Monday, August 4, 2008

A costly indulgence

I used to read a lot—because I loved to, because I had to (for schooling and then for my job), because it was a great way to learn and be entertained and pass the time. I’d frequently read more than one book at a time, and had no trouble keeping up with multiple plot lines, a variety of characters, etc. It was lovely.

Then I became a mother. There was still time for reading at first, but often it was material related to babies, lots of nonfiction and instructional volumes, and very rarely was anything consumed in a cover-to-cover manner. Most free time was spent catching up on sleep. And after sleep was no longer at such a premium, then I was no longer in the habit of reading for fun, and I just sort of forgot to pick it up again. The child eventually became mobile, which meant there were alarmingly few opportunities to really do anything other than pick up messes, childproof the house, set up safety gates, and the like. Even when the boy napped, I fell into my typical OCD patterns and frittered away the time with de-cluttering and tidying tasks. Or promptly fell asleep.

Now, he’s 3. He no longer naps, at least not on most days. And I’ve tried really hard thus far not to park him in front of the TV too much. And I’m his playmate. He wants to play, to imagine scenarios, to act out silly stories, to tell and read stories, to tell me about what he saw in the woods with Daddy. He’s alternately frustrating and maddening, and then so sweet and dear that I am tearful. And he wants my time. And I already leave him to entertain himself while I do laundry, or unload dishes, or get dinner ready, or make stupid but necessary phone calls.

I’ve tried to read books a few times recently. And each time, I’ve completed the book in question and have retained most of what was in it. But it causes problems: if the book is good, then I want to read it until it’s done. Even if the kiddo wants to play. Even if it’s late and I should be sleeping. Even if the kitchen is a mess and food is drying on the plates and the cat hasn’t been fed and it’s bath night…I still want to read that #!*@&$ book. So I get snappy and short-tempered with my child, and we eat hot dogs for supper, and dirty clothes pile up and I end up swatting at the cat because he’s meowing too much for his food, the beast.

It just louses up everything, having a good book to read. I’m trying like mad to finish one now, a really great, LONG book about Lewis and Clark that my dad lent me, and it’s not something I’d ever pick out but it’s really interesting and enriching and thought-provoking and by golly I have got to finish it because it’s making me crazy. And then I hurry through to get it finished, to get my normal boring life back with my happier kid and cleaner house and balanced meals, and then I keep thinking that I missed a lot because I read it so fast… and then I want to read the thing again.

You see, don’t you, that I just can’t read books yet. So, think twice before recommending anything to me. You see now how it seriously disturbs my groove. ; )

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