Sunday, May 17, 2015

I have books, and I have bedtime.

My boys are six and nine. I've spent many sweet hours reading to each of them since they were born. Each year, our read aloud time becomes more precious to me.

Connecting used to be easy. There were cuddles and snuggles—and the zoo.

But as time passes, I lose credibility. I commit outrageous crimes. I contaminate their Marvel world with my DC superheroes. I'm hilariously inept on their Xbox. Minecraft makes me dizzy. And between Pokemon and Skylanders, I don't know what they're talking about half the time.

But I still have two things going for me:
I have books.
And I have bedtime.

(Occasionally I also have kickball, UNO and Monopoly).

This year both boys started a new school. We were all nervous…especially my third grader, who had a traumatic teacher experience the year before. Before school started, I talked it up. I encouraged. I reminded him most teachers are amazing. I even showed him {this video} to prove some teachers are so spectacular you'll never forget them.

He remained very anxious.

But when the first day came, he went in with a brave face. And at the end of the day, he came out of his classroom smiling. It was a good day, he said. We all breathed a sigh of relief.

That night we read a new pile of picture books I had just picked up from the library. On top was Little Elliot, Big City by Mike Curato. It's about an elephant who feels invisible and alone.

When we got to this spread, my nine-year-old's face changed.

"Have you ever felt like that?" I asked.
"Yes," he said. "Today I did."
Then he spilled his guts.

Because we held Elliot between us that night, he found the words to tell me about his day. Both the good parts, and the hard parts. Because of a picture book, we hugged and cried and talked about it.

The school year is almost over now. It's been a good one. Really, it couldn't have been better. My nine-year-old wants to stay there forever. That first month he found a lot of friends. Friends who play Xbox. Friends who keep their superheroes straight. Friends who trade Pokemon at recess and play Minecraft after school.

Best of all, he ended up with one of those spectacular teachers he adores and will likely never forget. She doesn't jump on desks and proclaim her love of reading, but she's her own unforgettable brand of awesome.

Every day my kids get older. Every day they grow more independent. But every night, I'll be there—with a book and an opportunity to reconnect. And I hope it never ends.