Well, yes, I admit I did that! I stopped reading to my kids at bedtime. Late afternoon and early evening is the hardest time of the day for my family. Three kids come home from school and my toddler wakes up from his nap. Everybody’s starving. A snack won’t do. They want their big meal at 3.30 pm. Well, in my native Greece that’s a typical lunch time. In the US that’s more like an early dinner. Despite differences of definition, fact remains that coats need to be hung, boots need to find their place in the closet, hats and mittens need to be lined up, backpacks to get emptied, paperwork to be handed… and yes, I write in passive -a big no, no for children’s writers- because I want to remain as passive as I can be and let the kids do their chores. But they still need my presence and loving support. Then afterschool activities start and chauffeuring around gets to be fun: sharing secrets, pieces of gossip, news from school, dreams and hopes, plans and goals… I cherish my time behind the wheel with my kids, it’s a special time of communication and bonding. But when that’s repeated several times a day, several times a week, then there’s not much time between returning home and grabbing something quick to eat and getting ready to be tucked in. Oh, in all that I forgot to add the tantalizing details of the “grabbing something quick to eat” which sounds like “mommy, I want grilled cheese, no butter please” and “half a glass of cold milk”, “mommy, I want a piece of toast with butter and honey and don’t forget, I want a whole glass of warm milk” and “mommy, can I have some broccoli and pepperoni? What kind of herbal tea do we have?”. Thankfully, the little one doesn’t have food preferences. Just tantrums over unclear things he wants or he doesn’t.
Then starts the bedtime routine, with showers, and brushing teeth, and combing hair, and then getting a glass of water, and remembering to lay out the clothes for the next day and by the time the kids go to bed everybody is exhausted, first and foremost myself.
So I don’t read to my kids? Well, as I said, I stopped reading to them at bedtime.
We started finding other times in the day to do our daily reading of 15-20 minutes, some days even more.
In the late afternoon, I desperately need a hot cup of coffee. What better way to enjoy it, other than curled up on the couch, reading to my kids or having them read to me? This is a great time to read because we can talk about a word they don’t know, look it up in the internet and see a beautiful picture of it instead of just a verbal explanation (I still remember the awe in their eyes when I showed them the picture of a dogwood tree instead of telling them what it is), make connections with their experience, and even play word games with synonyms and antonyms.
A small investment that I made recently paid off very soon. I bought flashlights and left them in the car, inside canvas totes filled with books. Well, guess what? There’s not an idle moment while going places or waiting here or there.
Another time my kids enjoy being read to is when they take a long, fancy bath. We fill the bathtub with hot water and bubbles and they soak themselves in the water, while dipping in the stories they chose for me to read to them. OK, I admit that I sometimes light an organic candle with extra good smell.
So, is bedtime sweet and fast? Well, not really. I sit on each child’s bed for a while, singing a song and rubbing their back. That is times four. And no, I have no intentions of becoming a professional singer.