Back when I was working for a well-known chain of book stores, I had the pleasure of running the children’s section. I had a dream back then – back in my pre-married childless days. I used to make a mental note of the books I would one day read to my own children. (I also vowed never to brag in a book shop about how advanced my child was at reading – I cannot tell you how many times a day booksellers hear this. I had been known to make the tongue-in-cheek gesture of recommending Tolstoy or Keats to the proud parents of these super advanced wee mites, but it never went down that well.) Anyway where was I . . . oh yeah, so I used to say to myself as the publishers rep pulled out yet another gorgeous glossy title or re-worked classic “My child’s going to read that.”
The mental picture I had back then was one of mother and daughter, lovingly curled up together for a bedtime story. Mother (me – but played by Nicole Kidman in my head) is softly reading from the pages, whilst daughter gazes up at me attentively, engrossed and hanging on every colourful word that spills from my lips. She will adore the pictures my words paint. She will be lost in wonder at magical worlds and mysteries and monsters. She will revel in fairies and frog princesses, and she will be agog at Gruffalos and dancing giraffes. It was a part of parenting I thought about a lot, and looked forward to the most.
And yes – a few years on and I am very proud to say: Grace loves books. Result.
However . . (you just knew that was coming, didn’t you?) I hadn’t planned on what a strange little creature my Gibby would be, and that although books are a firm favourite – even the most ardent literary fan can be distracted.
Our current bedtime book is “I Love You Sleepyhead” written by Claire Freedman and illustrated by Simon Mendez. It’s gorgeous. It’s about different baby animals around the world snuggling down to sleep while their mummies watch over them.
My favourite verse is the one with the Polar Bears:
“Wrapped up in love, little bear feels so snug, cuddled goodnight in a big Mummy hug. Drifting to sleep he sinks into her fur, warm in the soft snow, snuggled with her.” All together now . . . aahhhhhhhhhhh.
So let me paint a picture now for you – of how this lyrically lovely book actually goes when reading to Grace:
Nicole Mummy and Grace are curled up together in bed for story time. I begin to read . . .
” . . . Wrapped up in love, little bear feels so snug . . . “
“Mummy my got elbows.”
“Yes Grace – you do have elbows. Story time now though – Cuddled goodnight in a big mummy hug . . .”
“Mummy your got elbows?”
“Yes grace – Mummy has elbows too. Cuddled goodnight . . . “
“Kiss my elbow!”
“No Grace, sshhhhhhhh baby. Story time now. . . cuddled goodnight in a big . . .”
“MUMMY KISS MY ELBOW KISS MY ELBOW!”
“RIGHT, right, right. Mummy will kiss elbow. Mwah, there. And other elbow? Ok fine – mwah. Now where were we . . . Drifting to sleep he sinks into her fur . . . ”
“Awww look at that BIG bogie Mummy!”
“Oh Grace no! Don’t wipe it on me – not nice! Here’s a tissue. There. Now leave nose alone and look at the book. . . er . . Drifting to sleep he sinks into her fur, Warm in the soft snow . . . “
“Grace got elbow, Mummy got elbow, Daddy got elbow, Polar bear got elbow” Points to picture “Wassa polar bear say Mummy?”
“He says ROAR . . .”
“Nope – polar bear says HELLO GRACE! HA HA! S’REALLY FUNNY!”
“Ok but calm down please Grace – lets use our quiiiiiiet bedtime voices. Shhhhhhhhhhh”
“Yes – shhhhhhhhhhhhh . . . Drifting to sleep he sinks into her fur, warm in the soft snow snuggled with her . . .”
“WHERE BOGIE GONE? You got it Polar Bear?”
And so it goes on. Not quite the scenario I had in mind but I guess that sums up parenthood in general, doesn’t it? Whatever you think it’s going to be – take that thought: shake it about, turn it upside down, back to front, smash it to pieces, put it back together and you’re still nowhere near.
Night night, from me, Gibby (and the Polar Bears)