Friday, July 30, 2010

Do You Read Me?

It’s been Project Declutter 2010 around here the past week. Betty has been obsessively ridding the house of excessive objects, ruthlessly tearing through closets and cupboards and stuffing STUFF into bags and boxes destined for the Goodwill.

Yesterday, I ended up in the spare room where we have a lot of books left behind by my college-aged son. Looking at these books, I can trace the years of his life. Mixed in with Hop on Pop and The Rainbow Fish are Major Problems in California History and Sustainable Community Development--books from his first three years of college. His entire collection of Redwall books that he read in grade school fill up an entire shelf as do the classics he read in high school. I considered which he would be willing to let go of.

I texted him, “OK to get rid of your Redwall books?” His text came back quickly, “NO!” I suggested other titles. “No! Don’t get rid of any of my books!” he urgently texted. I had to smile. That boy is a reader, a lover of books. Just like his mother.

Just like I had planned.


I raised two boys in a house littered with books. Literally from their births, I shoved books under their noses. I read to each boy, devoting time at night to story after story. I took them to the library with big bags to fill and made up cozy little nooks at home where they could take their bounty and devour it.

We had books everywhere—in the car, in the bathroom, in the kitchen. Half of the time there were books tucked in the folds of the comforters of their beds, like fish in waves, to accompany them to their world of dreams.

When I saw that Evan, my younger son, was not enthusiastic about reading, I took up the cause with even more zeal, reading to him, leaving a story off mid-action, hoping he would beg for more. I stacked his shelves full of books. I enrolled him in incentive-based summer reading programs. I imposed a 30 minute required reading in the evening. He was interested in sports, so I got him books about sports. When I found he liked an author, I got him more of that author’s books.

Still, he resisted. I ruled out a learning disability. In fact, his reading comprehension, vocabulary, and writing skills were all great. He could read. He just didn’t want to read. This was inconceivable to me and I refused to give up.

I wheedled. I pled. I bribed. I warned.

I nagged.

Then one day, when he was a sophomore in high school, as I was yapping at him about the subject of reading, I caught a look on his face that changed me forever. The message coming out of my mouth was the same as always: that reading was important. However, when I looked in his eyes, I realized the message he was receiving was “You are not good enough because you are not a reader.”

OUCH.

OUCH.

OUCH.

It brought tears to my eyes.

So, that’s when I backed off. Yes, I still buy him books and nonchalantly leave them on his desk. Yes, I hand him magazine articles to look at, and look for essays I think he might be interested in, but I don’t hover over him or ask him if he's read them.

I now recognize that his interests, his passions are different from my own. He loves the world of film, of videos, of music, of expressing himself through rapping. (Yes, rapping.) In fact, he recently won a video/rap contest in which the prize was a professional microphone.

I am happy to say that the winning of this microphone did, in part, exactly what I had been trying to do for years. It immediately drove him to go to the bookshelf in his room! Yes!

He went straight to his bookcase full of all those books I had piled up all those years. He ran his fingers over all of them, looking at each one, thinking, considering…. before he plucked each from the shelves and…boxed them up to move to another location.

He took that bookcase, turned it to face a corner, attached a door, and drilled a hole through the back to pass wires through for his microphone. Then he took the egg crate foam off his bed and stapled it to the inside to make a soundproof booth for future recordings. He and his friends spend a lot of time trying out their beats and rhymes inside the booth. I hear them in his room as I pass by and I smile.

He is happy. He is smart. He is incredibly talented.

He is teaching me new things every day.

Just like the universe planned.


57 comments:

Piedmont Writer said...

This post was so inspirational to me. I have books all over the house as well. I read somewhere when Monster Baby was a baby, that a child doesn't necessarily have to be taught to read at an early age to love books. And she's only learning to read now. I asked her if we could get rid of some of her "baby" books (board books) the last time I did a big clean out, and she screamed at me. NO, They're Mine!
I hope when she does finally 'get it' she's as a voracious reader as I am.

