Bedtime reading, Monday evening: snapshot

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completely unrelated photos of SPRING!

8:40 PM. Home from AppleApple’s first outdoor soccer game of the season. Kevin off to his soccer game.

Me, at dining-room table, eating a late supper, Business section of the Globe open before me (nothing else available, clearly).

Him, two bowls of bedtime-snack-cereal consumed and teeth brushed, arrives at my side.

Me, hugging him, while trying to finish eating: “It’s bedtime. Would you like me to read to you, or I could play the ukulele for you, or would you like AppleApple to read you some more Harry Potter?”

Him, no hesitation: “Harry Potter!”

:::

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8:55PM

Her: “I can read you a bedtime story, Mom.”

Me: “Okay. You can start while I’m loading the dishwasher.”

Her: “It’s about this dog and a boy, and the boy can read the dog’s mind.”

Me: “Okay.”

Her: Reading out loud, stumbling over words like “array” and “campaign.”

Me: “This book uses a big vocabulary.”

Her: “Can we read in my bed now? I’ve set it up for you.”

Me, awhile later, dishwasher running, pots washed: “Sure.”

Her: “Are you coming, Mom?”

Me: “I just have to … kiss your brother goodnight … tuck in your brother … get a sheet for your brother because his blanket is too hot … tell your sister to brush her teeth ….”

Her: Waiting in a little nest she’s made for us in her bunk.

Me, climbing up: “Do you want me to read to you for a little bit?”

Her: “You can finish the chapter!”

Me: Finishing chapter.

Her: “Now I’ll read.” Stumbling over words. Patiently continuing. Laughing with genuine delight when the dog eats the boy’s pillow.

Me: “Look at the clock, honey.” [9:30 on the dot.] “We have to stop here.”

Her: Bookmarking spot.

Me: “This book really has a lot of big words. But I don’t think it’s actually very well written.”

Her: “I finished all the Magic Treehouse books …”

Me: “And we’ve already read a lot of the really good ones, like Pippi Longstocking, Charlotte’s Web.”

Her: “I’m not going to read Because of Winn Dixie. We’re reading it at school.”

Me: “I’ll bet your sister could recommend some really good books for you to read. She’s read just about everything. Let’s ask her in the morning.”

Us: Goodnight kisses.

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9:35 PM
Me, back downstairs: “You are not allowed to start reading another Agatha Christie book right now!!!!”

Her, blank-eyed, glancing up at me: “Whaaa?”

Me: “Mark your page and put down the book, or I will take it away from you.”

Her: “What?”

Me: “You need to go to bed. You’re swimming in the morning!”

Her: Eyes gazing downward on page.

Me: Turning book over.

Her: Sad face (fake).

Us: Hugging goodnight.

::
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Me: Folding laundry, nearly 10 PM.

Him, coming downstairs, plopping into nearby chair: “Mom, what if video games had been invented before books? Do you think that parents would be making their kids play video games instead of reading books?”

Me: Pondering.

Him: “I mean, what makes books better than video games? At least in video games I get to choose what I want to do next. In books, the story stays exactly the same, no matter what.”

Me: Wondering if fundamentally I don’t get how the mind of a nearly-13-year-old boy operates.

Him: “Why is reading for entertainment better than playing a video game?”

Me, launching into it: “I think it’s because reading is creative. You have to see the characters in your mind. You have to make them up using symbols on a page. In a video game, it’s all there in front of you. You’re just viewing it.”

Him: “I mean, I like reading some books. But it seems like they’re less creative than video games because you can’t make any choices.”

Me: “Well, a book is a linear creation. But even a video game is limited by its own parameters. And in really good books, everything isn’t neat and tidy, and you have to figure out for yourself why characters do certain things, and you wonder afterwards what might happen next.”

Him: “I don’t do that.”

Me: “You don’t wonder why a character did something? Or wonder what might happen next?”

Him: “No.”

Me, climbing onto soapbox: “Also so many video games are extremely violent. You’re in a fantasy world where you can’t empathize with the people you’re killing. And you basically have eternal life.”

Him: “Exactly. It’s a fantasy. That’s what people who play video games want.”

Me: “Sure. I agree with you. Lots of people want the fantasy. Lots of people watch reality television too. It’s easy entertainment. I guess I just don’t really get it.”

Him, sadly: “I’m going to bed now.”

Me, feeling crummy, missing his company, hearing my ponderous long-winded lecture through his ears (have not transcribed entire ponderous long-winded lecture for the sake of brevity and face-saving)

Me, to self: “I’m the worst mother in the world.”

Self, to me: “No you’re not. Don’t get down on yourself. It’s not going to help.”

Me, awhile later, laundry folded, knocking on closed bedroom door, sitting on the end of his bed in the dark: “Maybe we can agree that we don’t quite understand each other’s preferred forms of entertainment. Maybe you can figure out how much time you think is reasonable to spend playing video games, and I’ll figure out how much time I think is reasonable to spend reading books. And then we can talk about other ways to be entertained too.”

Him, quite agreeably: “Ok.”

Me: “Ok!”

Ok. Okay? Ok.

Goodnight.

Feed, play, love
Can I bottle this, please?

4 Comments

  1. I think this is one of my all-time favourite posts on this blog. I’ve come back to read it twice. You are an amazing mother, and an awesome advocate for reading.

    Reply
    • Thank you, Nathalie! You’ve got boys around the same age. I’m guessing some of these same subjects of conversation come up? I found his perspective really fascinating, and wanted to get it down while it was fresh in my mind.

      Reply
  2. love this. I have a hard time articulating my visceral NO to video games. Read a scholarly article recently that influenced me. Her point was that digital natives (our kids) are being taught by second-language learners (us) who just get older and little more out of touch with technology. The digital natives don’t question technology – it just IS for them. The writer wasn’t proposing any solutions, just describing. I think each generation can help each other, which is what I think your final conversation with your son was getting at.

    Reply
    • Yes, I think it’s worth trying to understand and see the world through their eyes. They aren’t growing up with the same technology we did. It’s really very different, and yet the goals are much the same: enjoying leisure time, finding independence, spending time with friends and family, learning responsibility, learning how to prioritize, share ideas, articulate ideas, express emotions, etc., etc.

      Reply

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