You hear parents say that, right? My baby just loooves books! All breezy and casual. I sometimes hear a parent tip a conversation about babies or kids into a conversation about books, and how much their kid looooves books. I’ll listen for a while, and I’ll nod and smile. But depending on the intensity or duration of this conversation, this parent talking about books and how much their kid loooooves them, I start doing some mental calculations.
What I begin to hear, especially if they keep going and going, is, My kid is so smart. I gave birth to a genius. My kid is going to beat out your kid for a spot at Harvard. Little dumpling just loves books so much!
Sort of aggressive, right? But pretty easy to dismiss, since it’s now such a goddamned cliché. You run into these people, parents and non-parents, who tap dance on the edge of being a sitcom caricature, waiting for some opportunity to humble brag about how awesome their kids are. Or in the case of non-parents, how awesome their Phil Collins fan page is. Or whatever.
You’ve run into this, right? Someone is passionately trying to convince you of something, but they are not smart enough to not be a cliché?
I spend the majority of my life trying to be keenly aware of how much of a cliché I am. I try to know it before other people know it. It’s a pre emptive defense. No, you can’t make fun of me for being a greenie liberal urban minimalist blogger mom with super smart and adorable kids, because I already know all of those things. I know it so hard. So you can’t make fun of me! I already know!
Now. With all that said, my son Cascadian really loves books. I’m just going to say it. He is obsessed with books. He had a couple favorites that he wants us to read over and over again. He holds them up to us with his little question grunt. Eh? Eh? Eh? I’m trying to get him to say book, but he’s not interested. Eh? Eh? Eh? Read me this book! Over and over! A hundred times!
I don’t think that this attachment to books is any indicator of distant future ivy potential, as secretly pleased as I may be. He has his favorite books that are on trip-on-the-floor rotation. We don’t bother putting them away. His super wild screechy favorites are pop-up books that we have to hide. We have to hide them because he loves them so much, the very site of them causes him to lose his mind. If he sees them, he collapses in a puddle of tears and wailing that we are not reading those books this instant. Plus, he wants to touch and rip up the folding paper constructions and eat them.
So this makes me think it’s not the words and the inherent love of the English language that would clearly make him some sort of a genius baby. I think he wants to hear our voices. He wants to see the pages turn. He doesn’t care if the book is upside down, or if he turns them in the wrong direction. He doesn’t care that it’s the same story. He doesn’t even care how many words there are in 10 Minutes Till Bedtime. There are three words or less on every page. I tell the story by explaining the pictures. Over and over again.
Sometimes he sits and cuddles with us and wants us to read the same book again and again. Other times he wants us to start a book, then he wanders off. I find myself sometimes continuing to read a book to an empty room, devoid of toddling babies, out of sheer habit.
Both boys read to themselves sometimes, which is delightful. I have poked my head into a too-quiet room, to see them both turning pages of books together. Which makes me melt, a million times.
This morning I held Cascadian and read him Is Your Mama A Llama, another one of his favorites. He was calm and perhaps ready for bed, since he was so content to sit still in my lap. The book is full of rhymes, conducive to reciting as a sing-song, especially after the 1,000th reading. I finished the book and handed it to him, enjoying that he was happy just sitting with me.
He turned the book over in his hands and opened to the first page. “Dududududa,” he said, and turned to the next page. “Dududududa.” He flipped a chunk of pages over. “Dududududa.” He moved his hands over the words! He was reading the book to himself! I trembled to keep the laughter and tears contained. Our reading sounds like dududududa to him.
He flipped to the end and said “Haaey!” in the same tone we use to say “The end!” And then he clapped. My heart nearly burst.
I could not love this kid more.