I Am a Failure at Reading to My Kids Before Bed

April 13th, 2018

Last night at bedtime, the girls were doing a song-and-dance routine they must have learned at school, but I’m pretty sure the lyrics were ad hoc. It went something like this:

It’s okay to eat poopie! It’s okay to eat pee! 

It’s okay to eat poopie! It’s okay to eat pee!

It’s okay to eat poopie! It’s okay to eat pee! 

I’m guessing they don’t teach that at Montesorri preschool? 

The best part was that as Eliza wildly gesticulated and lit up her face with animated expressions, she kept sternly telling me not to laugh. C’mon, kid.

Pre-children me had this vision of what a child’s bedtime was like. In my mind, it involved lots of cuddles, sweet baby breath, and quiet, intimate laptime reading sessions. I used to daydream about all the books I’d read to my children, starting with the Maurice Sendaks and Eric Carles and then progressing through entire Chronicles of Narnia one day.

The reality: 3 ¼ years in, I’ve never successfully read an entire book to my kids before bed. There are two things that happen when I try:


They do not care. They are on the other side of the room, literally bouncing off the walls, wrestling each other, singing loud, raunchy songs, or fighting meanly. I’m talking vainly into a raucous void. There’s no transition from that to sleeping. They just basically fall over at some point.


They want me to read to them, but they can’t help themselves from interrupting every other second to ask inane questions about the book. Like, if the lamb is on the left page, why is the lamb on the right page, too? They can’t wrap their minds around why one lamb would be in two places, and I have to hand it to them, I think it’s a pretty valid esoteric question. 

Or, they ask questions about what’s happening or about to happen, which I invariably respond to with a droll “Hey maybe if you actually listen to me read this book, you’ll find out,” which goes right over their heads.

It’s a crying shame, too, because reading out loud is one of my many completely unmonetizable gifts. I truly enjoy it to the extent that I often read my own novels aloud in bed at night. Which is weird, yes, but a nifty trick I’ve learned for keeping my ADD-esque mind from wandering.

The statistics are constant about how imperative it is that you read to your kids if you want them to grow up to be stable, imaginative, well-rounded creatures. I feel that I am failing in this department, as well as the thorough teeth-brushing department, the pajamas-that-fit department, and the remembering-to-buy-them-mattresses-that-they don’t-fall-off department.

Our bedtime is a shit-show.

However, I do occasionally manage to read a book to them during the day. Yesterday during “special time” (a travesty I forcibly I perpetrate on everyone most days of the week), Phoebe, who hadn’t napped, actually opted to sit on my lap and listen to three books in a row. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Eliza, on the other hand, wanted to play “Vroom,” which is when we drive Hot Wheels cars all over, around, up, and down the room, making car voices and getting into all sorts of unrealistic vehicular predicaments.

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