Jrue was much younger, perhaps 21 or so months old at the time. I had instituted reading at bedtime around the month he had turned one-and-a-half years old because I am a big believer that a joy (or minimal tolerance) in learning starts when a book opens.
Once an English major, always an English major.
Jrue had quite a collection: a few Dr. Seuss favorites, a beloved Elmo book, some Little Critter, and a few other miscellaneous books acquired from dollar stores and family members and random sales. He enjoyed pointing at the pictures and babbling as mommy strained to read around those little fingers and through the perceived questioning. He would grab my pointer and push it towards different scenes on a page, which was his way of ordering me to tell him what the picture was.
I complied. I was ecstatic at his contributions and knew that his language development, imaginative maturation, and phonetic construction were all being positively influenced by our new good habit.
Mommy was an enthusiastic reader, much less practiced post-kids unfortunately, but still proudly invested in the task.
One particular night before bed, I instructed Jrue to bring mommy a book to read. As usual, Jrue took off with his signature jaunt down the hallway towards the room with the bookshelf. I sat on his “big boy bed” and waited for his return. Many minutes went by. I could hear him grunting towards me, but not advancing. More like…struggling. When I rose to assist in his trouble, he entered his bedroom with eight books in his arms.
A whole stack of ’em.
Jrue had cleared his whole collection of Thomas the Train books, plus the additional ones in the vicinity, from his bookshelf. The same Thomas the Train books we had read, oh, 80 or so times already. He met my gaze with a giant smile and a plop of the books on the bed.
“Sir?” I asked him carefully. “Which book did we want to read tonight?” His look was of surprise—it was quite obvious that he believed that no other option existed beyond reading all of his current favorites in one sitting. I took two Thomas books off the stack, then moved the others to the side on the bed. “Mommy will read these two,” I stated, holding up the two for indication.
Jrue met my declaration with a loud scream of disagreement and a sweep of his arm to gather those books that were to the side closer to us.
We argued for minutes, me in my attempts to incite logical reasoning, him wanting what his toddler brain wanted. In retrospect, ultimately, he won because his demand for more than one book was an effort to delay going to bed…and our verbal contention made him smarter than me right then.
I finished one book. He cried for the next one. Pitiful, crocodile tears, pulling at my internal conflict between wanting him to remain on schedule and wanting him to learn to love to read.
I assented and read four more books. His eyelids became heavy.
It took an hour.
A whole long hour of little rhyming words and interrupting inquiries and repetitious storylines that made zero real sense. I lost myself a bit that night and fell into a dark place of despair and sorrow. I had felt victimized by my plight. Personally attacked. Reading those same books in that manner was the first time I experienced how truly annoying children’s scripts can become.
I cannot lie. I wanted to beat my head against a wall. I wanted Thomas to run off of a cliff and to take his so-called friends with him. The idea that there were other parents suffering my exact fate at that moment brought me some solace, but not much.
Especially since my primary partner-in-crime, the hubs, had long relegated to the happiness that is a deep sleep.
It was all my fault.
I ran away and folded myself into a fetal position in my bed once Jrue was finally down for the night. I imagined tossing all of his books out and replacing them with ones I enjoyed. He wouldn’t know the difference, right? I knew that, one day, I would miss the conductor, though. One day, Jrue would be too cool to check in with Percy’s attitude and the red train that’s the know-it-all. What’s his name? Never mind.
And that’s the story of how I was tricked into this reading marathon once.