I need to read like I need to breathe. I obsess over books like a tweener obsesses over her favorite boy band. For me, books have always been powerful and transformative. They have the ability to educate you, move you, change and enthrall you. There are many books I’ve read over the years that made a distinct impact on my life, in one way or another. I just felt different after I read them, and I love the feelings that stay with you for days after finishing a book like that. I also love how just the title of a book can make me recall a specific age or experience I had at the time when I read it.
Most of the women in my family loved to read, and around the age of nine I discovered that my grandmother had a not so secret addiction to Harlequin romance novels. I remember the covers being so glamorous with beautiful men and women embracing on pirate ships or in front of old manor houses. What nine year old bookworm wouldn’t be curious? So of course, I read them. I would sit quietly and read adult romance novels and wonder to myself what all these strange words meant. Words like manhood and maidenhead. I think my mother would be very surprised to learn that I received my first lessons in sex education by reading about forbidden love on the high seas. I remember asking my brother once what a throbbing manhood was, and if my memory is correct, he said, “I don’t know. A car part, maybe?” Thankfully, due to my lack of understanding common romance language, it was a long time before I realized what was happening in those books. Of course now, so many years later, when reading a romance novel I’m quite eager to discover what some enflamed hero did with his throbbing manhood. Yeah, don’t judge me. You know you do it too.
Anyway, as a stay home mom of young children, reading is now my primary form of escape. I spend most of the day accommodating the needs of my family, so reading feels like a luxury to me. I have to negotiate time in my day to read. I make deals with myself. Like, if I do housework for an hour then I can sit down and read a chapter of my book. During that precious time, I do not like to be interrupted. This is important, because if you know people who are voracious readers, then you know how much we hate being interrupted while reading. Hate, as in I could rip your damn face off if you don’t let me finish this chapter.
What really makes me crazy is when my kids constantly interrupt those few sacred moments I get to read so that I can watch them do something they do all the time. It’s not like I read all day long, or even every day. My children wait until they see me pick up my book and then decide that the fate of the world rests on whatever attention they need from me right at that moment. It goes like this…“Mom, did you see that? Did you see me run that race on Mario Cart? Did you see me win again for the ten thousandth time? Mom, do you think I should breed pigs or sheep on Minecraft?” Or, in the case of my three year old, he says, “Mommy? Mommy? Mommy? I love you. Mommy? Mommy? Can you come with me to the bathroom? It’s lonely in there.” (I’m only slightly exaggerating here).
And what I want to say, but never do, because despite my inner monologue I am a loving and supportive mother, is “No, I didn’t fucking watch you play Mario Cart…again…because you play it every day…and I don’t give a damn about swine breeding on Minecraft…and no, I don’t want to keep you company while you poop in the bathroom…and I’ve been waiting for a year to read this damn book, so please, for the love of God, stop calling my name!” This is when I take ten deep breaths (and maybe leave the room) so that I don’t crush their tender feelings. I realize these things are important to them, and that’s why I give myself a time out.
I used to hide in the bathroom. I pretended to be having “stomach problems” so that no one would bother me. That’s how desperate I would get for ten minutes alone with my book. That strategy worked until my then two year old was potty trained, and he got curious and wanted to know if my poops were like his poops, and could he come in to check. He’s a poop expert now and no one goes to the bathroom alone, ever. He would stand outside the bathroom door, banging loudly, yelling, “Mommy? Mommy, do you have the dia-neah? Do you need help, Mommy?” So that means no more covert bathroom reading for me.
The upside to all this is that my children, like their mother, are growing up with a passion for books. And I love that they love books. Some of the best nights in my house are spent reading with my kids. My daughter frequently lies in bed with me to read. We each read our own book, but we lie side by side and spend time together lost in our stories. It has not escaped my attention that my daughter is the same age now that I was when I discovered Fabio making out with a pirate wench on the deck of a ship. But unlike my grandmother’s house, my novels are password protected on my Kindle, and there will be no stories about lovin’ on the high seas for her.