And as to your son rapping, my cousin, whom no one in the family thought would amount to much, because he hung out at those 'rap clubs' and made 'that kind of music' just got accepted into Columbia. He put Shakespeare to a rap beat, that's how he got in. So...you never know.

Susan Fields said...

All three of my kids were avid readers, until the older two hit middle school. Now I beg them to read and they want nothing to do with it. My youngest reads more than the other two combined did at her age, so I'm really hoping she'll continue with it. With the others, I think you're right, I need to back off. They're teenagers, and at least with my daughter, the more I want her to do something, the more she doesn't want to do it. I'm hoping they may grow out of this stage and return to reading eventually, or maybe that's just not their interest.

I'm glad Evan has found something he loves!

Joe Cap said...

Great post, as usual, Miss B.
We all love to read at our house as well, myself, my bride, and The Daughter. We have books stacked all over the place. I don't throw away any book I read if I have liked it enough to finish.
If I don't like a book, and don't finish it, it is gone.

patti said...

Oh, Betty, WE ARE ALIKE in more ways than just the bossy.

When you opened our bathroom cabinets in my childhood home, needing a roll of TP or a towel, Zane Gray novels waved hello.

Books allowed us to colease the place. And I've never regretted it.

Sigh. Now if I can just convince hubby...

Have a great weekend!
P

Leanne said...

What a fantastic post, Betty! So honest - and look at what he is doing? He found his passions and is inspired, and that is all that we can hope for our kids - that they are inspired by something. Moved by something. I applaud that you took a step back and let him BE who he is. (I'm into that whole "be-ing" thing this week.)

As most of them do, this post left me with a really big smile on my face, Betty. Thank you for always doing that for me. Have a great Friday!

Old Kitty said...

Awww BB!! I like that your college aged son said NO to you getting rid of his book collection! :-) Good for him!

Aww but yay too for your rapper son!! Brilliant!! He is creative in his own way and is more than ok! The written word will come later - the reading always does. Noone is immune - it'll get to everyone sooner or later! I truly believe that!

I think both your sons are just like you - creative, artistic and passionate!

Well done mum!
Take care
x

BECKY said...

What a wonderful post. I'm there with you, as a lover of books from an early age...as a reader to my boys when they were young...watching as neither one was interested in reading as they grew up....(what?? a child of mine, not loving to read??!)
For years now, my oldest has loved to read. My youngest is a senior in college and loves to devour books...but nothing fictional or lightweight whatsoever...no! He reads philosophy books, etc....for pleasure! Go figure!! I'm sorry, I didn't mean for this to turn into a long comment, but also wanted to say how your "OUCH, OUCH OUCH" really hit me, too! What a great mom you are!!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That is a great story! Hey, I love music as much as I love books and the two can go hand in hand.

The Retired One said...

I am the same way! Before my eldest daughter went to school I contacted the kindergarten teacher and first grade teacher and explained that I'd like to teach her how to read before she went to school. They were wonderful and gave me all the tools and I taught her how to read when she was just turning four and did the same with my second daughter. They are both avid readers now and are wonderful writers too. But every child is different and I am so glad you recognized that you were sending your son the wrong message..he sounds like a wonderful young man.

Kathie @ Just a Happy Housewife said...

Not being a mom yet, I can't speak from that point of view. My own mother read me to all the time when I was a kid and I loved it, but I never loved to read actually until I hit junior high. Even then, I was picky and I'm still pretty picky today. I have a friend who will read any book you give her, but I'm picky. Anyway, he's happy and who knows? Maybe he'll pick up reading later in life! If not, oh well. :-)

slommler said...

What a great story of your son's love of all things musical! I love how he designed his room to fit his needs too. Cool!!
Hugs
SueAnn

Tracy said...

Betty, that's a neat story. My husband has never liked to read either and that has always bugged me. He says he has to read so many technical papers for work he just doesn't feel like doing it. The last book I got him to read was Jurassic Park. Ironic, isn't it? He calls reading a "waste of time". I think sitting and watching old Andy Griffith reruns are a waste of time. His brother, on the other hand, LOVES to read. Maybe I married the wrong brother. Ha!

