‘Tis the season for holiday crafts, glitter glue on my work shirts, the soundtrack of old-time Christmas music playing continuously on Pandora, and, of course, holiday books.
There is nothing I enjoy more than the evening ritual of reading my daughter a good book. (That doesn’t include you, Dora.) In fact, as a writer and English major, it was one of the unspoken contractual agreements of being a parent that I most looked forward to.
Opal has a twin bed now, so I can lie down right beside her, both of us propped by pillows and stuffed animals to an effective 45 degree angle for listening and page-turning. Sometimes we get under the covers, sometimes we stay on top of the bedspread and tuck our feet under the fleecy owl blanket. Our dog almost always busts through the door and lies down on the floor beside us, offering a conclusive heave-ho sigh.
Here’s the truth: When Opal is freaking out, we read a good book. When I am freaking out, we read a good book.
When we feel disconnected, a book can work as a link, a chord. Like with any practice, there may be some resistance at first (from her, because she may want to commit to her screaming, from me because I may have something timely that needs taken care of) but then we both melt into the story, the rhythm of the words, the subtleties of the illustrations and discover a tiny bit of peace.
Then, when Opal begins to ask questions, we know her sympathetic nervous system is ready to receive. (During the Polar Express, she always asks, “Where are the parents??”)
And yet, having said all this about the glory of reading to my child as the Christmas lights flicker and the Nutcraker statue looks on, it’s tough to find the time to do so during the day, barring illness, injury, and, as mentioned, emotional breakdowns. We read a few books in the middle of the day for quiet time, but aside from that, the momentum of life takes over. Between outings, the dishwasher really does need unloaded, the house desperately needs straightened, dinner needs prepped, and mom just needs to sit with her New Yorker and a mug of tea or spiked nog—depending on the time of day—for a few moments to gather her wits.
For those occasions, I recently discovered a saving grace:
Youtube has a plethora of videos of books being read aloud, like a tiny story-time in the comfort of your own home. You can get the books from the library for the kids to read along, or they can simply watch and listen. Opal loves it.
And it feels so much less brain-squashing than yet another video.
(These books are some of our favorites. They all have a marvelous tempo and beat.)
(I love books that offer language that Opal understands. I often say to Opal, “What’s with all this llama drama?” And she totally understands.)
So, read until your eyes feel like boiled eggs or until the oven timer goes off and the sweet potatoes need flipped or other life matters require your attention.
Or perhaps you just need a moment to breathe.
At that point, feel free to accept the support of technology to keep your kiddo’s holiday imagination brimming with Christmas tales until it’s time to cuddle in for the night.
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Editor: Bryonie Wise