There are literally 300,000 things I’d rather be doing than reading to my children. The shortlist would be:
- Anything else
- Anything else
- Seeing how much cuticle I can remove without a nail scissors
- Watching chiropractic videos on You Tube
- Anything else
Obviously I want my kids to enjoy reading (can’t you tell?). I was an English major, I taught high school English and I write, so why does it sound like I’m gearing up to lead a home pediatric anti-literacy campaign?
Because reading to my kids is excruciating. It feels like work, and who wants to work when the workday is over? That’s no fun.
I know, I’m not putting myself in my kids’ shoes like I’ve previously written about, but I never said I was a superdad.
Here are some reasons to help you better understand my plight:
I’m Always Exhausted When I Read to My Kids
As a parent I’m always exhausted anyway, but reading to my kids when I’m exhausted puts me to sleep faster than drinking a bottle of red wine. It doesn’t help that I’m lying down on my son’s ultra-comfortable bed. I at least try to fake interest, using my phoniest reading voice with my 6-year-old, but I just end up sounding like an asshole.
“One day, George saw a man,” I over-enunciate, sounding like Ryan Seacrest. “He had on a large, yellow straw hat.”
“Why are you talking like that?” My son asks.
“I’m trying to be interesting.”
“The man saw George, too,” I continue, and not four sentences in, I yawn. I yawn and read at the same time, which just makes me sound and feel very old. ” ‘What a nice little monkey’ he thought,” is what I meant to say, but it comes out as ” ‘Whah a nie lil mongeeeh’ eee zot.”
“Wait. What?” My son asks.
“Come on, let’s just keep going,” I say.
“I don’t understand what you said. Can you read it again?”
“I’ll keep yawning though, and we’ll be caught in a never-ending loop.”
“We’re wasting valuable time. Let’s keep going.”
The book is 42 Goddamn pages and I yawn through most of it because I can’t help it. Maybe this is why some parents do coke.
At last I say “The end,” and my son looks at me very disappointed.
Many of the Books Suck
When I have a seat on the floor in our family room to fold laundry and the baby is nearby, he feels entitled to grab a book and sit right down on my balls.
“Oh please make yourself comfortable,” I say. “Is this chair to your suiting?”
“Read book. Dadda read book.”
“Now? I’m in the middle of something.”
“Dadda sit. Read book.”
“I am sitting, and I’m being responsible by folding laundry.”
“No fole lorry. Read book.”
“Why is it my problem that you can’t read?”
I’m only making the situation worse because he’s fussing and bouncing hard on my balls. He knows what he’s doing.
“Fine, okay. What is this book? Mendel’s Accordion? Really? Can’t we at least read Dr. Seuss?”
He’s about to get shifty again so I start.
“Mendel lived in a small village called Melnitze. He didn’t have much. A hut…a cow…a rooster..some hens..and an accordion.”
I roll my eyes. “Wow, this is fucking depressing.”
The baby points to a picture of the rooster. “Cock doodle doo!” He shouts.
I continue and anxiously eye the mound of unfolded laundry that will make me feel fulfilled once I address it. “It wasn’t a fancy accordion. Nothing about Mendel was fancy.”
This story is bullshit, but it occurs to me that I can just improvise from here on out and the baby wouldn’t know the difference. Anything would be better than this dreck the author calls writing. I skip two pages to a picture of our hero, Mendel, approaching a stocky bald man playing a cello.
“As Mendel got closer, his eyes widened. ‘George the Animal Steele,’ he said. ‘What brings you to my shtetl?'”
I continue my new story.
“Having no turnbuckle pads to chew, George munched on his cello and spit the splintery pieces in Mendel’s face. Mendel dropped to his knees and howled in pain. ‘You animal!’ He cried. ‘Leave me be!’ But instead, George the Animal Steele lifted poor Mendel off the ground and performed his signature move, the Flying Hammerlock.”
The baby’s eyes are widening, and he’s smiling. This is working.
“George stood over the groaning Mendel, playing to the growing audience of onlookers. Rivkah the basket weaver watched in astonishment. Morris the cobbler clapped his hands. It seemed the whole shtetl had converged onto the scene. What George the Animal Steele failed to notice was that Mendel was recovering and reaching for his accordion. George peered down, and in an instant, Mendel hoisted his instrument high and smashed it on his attacker’s head and killed him instantly.”
I Have to Answer a Million Questions
The one book I do enjoy reading to my 6-year-old is Walter the Farting Dog because it has the all time greatest literary title.
It’s also good.
And of course my son–damn him for being smart and inquisitive–must interrupt with a bevy of questions.
“What’s a dog pound?”
“It’s a shelter where you can pick up a dog.”
“Wait, I thought you get dogs at the pet store.”
“You can get them there, too, but then you have to pay for them.”
“So they’re for free at the dog pound?”
“Sometimes their owners don’t want them anymore, and it’s a place where they can find a new home.”
“Why wouldn’t someone want their dog?”
“Uh…because they’re not always man’s best friend.”
It takes time, but we eventually emerge from the rabbit hole. We move on until…
“When can we get a dog?”
“When you’re 40.”
“No really, when?”
“I don’t know. Not for a while. They’re a huge responsibility, and I’d say we have our hands full right now. Can we get back to the book?”
Out of the hole again until…
“Why is it hard to train a dog?”
“Fuck you is why!”
He looks at me in horror.
I only thought it. Instead I politely request that he hold all further questions till I’m done yawning through the rest of the story.
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