The kids had the week off of school so we were up at our cottage for a few extra days. Since it was too gross rainy/snowy to really go on the hike we had planned, we were headed to our local library.
Jake: How many books can we check out? Three each?
lamemom: Let’s wait and see how many we like. Maybe two each because I need something to read, too.
Jake: So two for everybody.
lamemom (Imagining some of the books that I hate reading to them): Two for everybody if I like the books.
Silence from the back seat, giving me time to quickly replay what I had just said. Whoops. Suddenly I was a censor, I’ll be burning books in no time.
Jake: You’re not the boss of our books, you know.
Because I have I’m-the-boss-of-everything tendencies, I started to reply, in true 5-year-old fashion. And then I stopped talking but my mind was racing.
How guilty should I feel because I want to be the boss of their books? I don’t feel bad about hiding the scary Peekabo Game book that somehow ended up at our house but I feel a little bad that I can’t bear to read Barbie does Gymnastics for the HUNDREDTH time. I hide those books, so is it different if I only check out from the library for them the books that I will want to read to them? Actually I think I’m feeling conflicted because I’m “interfering” with library business, like tampering with the mail. (Would I really go to jail for “borrowing” my neighbor’s People magazine?) Or am I conflicted because the book hiding that occurs at my house is a secret — I dutifully “help” the kids look for the missing Barbie does Gymnastics — and by refusing to check out Barbie from the library, my control is no longer a secret?
I think it all comes back to my fruit salad theory: when my son was younger and we would go to the diner, we would always order a fruit salad with our french fries because fruit was something I knew he would eat. And he would eat all the grapes and strawberries (which is to say, both grapes and the one, sad strawberry) and I would be thrilled. But then this doting lamemom would end up eating most of the french fries and the under-ripe cantaloupe. The sad green melon (which I can’t even dignify with a name, unfortunately) would be left in the watery bowl. So I realized then that being a parent meant eating the crappy fruit. (And I still believe that is true in many instances.) OR it meant making your kid (gasp – even the 18-month old) share the good stuff with you or – (double gasp — down goes the frugality my mother tried so hard to instill in me) – ordering my own fruit salad. Since I don’t want to be stuck eating the crappy fruit forever, I don’t. And my kids’ Barbie does Gymnastics book is the literary equivalent of the watery, green melon. So I’m avoiding that, too, and I don’t feel (that) bad about it.