Bridging the distance

I could hear the wind howling, howling so loudly I almost got up to see what the sound was. But I was warm and comfortable in my boy’s bed, the lights were low and I was watching his face as he read. I didn’t really want to go anywhere, not even the few feet across the room to look out the window.

I don’t remember when it was that I stopped reading to him. I remember when I started. It was before he was born. And then I resumed the first day we were let out of the hospital, when he was four days old. Other than the times he’s been punished, going to bed for a few days without a book, it has pretty much continued for the full 10 years and – what? eight months? As I said, I don’t know when it stopped. I guess it might have been somewhere around Christmas.

First we couldn’t decide on a book we both wanted to read. Then there were the few that I began and he took over on his own. Lately, he’s flown through four or five when I wasn’t looking. And that got him past needing someone to read to him. Or wanting it.

Now there’s a sort of emptiness. A space borne of the time not spent together, of night after night not cuddling up with books and blankets. I feel that emptiness as I make dinner, with him upstairs, me downstairs. I feel it when he leaves the kitchen after dinner and disappears back into his space.

Space is important, and I don’t begrudge him it, but I do feel the emptiness.

It’s not that he doesn’t want to do things together, just that he wants to do things I don’t want to (play soccer, play video games) or I want to do things he doesn’t (go for a run, look at pictures, read) or he wants to hang out when I’m making a meal, cleaning up, trying to get the things done that need doing. It’s an awkward dance – I’m ready when he’s not, he’s ready when I’m not.

Tonight though, after I had finished in the kitchen, I did play soccer with him for a bit in his room. And when it was time to lie down, to start to calm and unwind, he lay down with a book and I flopped down beside him to listen to the wind. We stayed like that for a while, him making the funny snuffling sounds he always makes when he reads, fidgeting endlessly, unable to lie still, me just watching him, ruminating, listening and watching and thinking.

When I got up to leave, he wound his arms around me and said, “I love you the most.”

My sweet boy.

Perhaps tomorrow I’ll bring my book down to his room. We can create a new tradition while we lie around and read.

Bridge the distance, fill the space.

Together but separate.


7 thoughts on “Bridging the distance

  1. My oldest daughter was a reader. When she quit wanting to be read to she eagerly volunteered to read to us. Or, like you, we would sit together and each read whatever we wanted.
    My younger girl, wasn’t a reader. We tried to get her to read but she wasn’t interested. We know now that dyslexia was the probable cause. Then she discovered the “Goosebump Books” and she was hooked. In the fourth grade her teacher called us in to tell us that she was reading “The Stand” by Stephen King. “We know,” we said proudly to the teacher, “we know. She likes scary books.”
    “Aren’t you concerned?” the teacher asked.
    “We’re just glad she’s reading. We’re celebrating.”

    I can tell that you are celebrating too! Take those victories when ever they come. Celebrate them. Cherish them. You’re doing things right.
    Sorry to be so verbose. You might have already heard this story! Sorry.

    • Goodness, don’t apologize, Thom! I love hearing about others’ experiences, especially children and reading. Thank you for sharing this and, no, you haven’t done so before. Funnily enough, I wondered if I’d already written a similar post.

      My son has always loved reading but he goes through phases where he can’t find the right story, or can’t get into the books he has. I guess we all go through those periods, come to think of it. It’s the trying to find things we like to do together that’s a bit difficult lately. It happens every now and then so I probably shouldn’t worry.

      And you’ve given me an idea to address the issues of books and time together – he’s in fifth grade and actually I think he might quite like Stephen King! I’m going to suggest he walk up and meet me at the library near my office one afternoon. Thanks, Thom!

  2. Sniff. Sniff.
    I read aloud with all three of my kids–for a while, all in turn every night–but now only the youngest still wants me. What made me really think is how you wondered when [the tradition] stopped–that is the question I find myself asking more and more as the kids get older. But finding that common ground, yes, beautiful.

    • I was feeling pretty sorry for myself last night and trying to find the positive – that thing we do rather than dwelling on the negative, bumming out the readers. Tonight we played a fun game so that was nice but…not the same. It’s the passage of time I think. The never-to-return-ness of it that makes me sad. Have you found new traditions/replacements? Or does everyone just go their separate ways after dinner?

      • Well…(she said reluctantly) everyone does go their own way, mostly. One is not even living at home any more (she’s in Germany). But occasionally someone will suggest a family game or a craft project, which can be sweet for being so rare. And I have to admit, when they get to a certain Age of Determination (16 in my family), sometimes you are glad when they take themselves off. 😉

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