Sister #3 and Sister #4 have made me the happiest auntie in the world… and it only involved a few hours of hard labour and a life-time commitment. I have Perfect Nephew #1, Perfect Niece #1, Perfect Nephew #2 and one more on the way.
Just in case you didn’t get it, my sisters have both given birth to perfect children. Absolutely perfect.
And they all like to read. This summer, Perfects #1 – at ages 2 and 4 – read for a total of about 2.5 hours per day. They would literally hold me down on the couch and pile books on my lap. When the pile showed signs of potentially getting low, they would stick some more books on the bottom. At bedtime, the two of them were slumped on either side of me, their eyelids drooping, but when I turned the page they would perk up, making sure they weren’t missing anything. It didn’t matter that they had memorised the book (and would correct me if I mis-read a word). They just wanted a warm body, a soothing voice, and a story that they could count on.
Perfect Nephew #2 had a rough birth, and so reading became a way to get through treatments, etc. In May, when he was about 14 months old, my sister sent me this:
A quick story about Perfect Nephew #2 – every night when we check him before bed, we leave some books in his crib which entertain him in the morning from the time he wakes up (usually about 5:30) until about 7 am or so. We sleep with our door open so don’t have the monitor on, so I can hear big things but don’t hear the little mutterings. However he’s been sick the last few days so I’ve had the monitor on to hear his breathing, and apparently when he wakes up and sees his books, he exclaims with delight “Ohhh, books!!!” as if we’ve never given him a book in his life and he’s been dying to read one. It’s hilarious, I’ve heard it the last couple of days. I wish I could tape record it!
I received another message this morning:
I meant to tell you in our phone call that Perfect Nephew #2 had his biggest temper tantrum/meltdown ever last Wednesday -and it was about a book. He developed a new obsession with Dot the Fire Dog which is a “teacher book” at school – which means he doesn’t have access to it all the time, it comes down off the shelf for the whole class to read at once, or when one of the kids needs a little one-on-one time with a teacher. I made the big mistake of telling his teacher that Perfect Nephew #2 had been asking for Dot the Fire Dog, and Perfect Nephew#2 went running over to the shelf pointing at it and yelling “Dot the Fire Dog! Dot the Fire Dog! I need that!”. So then I read it to him and all the other kids on the couch, but then Perfect Nephew #2 cried when I wouldn’t read it again, so the teacher said we could borrow it for the night – which was a huge mistake. I must have read it 15 times, and he didn’t want to come to the table because he was reading it, didn’t want to get in the bath, etc. So the next day as soon as I showed up at daycare to pick him up, he ran over to the shelf and tried to insist that Dot the Fire Dog come home with us, and I said no – and the weeping and wailing, and stomping, and fist-pounding continued for about 10 minutes straight, so much that another teacher came in from outside the room to see what was going on. It was absolutely nuts. On the plus side we have solved the unwillingness-to-eat-vegetables problem with books – he’s willing to eat a bite of anything to get another page of a book read to him! He ate about 10 bites of broccoli last night just for Leo the Late Bloomer which we’d probably already read 3 times that day.
That’s my Perfect Nephew! 😀
Now, you’re probably going to tell me that a temper-tantrum over a book is a bad thing and that it’s not normal for pre-schoolers to read for 2.5 hours per day. Hmm. I’ll agree that not every society requires such devotion to literature. The Wodaabe tribe, for instance, (which has fascinated me since I was a child) would have no use for my Perfect Ones or their books. In North America, though, in the great bustle of Southern Ontario, where one’s “success” is defined by school grades and career, I know for a fact that kids who measure their daily reading in hours and would eat broccoli for a book are the ones who are going to “succeed”. Perfect Nephew #2, who was in danger of having all kinds of developmental problems to go along with his health problems, has avoided pretty much all the psychological doom-and-gloom that was predicted.
I haven’t done any proper studies on this, but with the evidence from Perfect Nephew #2 and Cushla and Her Books, I’m willing to hazard a guess that children who are obsessed with books don’t have as many problems as children who aren’t obsessed, or they are better able to overcome the problems. Physical problems are overcome, too, I think, because there’s nothing more healing than having someone wrap their arms around you and give you their undivided attention for a couple of hours per day.
Oh, and I know for a fact that English tutors don’t have any students who are obsessed with books. Whatever money my sisters are spending on books for their children is money saved on tutors.
See, Mum? If you had convinced David Leavitt to write The Indian Clerk forty years earlier, we could have avoided that math tutor. Or not. ‘Cause sometimes even books don’t have that much power.