Pat said...

Great post! I can relate. I feel a day without reading is a like a day without sunshine! My husband and I are avid readers. We had books spread throughout our whole house. I, too, brought my kids to the library, read to them, etc. My daughter grew up loving to read. My son? Not so much. In fact, he was called to jury duty this week and JUST SAT THERE all day waiting, without a book or magazine to look at. COULD YOU IMAGINE?

Parsley said...

This is a place where all involved parents have been or will be.

Seeing that our kids are different than we are..and loving them in and through it.

Georgina Dollface said...

I always lamented the fact that my stepson didn't read as much as I did when I was his age. He eventually found his passion for music, and with it he aslo found a passion for writing music and lyrics, which lead him to read more. I was just happy to know that he had something that was meaningful and inspiring to him, even if he didn't read the books that I would have wanted him to read. He's a unique individual and I'm glad he is finding out who he is on his own terms. Thanks for this great post. - G

Baby Sister said...

Great post. Thanks for sharing. It's always hard when someone doesn't like something we desperately want them to...I hate it. But I'm glad he found his niche in life and that he's happy. It's just too bad it wasn't reading. I love reading. Boyfriend hates it...guess not everyone can be perfect. ;)

Ron said...

Just wanted to stop by and say thank you for dropping by my blog yesterday. It was very nice meeting you.

I was very much like your son Evan. I never had any interest in reading when I was very young. I think much of that had to do with being taught in Catholic school (VERY boring). However, as I got older I slowly became a lover of books and reading.

Enjoyed this post!

Have a great weekend!

Ann Best said...

How different indeed each child is. I have one daughter, my youngest, who in a family of readers wasn't that much interested in books, and we didn't pressure her. She did her "thing." She's a wonderful hair cutter (cosmetologist). She needed to do something that said, This is Me.

This was a great post. Thanks for stopping by my blog just now which nudged me to come over here.

Ann Best

Mellisa Rock said...

Thanks for posting this - I am doing a lot of the same things - and my oldest is resisting every single bit of it - but I never want him to feel like that ever - I will keep trying but always keep this in mind! Missed your writing too! :) I have a lot of posts to catch up on!!

Writing Without Periods! said...

If I'm not hooked by the first chapter, I don't finish book. I always am reading two books. I love reading, always have. I did get rid of most of my books...kept myself thinking of other people who could enjoy books instead of them sitting my my shelf. Plus I bought a Kindle...it's fab.
Great post.
Mary

Nezzy said...

What a creative fella there to take something and turn it into HIS dreams. I keep my books weeded. I've kept the classic books around for the grandkiddos but most of the time when a book is read I pass it on to a friend and ask them to do the same. Keeps down the clutter and promotes reading all in one blast!

Ya'll have a fantastically blessed weekend!!!

DrSoosie said...

Oh my gosh Betty..your youngest son sounds exactly like my Sam. Here my entire family...Me, tim and Katie love to read. I wrote a post on this so I know you already know this about me. But my Sam has never liked to read even though like your son he does well in English. In fact, I read with him until he was in eighth grade just so I could make sure he would would read at all. Plus it was special bonding time for us. I have accepted, like you, that each child is different and I just let go of my desire for everyone in my family to share my passion. I love Sam for so many reasons...but especially because he is unique and different from the rest of us.

Brian said...

Declutter, oh my goodness no, that's where all my good stuff is!!!

Michelle Faith said...

I'v always loved reading, once in the 5th grade the TV broke and I read 2 "Ramona books" and was so proud of myself. Feeling a little guilty I don't push my boys more to read. We do the things you said, reading programs and all...but i could do batter.
I wasn't expecting the twist in your story, I'm glad you supported you sons love of music after all that. :)

Madi and Mom said...

