What Are They Up to When They Are Quiet?

He's a reader now, but once upon a time he ripped a bunch of books.

He’s a reader now, but once upon a time he ripped a bunch of books.

I’ll never forget the time my son was about 18 months old and I had left him in his room while I was in the kitchen nearby doing something. After some time, I realized it was quiet. Too quiet. I went to check on him and discovered what he had been up to: taking all the tissues out of the box and making a big pile on the floor. I have more stories like that than I have fingers and toes added up. I’m sure if you have children or have been around them then you have a few stories yourself.

A few weeks ago on a Sunday morning I heard a commotion upstairs at 7:30. Based on the sounds, the kids were up and opening drawers, going in and out of their room. I was not worried. I knew I had about 30 minutes to an hour to roll over and get some more sleep before they would need breakfast. Often they wake up early and either read in bed or play. An hour  later I got out of bed. The house was very quiet, too quiet. I prepared myself to find a big mess as a result of creative play. Instead I found them sitting on the floor with clipboards, papers, pencils and colored pencils. They were working on their Young Author projects for school. We had let them play all day Saturday but reminded them that they would not be allowed to play on Sunday until they completed their work. Not only did they both finish before lunch, they did so independently.

It’s strange how you spend time trying to be on top of a problem before it arises based on past experiences. Then your kids grow up and start being responsible right under your nose. I think now I need to shift my thinking about what it might mean when the house is too quiet.

There are Fairies in My House

There are moments when time seems to drag on in a repetitive circle in my life as a parent. Five days of school with activities, hustle and hurry, two days on the weekend playing catch up. Repeat. Then something happens and the world seems off kilter, leaving me to wonder:  In which new direction are we headed?

I had decided to take my children to the bookstore one afternoon when they had a day off from school. We all went our separate ways in the small store, looking for new favorites to devour. I ordered hot chocolate and a cookie for the children and called them to the table. Neither of them wanted to leave the books. I told them they could each choose a book to buy before we left.

When it came time to pay for the books, the 6-year-old begged for three chapter books from the Rainbow Magic Fairy series. I held firm to only one and wondered where she had seen these books and why the sudden interest in them.

On the way home we had to stop at the library to pick up a book I had on hold. Once again, the children scattered to the children’s section. And the 6-year-old had found yet more Rainbow Magic Fairy books and wanted to check them out.

During the short ride home she called out page numbers and chapter numbers, announcing her reading accomplishments. The rest of the day I watched her walk up and down the stairs with her nose in one of the books. She brought a book to the dinner table. She attempted  reading while brushing her teeth, a task that even I have yet to do.

When it was time to read before bedtime, I asked her which book she wanted me to read to her. She said, “I don’t want you to read to me tonight. I want to finish my book about Mia the Bridesmaid Fairy.” I tried every trick I could think of to change her mind. All of them were unsuccessful.

I felt deflated, like a day old balloon. For the past four months, we had a routine in the evening where we curled up on a mound of pillows and I read her chapter upon chapter of wonderful books, like the Ramona Quimby series. She was attentive. She asked questions. She compared herself to Ramona and other characters. She laughed at all the right parts. It was a special time of the day for just her and I.

It all seemed to vanish in the blink of an eye. But as I reflected later on, I realized that we had built up to that moment over time. She has always been a self-starter. It was she who told me that she wanted to learn how to read when she was in preschool. She practiced and challenged herself with new words and their pronunciations. The former teacher in me encouraged her to read some of the passages out loud from these chapter books geared toward second and third graders, just to see if she was ready for this type of reading material on her own.

In addition to the mountain of books oozing out of every surface possible in our house, I indulged her and bought books that  interested her, like “Fancy Nancy“, “Pinkalicious” and “Angelina Ballerina“. But now, these books that she had been in love with only a short time ago were unacceptable. “They’re baby books,” she told me. I suggested chapter books that her brother had read when he was younger. She turned up her nose to “The Magic Tree House” series and others. I began to realize how important it was for her to have a say in the genre of books that she chose to read.

Now, she is a full-fledged member of our book-loving family. She wakes up early like her brother, turns on her reading lamp and gets a dose of words before breakfast.  She begs me to take her to the bookstore so that I can buy her more books to read (Fairy books of course). I know that when she is ready to read some of the outstanding literature  we have at home, (like Pippi Longstocking) she will dive right in and eat it up, just like she does with everything else.

As for me, I think this summer I will impose a Mama’s choice night where I get to choose the book and read to everyone. I am not quite ready to give up reading with my children. I guess I should start on my list now. I have some ideas, but I’d love to hear from you, readers.

Which books should make it to my “summer reading with my children” list?