May 23, 2014 by Julia
I know a lot of parents feel that bedtime for the kids is one of the hardest parts of the day, but I’ve gotta say, if the teeth are brushed and all the wrangling and prep work are done, and we’re just lying in bed reading books and singing songs, it’s one of my favorite routines. To be fair, Dennis does it more often than I do, because I get up earlier than he does with the kids. But when I do have to put them to bed, usually once or twice a week, I cherish the quiet alone time with Fiona.
Lately she wants to hear stories from when I was young, and I try to give her the juicy ones, because that’s what she craves: drama. Tonight I told her one about how my friend Sarah and I performed ‘America the Beautiful’ with our girl scout troop on a stage at eight years old, and then a cute older boy came over and said something like, “Nice job, girls,” and we started giggling so hard we spewed lemonade everywhere. I have this written in my diary from the time, but it’s hard for me to imagine that it actually happened this way. I mean, who really spits out liquid in surprise? Anyway, Fiona was pleased, but she said, “Tell me another story with a problem!”
I try to tell her stories of how I struggled as a kid with things, of what scared me or upset me, because I hope that it will comfort her that I remember what it’s like. And I think it must be reassuring to see that I survived and turned out mildly okay. I remember knowing that my parents weren’t super popular in high school or models or model citizens, and I took great comfort in it, for whatever reason, as I struggled with acne and shyness and the usual angst. I think it must be hard to be a teen with parents who were the stars of their high schools. How could you live up to that? And how could you believe that they understand your problems, if you aren’t a teenage star?
Anyway, I decided tonight to tell her the story of when I read Where the Red Fern Grows at around eight years old. SPOILER ALERTS AHEAD. (It’s classic young adult fiction, so I don’t know if you really care, but just in case.) I began with a preamble about how much I loved reading and writing at such a young age, and isn’t it funny how I still love to read and write so much now? And the things you are interested in as kid will probably still interest you as an adult, I said. She took this in, but had no comment.
“Well, this was a chapter book, with no pictures, and it was long, like the books I read now, only it was for kids,” I said. “And it was about a boy with two dogs whom he loved very much, and they would go around in the woods and stuff. But then at the end, the dogs are attacked by a bear, and they both die.”
She gasped and looked worried. Actually, now that I’m writing this, I can’t even remember if that is how the dogs die. I just KNOW that they die, okay? Before their time. It’s not of old age. It’s tragic. They’re hounds. And I think one is named Annie. They might be brother and sister.
“When I finished the book,” I went on, “I was so sad that I went out into our backyard, and – there was a basketball court in our old yard, and I got my bike out and rode in circles on the court, crying for a long time. And my mom could see me through the kitchen window, just going in circles and crying.”
“And then I came inside and said ‘That was my most favorite book ever.’”
Fiona started laughing hysterically. “You said it was your favorite?” she said. Suddenly I felt like if were both young girls at the same time, we would have been good friends, and I almost told her so, but we were laughing too hard.
“And I still like sad books as a grown-up!” I exclaimed. “If I read a book with a sad ending that makes me cry, I think that means it’s a good book, and I might think it’s one of my favorites!”
“You LIKE to cry!” she said, still giggling.
“Yep,” I said.
And then we sang My Favorite Things, only customized to her daddy, because we’ve been doing alternate versions for our family members. It’s really fun. I recommend it.
I also recommend having children, because you get to have actual precious moments that are way better than the cheesy figurines that were so popular in the 80’s and 90’s.