Growing up, I always had an enthusiastic love of reading. Self-taught at four, my parents didn’t even believe I could read, and instead assumed I had deftly memorized the books they read me so often. Challenged to read from the newspaper, I stunned them all by reading straight from the page. Then came school, and reading for fun quickly fell out of fashion. I was required to read so much that the thought of adding extra “work” voluntarily seemed silly. So I took a two decade long hiatus from my hobby. Through high school, college and graduate school, I read what was required of me, no more, not much less. After grad school my brain was broken. I had used up too many brain cells digesting the works of Foucault and Aristotle, Kenneth Burke and bell hooks. Some loved, some….not so much, but brain cells just the same.
I needed a BREAK. So I bartended. I went out at night. I spent lazy days on the beach flipping through magazines. I rode my bike wherever I could as much as I could, especially on the weekends when I made it a point to not get in my car unless it was absolutely necessary. I found myself riding my bike past a huge, beautiful library, both inviting and intimidating at the same time. On a particularly hot day I decided to go inside even if it was just for the cool, yet musty, air. I walked the aisles, my hands gently touching the spines of the books. Always a tactile person, the idea of reading a book any other way was borderline offensive. The smell, the feeling, the colors of the books called me in a way I couldn’t resist.
It was in this newfound sanctuary that I once again began to consume books. I didn’t just read, I ingested them quickly and completely. I found myself returning to the library weekly, checking out books and predictably sitting under some large tree to read and relax. That year, I began tracking how many books I read, and was both pleased and surprised at my final total of 56. For a single twenty-something with a not completely pathetic social life I thought I was doing rather well. I kept this pace up for several years.
Then one day, I was told that I should say goodbye to this passion of mine. See, I was going to have a baby, and there’s no way I could possibly still have time for such things. “You’ll see,” they said. “Just wait,” they said. I was momentarily dismayed by this warning.
Then I remembered that I’m incredibly stubborn and I LOVE proving people wrong.
My son was born in June 2013. That year, I read 56 books.
“Well, you only had him for HALF that year…”
“You were a housewife that whole year, so that makes sense that you could read that many.”
“Babies are so much easier than toddlers….just wait until he’s running around! That’s when you’ll have the real challenge.”
“Wait until you have two!”
Did these naysayers miss the part where I’m incredibly stubborn? Or where I LOVE proving people wrong?
My daughter was born in December 2014. That year I read 57 books.
In 2015 – the year where juggling two babies AND books would be impossible….53 books.
2016? 62 books.
The tone shifted.
“When do you find the time???”
“How could you possibly read so much???”
“WHAT IS YOUR SECRET???”
My secret is simple: I’m a reader. It’s a HUGE part of who I am. It’s a huge part of me that I want my kids to see. It’s a huge part of who I want my kids to be.
Sure I have little tricks….I bring a book everywhere I go. EVERYWHERE. In the first year of a kids life, there are lots of Drs. appointments. I bring a book. Kids fall asleep in the car and it’s just easier to turn that into naptime instead of praying that you can transfer the baby to the crib. I bust out my book. Middle of the night feedings? Pop my reading light on my book. Chad and I go on a date? Yeah – I bring a book. You never know when he might disappear for a questionably long trip to the bathroom. And if he does? I read my book.
We also have a wacky “no electronics in the bedroom” policy – I’m sitting out on the couch in our living room as I type this at 3am because the baby woke up and I can’t sleep – so I read in bed every night.
This has rubbed off on my kids, often asking if they can bring books places. My daughter keeps a small stack in her crib. My son, a basket at the foot of his bed. The baby currently has patience for tiny board books with about 4 pages and 12 words, but I haven’t given up on her. My heart absolutely swells when I see this part of me manifested in them.
But more than anything, it’s keeping a bit of me from before kids. Along this road I’ve lost so much of who I was to be who I am now. And I love being a Mother, don’t get me wrong. But I also love just being a woman, getting lost in a good book.