After the snowpocalypse this weekend, my neighbors invited me over for dinner. We had a delicious chili and enjoyed time relaxing inside, tired from all our shoveling (they had it worse than me - they had two cars to dig out, in addition to shoveling the sidewalks).
As bedtime crept closer, their 3-year-old daughter handed me a couple books and asked if I’d read them to her. This intimidating query caught me off-guard.
Anyone who’s known me more than a few minutes knows that children scare me. Not as much as dogs or worms, but kids are right up there in the top 5. With that being said, since I actually know my neighbor, she doesn’t scare me as much. I’ve still had exactly 0 experience reading bedtime stories, so I suspected this might be some sort of adventure. But how do you say “no” to a 3-year-old?
I said okay, and opened the first book, a story abut Hanukkah. And as I read it, I kept praying there wouldn’t be any big words that I couldn’t pronounce. I’m a good reader, my vocabulary is decent, and I was always the ‘Hermione’ in my grade-school classes when it came to reading out loud, but still the pressure’s on, and I don’t want to look like an idiot in front of a 3-year-old! (or her parents!)
So book one was kind of survival mode, flying by the seat of my pants, “don’t suck”, however you want to phrase it.
Then we opened book 2. The Night Before Christmas. Ah. Now this one I know. You know you’re off to a good start when you’ve got the first page memorized :)
What surprised me about The Night Before Christmas was the vernacular - I looked it up, the poem was first writ (or at least, published) in 1823. Aha! No wonder it contained such unusual words. As an adult, I appreciated the skilled craftsmanship of each stanza, though I wondered how much my neighbor understood of it. I mean, what's a sugar-plum? And what is this window "sash" that he opened? People don't talk like that anymore (I say, with a slight tinge of sadness to my voice).
For all its high language, this poem slips pleasantly off the tongue, making it easy to read aloud. And so as I settled into a rhythm with the words, my mind raced elsewhere and I realized: I can do this. Not just reading a book to my neighbor, I mean, as in, someday, when I have kids, I can do this. I'm soooo not ready to have kids yet, but I have a small sense of peace that, when that time comes, it'll be okay. The concept of being a "Daddy" isn't as scary as it used to be.
I know that reading a story when the child is in a good mood is but one tiny portion of what parenting requires, and the more pleasant portion, at that. I've heard the screaming and temper-tantrums when the Little One isn't in a good mood, when she's not as cute and cuddly, and I'm not quite ready to tackle that part yet. But for me this one small step feels like a huge victory. The idea that I could ever be comfortable around a child, that's encouraging.
And I'm sure that makes my Mom happy to hear :)