There is nothing that glues me to my children like reading. I can be in the foulest mood but with a child in each arm and a book open on my lap, the poison is melted by the other place we’re visiting and the soothing rhythm of speaking someone else’s words aloud.
Nothing nourished me in the early years of parenting as completely as reading to my children. I was often impatient with changing outfits for the third time because of explosive poop, tying a wiggly toddler’s shoes or going at a snail’s pace through the grocery store. I got to the end of some days hungry and tired. My temper was water cracker thin. The world was an open sea, tearing at my clothes, tossing me about and I felt like I was constantly swimming through breaking waves.
Too tired to do anything else, I fell onto my bed, and began to open, one by one, a stack of books I kept there. Those little board books sat ready to feed me the sustenance I needed to continue on the marathon journey that is motherhood. We lay on our backs; the book held above our heads, safe on the Island of Yummy, where I ate and was fed.
The words were the same each day. Opposites, Goodnight Moon, Look at the Duck, The Shapes Book; I devoured them all; over and over again.
Stories took us on a journey to another land; an island, free from the commotion of diaper changes and meltdowns. Later in life, they freed us from the hassles of homework and arguments about whose turn it was to empty the dishwasher. No matter how bad it got, a story could always bring us back together, snuggled close under a bevy of covers, protected by a layer from the outside world. We made our own cocoon.
Reading with my children is a place I find my church. It’s where my skin becomes soft and my soul is transported. My family talks and giggles and comes together as we travel somewhere else reading a book. It is where Love is born; on my bed, floating in a world a scrumptious abandon.
We graduated from board books to picture books to chapter books to novels. When we could no longer agree on books, the Island of Yummy at least was firmly established as a place of refuge and we’d gather there for card games or backrubs, to look at pictures on my computer or simply to chat and giggle. Sometimes long talks would unfold there underneath a safe layer of covers.
I’ve made many, many mistakes as a mother. One thing I got really right was floating my way onto the Island of Yummy. I need the safety zone of a delicious spot that nurtures me back to fed as much as anyone else in my family.
Do you have an island of refuge for those moments when your temper might break you in half and leave the crumbs of your personhood scattered on the floor? I’d love to hear about how you put yourself and your family back together.