Hi BB each day you inspire me with wonderful words and stories..today's is yet another one. I, too, am a reader. I have to have a book going at all times.
Evan is a child of technolgoy...his reading is in is love of videos, films and the arts!! You, BB, are a good mother,
We had a very successful shopping trip today,
Madi and Mom Madi's mug will appear tomorrow.

Jingle said...

books rock,
Glad that you have so many.
No wonder you are full of inspirations.

Liz said...

In a world where newspapers are hurting because people read it online, and now the trendy Kindle, I appreciate the juxtaposition of you TEXTING your son about whether or not to keep his old school books. :)

BigSis said...

What a great post! I am an avid reader and am glad that we've finally found some books that hold my 10 year old's attention. He may never love it like I do, but your post helps me to remember that he will find whatever niche is right for him. That's all a mother ever wants for her kids, right?

The Empress said...

It's hard when they're so different from what we are. But I remember reading once, "children are their own selves, and not an extension of our selves."

I say to myself often... they came from me, but they are not me.

I know a lot of ppl will appreciate a post like this.

I love the way you write, BB. I love the way you write.

Ann said...

I have two kids. One is a reader one isn't. One chooses to seek adventure through the books and the other goes out and creates his own adventures.

baygirl32 said...

Great post! Thanks for sharing

Mental P Mama said...

And that, my friend, is sheer joy.

Joey @ Big Teeth and Clouds said...

I so hoped to raise a reader (and writer), but that remains to be seen. This post is a good reminder that we're not in control or their talents or their interests.

Flartus said...

My brother was the same way--grew up in a house full of books and reading, but never liked to read. (That was partly due to learning issues, though.)

Eventually, after college, he realized that he wanted to be a better writer, and when he asked how, we all said "Read." So he did. Started with spy thrillers and now is into business and economic analysis. And now his children are growing up in a house full of reading.

In his own time.

McGillicutty said...

I found you from not in Kalamazoo anymore (love Tori) and now I'll be loving Betty too! is it a second child thing? I'm yet to find out, my youngest is six and can read very well but just... ahhh not so much as her older sissy.

A girl needs 2 Talk said...

Holy cow! This was amazing!

I read the title and hopped in here to tell you- "Of course, I read you!" and then, as I read on, I felt something about this younger baby of yours that I feel in me. I love reading, so not that. But I am not like my elder sister in so very many ways and it has taken me YEARS to figure I am good too. THAT hit home.

I am thrilled about the microphone! :)

Mommy on the Spot said...

Oh, Betty, you are so wise! Great post!

Bethany @ Organic Enchilada said...

I really needed to hear this today! I've been trying to do the same thing with my kids - turn them into book connoisseurs - and I need to remember that I might not succeed, and that's ok.

But I like the idea of leaving a story off right in the middle of the action and coming back to it later. Love it, in fact. I'm going to try that!

gayle said...

My oldest daughter who is a high school English teacher has always been a reader like me. She said that you don't have to read books to be a reader. I never thought about it that way.
My youngest daughter didn't really like to be read to even when she was a little girl. I think she felt like your son did so I backed off like you. She has just recently started reading books. It takes her awhile because she has other interest! Love this post!!

Pat Tillett said...

Great story Betty! They are what they are. As you may or may not know, we have five kids. Some of them love to read and some don't. One of our granddaughters (Ashley's daughter) who spends a lot of time here reads like books are going to be outlawed any day. I LOVE to see her read and to answer her questions. I have a deal with her. Everytime she finishes a book and tells me what it was about and what she thinks about it, I will buy her another one. She just discovered Nancy Drew and loves them, so we bought the first 8 already. It makes my heart feel good for her to be totally in love with reading...
sorry, didn't mean to run on.

The Chicken's Consigliere said...

Hi Betty. I have to admit when I started to read this, I felt the pains and motherlumps coming on. I love to read. It's so important to me and has been back as long as I can remember. I took all of my kids to the library, read to every single one every night. I have one that is like me, a crazy reader, and one that will occasionally read if the subject is of interest to her. At least I know she knows how to find a book of interest:-) I have one who is just not interested. When he was in second grade, his teacher sent home a note saying I should read to him more often because he would not read in class, and I was so hurt my husband had to respond (he may have been a little harsh). I tried some of the same things you mentioned. This post made me feel so much better because really, even though I know it is not my fault, I always felt there was something more I could have done. Thanks. XOXO

Daisy said...

