We’ve read with our son since he was born. I’m not going to lie and say it’s always enjoyable… but for every night I would rather have tucked him in with a kiss and gotten started on ‘my’ night, there have been ten where I’ve lost track of time while reading to him—amazed he remembered a specific word in the book or that he was so thoroughly entertained by part of a picture I hadn’t even noticed.
The more I’ve watched him enjoy reading, the more I’ve remembered that I love reading too. Lately I’ve been looking past the books I feel the nagging sensation that I ‘should’ read to books I really want to read. Books I will stay up to read. Books I want to talk about….not just to posture about how smart & well-read I am, but because my heart is full of the adventure I just stayed up three nights in a row to finish.
I think maybe it was in college—when you had to take professor recommendations and everyone was in the habit of posturing on how smart & well-read they were—that I forgot about going beyond what everyone else was reading to that one book that (even though it might be totally weird, or cheesy, or science fiction-y, or whatever) could shake me out of my routine into a new frame of mind.
Now when I am choosing books for our son I try to be extra aware of that lesson. There’s the part of me that always wants to reach for the award-winning books, the classic books, the pretty books that call out from the shelves at the bookstore. But my taste isn’t his taste. No matter how much I want it to be different—my favorites will not be his. If I want him to have a lifetime love affair with reading, I need to expose him to all kinds of books in the hopes that the spark will light. So instead of just doing the recommendations and the bestsellers and the books that worked for me and Andrew when we were kids, I have to remember to keep the mix….mixed.
Used book stores are great. But the best are garage sales. I love it when a sign pops up out of nowhere and right in that moment you decide, ‘Why not’, pull your car to the curb then go to flip through the books. Usually I’ll pick up all the books they’ve got for an under 5 reader because what we don’t read can go to our library. And then, for good measure, I’ll spend a few minutes on books without pictures to see if there’s anything that strikes my fancy. We are in danger of forgetting this—but there’s a world of options out there that Amazon wouldn’t even think to recommend to us—why? Because Amazon tracks who we’ve been, and what we are….but has no idea who we might be or where a book could take us.
And that’s why we can’t let Amazon think for us….or for the kids we love.
Things I have done while making unnecessary detours during road trips:
Toured a snake farm.
Spent way too much money on an antique chair that I eventually had to leave by the side of the road because the ropes holding it on the top of my car kept coming undone. As we all know, an untied chair on top of a car is a hazard to other drivers on the highway as well as to all chickens trying to cross the road.
Tried a cajun pork crackling for the first time.
Bought tamales from a woman selling them on the side of the road whom I talked to long enough to figure out she was way happier than anyone I knew and she lived on pretty much zero money with eight kids in a trailer home in East Texas. The woman was joyous. Effervescent with satisfaction in the present. Everything the average white woman chases down everywhere from yoga rooms to corporate ladders and Lamaze classes, usually unsuccessfully. You can learn a lot from a woman on the side of the road—there’s a book title for you. Or maybe it should be ‘What you could learn if you stopped trying to be a know-it-all.’
Yes. That’s better.
Learned how to install windshield wipers. This was an unnecessary step in that particular trip because the gray clouds I saw in the distance where the reason I stopped, bought the wipers and put them in. Obviously I had forgotten that I was driving across Texas and only rarely do rain clouds actually equal rain.
Parked my car on the side of the road and fished for half an hour (without a permit) in order to prove that I was, in fact, a fisherwoman. We paid another fisherman on the side of the lake 10$ to borrow two poles and all I caught was a Taco Bell burrito wrapper but the next best thing to proving yourself a fisherwoman is proving yourself stubborn as hell.
Right now we are on the highway from Louisiana to Texas and I just realized it has been ages since I made a ‘pointless’ detour during a road trip. By ages, I mean the amount of time I’ve been a mom. My mom would have pulled the car over and dragged us through an antique store, but our generation (don’t you love it when people do that: our generation—because I totally know you and have the right to speak for you….) is about getting everything right. There’s little time for whimsy or exploration beyond what you might find on your best friend’s Pinterest board.
I’m all about efficiency—when traveling, when working, when mothering. It’s so lame. And closed off to the possibilities that pop up when you are actually watching the world around you, instead of just staying focused on the destination.
I know that truth, at other times in my life I’ve lived that truth. But right now, it’s tough to stay spontaneous… I tell myself it’s just because we have a small child right now… but that’s just an excuse that sells everyone in the family short.
‘Tomorrow,’ the young boy said. Then he woke up the next day and said ‘Tomorrow’ again. Then so many tomorrows came and went that he woke up and found himself an old man.
When my son runs he feels free. He doesn’t say this—I’m not even sure that’s an idea an almost-three-year-old could express—but he doesn’t have to say it, you can see the freedom flapping in every limb of his body.
His feet kick up loosely behind him.
His arms swing in wide circles around his chest.
There’s nothing rhythmic about his gait, except that he keeps putting one foot in front the other over and over again.
Occasionally he throws his head back so his face hits the sun and when he catches sight of our dog darting about in the trees or on the road in front of him he will shriek her name at the top of his lungs and then laugh because isn’t it fabulous? He and his dog out for a run?
When he gets tired he doesn’t slow down but when he gets really tired—so tired that he can hardly lift his feet—he will go from full speed to standing still. Then he will say something like ‘That was awesome’ ‘I am so happy’ ‘Did you see how fast I ran?’ or ‘Let’s do it again after Oreos.’
The other day he asked me if we could go for a run and I told him that of course we could do that, but I’d have to change into my running clothes first. He took a look at what I was wearing and—I guess after judging the outfit OK for a jog—asked why I couldn’t run in the clothes I had on.
I just couldn’t figure out a way to explain it to him… and then later I realized I was having a tough time even explaining it to myself. Wrapped up in my fancy exercise clothes and running shoes and calculated race pace and calories burned is everything that’s different between how he runs and how I run. Or maybe I should say—wrapped up in there is everything that’s right about how he runs and wrong about how I view working out.