I’m the proud owner of a sweet, slightly snarky, bananas 4-year-old daughter. Each night, to trick her into unconsciousness, we have a very regimented bedtime routine that must not be deviated from or so help you God. That routine involves at least one book of her choice (my first mistake), a rendition of Sweet Baby James (only the first verse and the chorus because mama’s got shit to do), and prayers I have completely memorized and rattle off in a way that is both insincere and entirely beside the point. Then I am treated to about five minutes of “but Mommy, I’m neeeeeeever tired” and a little transparent wheedling: “Mommy, I love you and Daddy so much that I can’t possssssibly sleep without you.” I employ The Standard Ignoring Application that is installed the moment a mother passes the placenta and skip downstairs to get some reading done.
As a parent who is in love with books, I was so thrilled to see all of the ways in which children’s literature has improved since my time with Goodnight Moon. I greedily collect books full of gorgeous illustrations so beautiful that they would be at home framed on the walls of the Louvre. I gravitate towards books with a capital M “Message”: equality, civil rights, empowering young girls, history. These books, I convince myself, are going to teach my daughter to be the person I want her to be…strong, kind, caring, charitable, fair. Yeah, I guess I’m responsible for the heavy lifting to get her there, but these words worming their ways into her subconscious right before lights out couldn’t hurt!
The issue is…she has ZERO interest in these books. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. She’d rather me read about “tomato tornadoes” (she has that book memorized, word-for-word). She wants to hear about the shenanigans of Howard Stern’s cat. She insists that I read that rhyming tale about Santa’s big ole butt getting stuck in the chimney. She begs me to recite the story about the evening before a young boy’s birthday, read like The Night Before Christmas.
If I make the rookie mistake of recommending what book we should read that night…
“Hey, why don’t we read about Rosa Parks again?”
“Don’t you want to imagine living life in peace?”
“But let’s learn about Malala!”
“I think we should learn more about the quilts slaves made to show people the way to freedom!”
“Don’t you want to learn more about Nazi-occupied France?”
“Can we read this beautiful book that tells the individual stories of women who have changed the world in the face of adversity?”
She’s slowly killing my very spirit, people.