Once, though, a few weeks ago on a rainy Saturday afternoon, a miracle happened. My four-year-old caught me reading to myself. Stop the world! This was a first. And I wasn’t even reading a note from his preschool or an email. I was reading a novel.
It was one of those delicious ones that I couldn’t put down but kept having to because I’m a mom. Moms don’t get to read novels during the day and, even worse, they fall asleep when they try to read them at night. I couldn’t wait to see what happened next in this particular book. So I was reading. Alone.
I wish this happened more often, this witnessing of Mommy reading for Mommy, but if I put my eyes on a book of my own during a normal day, that means they’re not on my children. And because my daughter, who has fully embraced being terrifyingly, terrifically two, recently tried to run up the ramp and into a skeeball machine at Chuck E. Cheese and also tried to climb up a ladder while her father stood precariously atop it and also takes every opportunity to ride the dog, my eyes stay on her at all times. She can’t be trusted.
Typically, when my kids are awake, the only reading I’m doing is written by Dr. Seuss or is about Transformers, what dinosaurs do when they have feelings, or a teachable moment with Llama Llama, most frequently when he’s mad at Mama. I’m not complaining. I love these books, even the Transformers ones, because I’ve gotten over it and I love reading to my kids. We read a lot.
This made my son’s observation of the Mommy Reading Miracle that much more interesting.
The Mommy Reading Miracle happened, I think, because the delightfully devious two-year-old was napping, her big brother was quietly playing, the laundry was done, and it was so very quiet. But I can’t remember exactly how it happened because I was so overwhelmed by the fact that it happened at all.
Anyway, my son approached me stealthily, as he tends to do, and then asked in his suddenly thunderous little voice (which he also tends to do), “What are you doing?”
I jumped and nearly dropped the book because I was so immersed and because he was so out-of-nowhere noisy.
“Reading,” I replied once I composed myself.
Confusion took over his face. It was as if I’d told him that Nutella was no longer on the lunch menu.
“But why aren’t you saying the words?” he asked.
I’d never really thought about how he thought reading worked. I’d bet many parents don’t. We read to our kids. Then they learn to read with us and at school. The only reading my son ever paid any attention to was the kind that we did aloud to him and his sister. Reading was an out-loud thing.
So I explained to him that when he learns to read and gets the hang of it, he won’t have to read the words out loud because he’ll be able to say the words inside his head as he reads them. He nodded and seemed to get it.
“Like a super power,” he said.
Then he asked me to read his Transformers book.
So much for the Mommy Reading Miracle.
But then I got to thinking. Learning to read really is like a super power. So many things in the brain have to work for a person to learn how to read. So many pieces of the puzzle have to fit. And yet we learn to do it. It’s harder for some than others, but it happens. It’s exhilarating, really.
Forget a mommy reading a page-turner alone. Reading in itself is the miracle.
We should all be thrilled and thankful for this super power, out-loud or silent.
I try to remember that as I write, working to craft stories that are worthy of super powers. Kids work hard to learn to read. They deserve it.
Here’s to writing, reading, smiling, and the occasional surreptitious novel.