Better than a cuddle

            The problem with reading to your children is twofold.  One, it encourages verbal development.  I see some folly in encouraging any more language development in my kids, at least until they start talking to one another instead of to me.

            Two, they come to like books.  A lot.


            They are not supposed to be out of bed before 7:00, and Zachary has a digital clock by his bed to ensure compliance.  If they need to pee, they are to leave silently so as not to wake one another, but neither child actually gets up to pee.

            Lately, we have been bending the rule.  It seems to be now that, if we are approaching 7:00 and you get out of bed without disturbing the other child, you get to climb into the big bed.  On the weekends, there is still a parent or two in the bed to snuggle with.  On weekdays, I have been known to climb back into bed to share an early morning cuddle.

            Unfortunately, Zachary is a smart little bugger, and this policy seems to be encouraging him to get up earlier just so he can get some quiet cuddle time.  We’re going to need to revert to the earlier standard, if only because pretty soon there is going to be a baby demanding that 6:30-7:00 slot. 

            But not quite yet.  And so it was that on one recent morning, the little man and I sat together quietly on the living room couch, a rare moment when he allowed me to embrace him.  After a few minutes, he whispered to me, “Mommy.  I have an idea.  We could do something better than a cuddle.”

            I knew what was coming.  “What’s that Zach?”

            “It’s something next to the couch.”

            “You want a book, babe.”  I couldn’t help but smile, even though it also made me a little sad to know that already, at barely four, he classifies that as superior to hugging me.  “Go ahead and pick one.”


            Usually, we join the library immediately upon moving somewhere.  But, this move has been so protracted and so overwhelming that we hadn’t gotten around to it.  Maybe the lousy libraries in our London neighborhood had spoiled our interest.  Or maybe we were just overwhelmed.

            Our nanny, however, is subversive.  First, she started talking about the library with our kids.  She planted the seed, encouraging Zachary to subtly request a library card.  Then, she started bringing over library books she had checked out.  Finally, she quietly left two applications for library cards on the kitchen counter.  No comment – just the applications.

            I got the damned cards.  The library is walking distance, and she takes them there all the time, returning one set of books and checking out another.

            She’s encouraging the habit, you know.


            He sat on my lap while our nanny gave Zachary snack, on the same couch where I had read to his brother in the morning.  “Want book,” he declared.

            “Go pick one.”  He thumped down to the floor, ran over, grabbed The Lady With the Alligator Purse.  I sang it to him.

            “Want ‘nother book, Mommy.”  This time it was Sandra Boynton.  We finished it.

            “’Nother one.”  I despise those books with the full dinosaur names that I cannot pronounce.

            “ Want ’nother one, please.”  A book of British nursery rhymes, which always shock me in their excessive violence, what with carving knives and mice tails and whatnot.

            “Want ‘nother book.”

            “’Nother book.”

            “ Want ‘nother one, Mommy.”

            At least this child lets me hold him while we read.

13 responses to “Better than a cuddle

  1. Books are good. And your nanny sounds like a gem.

  2. You’d better watch out for that nanny! 🙂

    I remember spending entire afternoons reading to Fiona. I certainly enjoyed it more than “playing.”

    I admit to being surprised you have any lap available for holding a child and a book. Luckily for me, I have the same number of children as I have legs; each one claims a thigh.

  3. We have the same exact rules in our house about not getting out of bed before 7 am on weekends. Usually I’ll get a knock on my bedroom door promptly at 7am, as my son has an alarm clock as well. lol

    Darn book lovers! Tough having bright kids eh? It’s always hard when they start to think other pursuits are better than a good cuddle.

  4. Book addiction is a real threat to children of book addicts. We suffer from frequent delayed bedtimes because of it. I’ve given in too many times to pleas for “one last book.”

    I hope Benjamin continues to allow cuddles. Much as I love books, I’m not willing to say that they are actually better than cuddles myself.

  5. I have been known to fall asleep while reading to my children. Also while playing Barbies. And, uh …. nope that’s it. Just reading and plastic dolls.

    And I love those dinosaur names. They’re so fun to say (or make up pronunciations for, if you’re not sure)!

  6. My favorite story about one of my children and book reading goes a little something like this…

    When Marley was a wee babe… crawling and sitting up, but not walking yet, I decided it was time to institute the BEDTIME RITUAL. There isn’t a parenting book in the world that doesn’t espouse the virtue of the bedtime ritual.

    Do a little nursing, read a little story, provide a nice, quiet soothing environment that will prepare your child to sleep well.

    Well, I performed this little one night with Marley. Nursed her, sat her on lap, read her a story (quite possibly Sandra Boynton–LOVE HER) and then put her to bed.

    The next night, I prepare for the bedtime ritual, nurse Marley, set her on my lap with a book. She no sooner looks at that book than she is arching her back, screaming, and just completely carrying on.

    It only took her one night to figure out that routine equaled bedtime and she was having none of it.

    So much for the experts!!!

    She is still my child who resists bedtime to a certain degree. Now, though, she knows reading a book can delay the bedtime.


    I have to say I am envious of your children’s love for books. My son, who enjoyed books when he was little, is 16 and it just wouldn’t look right to sit him on my lap to read him a book, even if he would let me! 😉

    My daughter does like sitting close when I read to her, but she doesn’t really love reading — yet. My mission this academic year — and fortunately her teacher’s too– is to turn on that love of reading.

  7. Nothing better than sharing a book…my hubby and I even read to each other some nights!

  8. If I ever have kids, I will be snuggling and reading like crazy 🙂

  9. My darling lanky teens STILL let me read to them – which is very nice of them all things considered. The cuddling is more difficult as there are three of them and they are quite ginormous so we settle for shared couches with a fair amount of affectionate leaning.

    Have you tried Margaret Mahy out on yours?

  10. the LA library system is pretty good, as I recall. I miss having that extensive of a collection at my beck and call. (and, when they didn’t have it, the USC library usually did. I wasn’t supposed to have a library card as a spouse of a staff member, but we knew the guy who ran the library and he pulled some strings! hooray!)

    I love the library. That Zachary is a smart kid.

  11. Yes. Asher pretty much wants to read all day long…which I love, but our reading interests are quite different. 🙂

  12. What a delightful post. Be warned – my son STILL prefers me to read to him than to read to himself and he is thirteen….

  13. Great post! I’m definitely encouraging the whole read-to-yourself thing whenever I can get away with it. I think it’s working, as my little one asked to read a couple of books to her stuffed animals in bed after our story time last night. She can’t read, but she does a good job making it up!