, in fact, at Certain Moments, for me to read At All. And when that was over, they asked me to read Certain Moments over again.
This was So Good.
I don’t know if we’ll keep this up. Not all of the chapters are quite as funny as Chapter VII and, with school starting up tomorrow, we’ll be back in the thick of difficult schedules. But I wrote this here for posterity, for maybe (at the very least) me: on January 3, 2010– despite their ages and some indications to the contrary– the Stevenson children were not grown up. Not Entirely. Not Yet.