Tuesday, September 01, 2015

A confession about reading

There are many things I enjoy doing with my children. Trips to the lake and ocean and swimming and biking together top my list of favorite activities with my kids. Hikes and puzzles and games and even cooking together are favorites around here. We've got the quality time and exercise thing covered.

What we do not have under control is reading to the kids. I'm just going to come out and say it. I really strongly dislike reading to my children. Notice I said children and not child. I actually enjoy reading to one child at a time.

Trying to read to all three at bedtime or anytime is sheer insanity. Trying to read to them one at a time at bedtime is not much better. All parties involved are at the end of their ropes. Hell, the only way that I can read a book to one child is if the other two are out of the house and the child being read to doesn't breathe a word about solo Mom time to the others.

We've tried many different scenarios to achieve a more peaceful story time. It was easy when there were only two kids. Then a third kid came into the mix and not every kid got to sit next to mom or dad for stories. That was just the first source of contention. There's the whose-book-is-read-first fight followed by the I-don't-have-enough-space fight and the he's-touching-me fight. And let's not forget the I-can't-see-the-book fight.
So we tried separating the kids: Husband reads to the boys, mom reads to the girl. This works well until one of us is alone with the kids once a week at bedtime. Our choices on these occasions are TV in lieu of reading, reading to one at a time, or reading to all three. The TV scenario ends in tears when the TV goes off. The one at a time option results in complaining that I am taking too long with the first customer. The reading to all three results in a three-way verbal and sometimes physical brawl.

Every. Single.Time. And this happens after a full day of referring and negotiating with these wee terrorists.

There is a wealth of research on the benefits of reading to young children. I'm not disputing that. The only homework my children's school insists upon is that children read or be read to for 30 minutes a night. This summer I discovered the one way that my children will listen quietly to stories: audiobooks. Yep, they listen to books if I am not reading them. They listen without fighting. They laugh at and follow the stories. They ask to listen to the books. So much for parent-child bonding. But I've been told that this somehow doesn't count toward the goal of 30 minutes of reading a day.

I've been lead to believe that this activity should be a fun and special time with my children. And it just is not and has not been for quite some time. If reading to my children has become so unpleasant, what benefit are my children getting from this exactly? One thing I've learned in my 8 years of parenting is that if something isn't working the way conventional wisdom dictates, then it's time to do what works for us.

Our bedtime stories dissolve into tears so often. Once they start fighting, I stop reading and send them all straight to bed, often screaming and crying. I dread starting the bedtime routine. I feel like crying most nights after reading to them. It's a horrible way to end our day.

Failing to read to our children regularly is not going to handicap them. Ending their days in tears and frustration, however, can do far more damage.

No comments: