I am very pleased to say that my (almost) nine year old daughter is a total bookworm. Few things give me greater pleasure than peeking into her room an hour after she’s gone to bed to find her curled up, eyes glued to her book. Often she’s so engrossed she doesn’t even notice me. When she does she smiles sweetly, blows me a kiss and says goodnight… All with one eye on the page. Children (especially your own) are rubbish at hiding their true feelings from you. It’s blatantly obvious that the niceties are a brush-off, intended to hasten my exit so she can get back to what she’s reading. And I couldn’t be happier about that.
It was a few days ago, when she was enthusing about reading, acting out how difficult it was for her to put a book down, (“My eyes are all watery, my body screams sleep, but I…Just…Can’t…Stop…”) when she gave me a huge cuddle and said, “Mummy, I’m so glad you and Daddy understand about reading!” I know what she meant by that. She meant that both my husband and I are prolific readers, who simply can’t be militant about “lights out” time when a small child is currently being transported to a world of wonder by the written word.
“Please, I HAVE to get to the end of the chapter! I shan’t be able to sleep if I don’t.” combined with wide-eyed panic at the prospect of not finding out what happens at the end of a scene will be met with empathy pretty much every time. “You’re soft!” I hear you cry. Not really. Really we’re quite strict about a lot of things (although we are sillier than the vast majority of parents a great deal of the time too), and bedtime IS one of them. But books… A genuine love of reading… To us it’s akin to a human right. We know how we would feel if someone prevented us from getting to the end of a chapter because of some silly, arbitrary, real-life concept like time. Not to say we’ll permit her to keep reading until Silly O’clock, but we will certainly allow the leeway of a few extra minutes for the pursuit of such a valuable interest.
My (just turned five) son is now beginning to show great aptitude for, and a huge love of, both reading and writing too. He’s blitzing his way through all the “targets” at school, which is lovely, but not nearly so important to us as the fact that he loves it. Loves words. Loves reading them, loves learning about their construction, and loves using them. Boy, does he love using them. I don’t think his mouth stops moving in the thirteen hours a day he’s awake. I worry about the longevity of his jaw if he keeps flapping it so much. But it’s great to watch. Prising his little torch and his book out of his hand when he’s fallen asleep reading is another great pleasure.
It’s hard to say if it comes down to nature or nurture. I’m certainly no expert and wouldn’t pretend to have nearly enough knowledge or understanding one way or the other. But I do think it’s quite telling that whenever either of them draws a picture of Daddy there’s a kindle in there somewhere… Not hugely surprising, I myself wonder at times if it is somehow surgically attached to his hand. And my son has started producing books… Lots and lots of books. Either pritt-sticked at the edges or bound by bits of wool, tome after tome of stories straight from his crazy (and slightly twisted…) imagination appear on the table.
How does any of this relate to me writing? Well, I’ll let you in on a secret. You may take from the above that, as parents, our love of the written word has inspired our children. This is true, no doubt. However, it is my daughter who has inspired me.
She’s having much the same experience as I did at school. Being hailed by her teachers as a great creative writer, having her work read out to the class. And what does she want to be when she grows up? Yup, an author. It’s like talking to myself at her age. That got me thinking. How can I encourage her to chase this dream when it is also mine, and I haven’t? I’ve let life get in the way. Let normality intrude too far into the fantastical. It’s often said you need to BE the type of woman you want your son to marry and your daughter to become. I want to show her that chasing your dreams can be a reality, not some pithy concept bandied about to take the edge off the daily grind.
Whether I get where I’m headed or not, I want to be the type of woman who gives it her best shot, and the type of mother who supports big dreams.