I have books everywhere that I can't bear to get rid of too, Betty. Your son sounds like a fine young man with creative interests and talents. More power to him and to you for giving him the space to be who he is. :D Hope you have a great weekend!

Aging Mommy said...

I am a book worm but so far, my daughter has very little interest in books. Bedtime or any other time she does not want to sit and read books, she wants to do other things. Despite my own love for literature and feeling a little sad she so far does not share it, I don't push her. Reading your post I am glad I do not and will never do so. As you say, everyone has their special interests and it is our job to nurture those that they have. Lovely post.

blueviolet said...

I have one who is a reader and one who really isn't. Although now that he's sorta honing in on what interests him in life, he does sometimes find books that he'll pick up.

Theresa Milstein said...

I hope your son reads this post.

A good reminder to parents to let our children shine in the ways they excel. We can give them the tools, share our passions. But they choose what they like and who they are. I find myself getting into little battles with my son, and try to step back. I'll keep this post in the back of my mind.

Venassa said...

I've been a reader since I first learned back when I was 6 or so. I would read anything really. I once even read a self-help book called "How to Talk So Your Kids Will Listen" or something like that when I was 12 or so. I was kind of like you, though, where I wanted my family to read. I bought my Mom a Chicken Soup book in hopes to get her reading but I could never rub off on her. But I've also accepted that not everyone loves it like I do.

Very great post. It's great that you realize how amazing your son is, even with his different interests.

Jimmy said...

Loved the post Betty, I myself love to read and always have and I did appreciate the point you made about trying so hard to teach your boys the importance of reading that you almost missed the fact that you were actually talking down to him so to say, we as parents miss this a lot of times and you have given a reminder and a lesson here.

Thank You my Friend.

citymouse said...

This was a great reminder of how kids are different. When I was a new mother I mentally assented that my kids would be different but I did not have experiential knowledge of that until they got a bit older and really developed their own personalities. It's hard when they don't line up with what we as parents want/expect.

Out of my 5 boys, some are readers and some aren't. My youngest has a learning disability and for years never wanted to read but somewhere along the way that changes and now he loves reading. Seeing him with a book brings joy to my heart.

The Redwall books are awesome! It's funny that you mentioned them because I just bought a few for my niece.

Shan said...

What a good Mama you are! But man, those lessons our kids teach us sure can be painful. Brought tears to my eyes, too.

Betty Manousos:cutand-dry.blogspot.com said...

Love the fact that your son is soo creative and innovative, and loves of all things musical! I love to read books as well but mostly I love to listen to my favourite music.

Hope you have a blissful weekend!

Betty xx

Mr. Stupid said...

This was such a great post. Everyone at my home reads a lot too. And yes, its always books everywhere.
I am so glad he is into music. Rapping? Wow. That must be really cool.

Poetic Shutterbug said...

Love that story. He followed his passion and what worked for him. As for decluttering, if I began doing that I'd have virtually nothing left :D What I do need however are my books, my music and my camera. All else is clutter for me.

Hilary said...

Oh my goodness. I can relate to just about each and every aspect of this post. I did exactly what you did for my son #2.. his older brother being an avid reader. I knew to keep it passive though.. he's a stubborn, strong willed kid and I knew that a push would be met with resistance. Amazing how alike yours and mine are.

Cassandra Jade said...

At least you gave him a chance to love reading. So many kids miss out on this and only discover the joy of books far later in life.
Everyone has to find their own love in life but it is much harder when you aren't given the options. Thanks for sharing this story with us all.

Lourie said...

My oldest and youngest have that same thirst for books as I do. My little middle is 50/50. Sometimes she likes them sometimes not. They are all so different.

notesfromnadir said...

What a wonderful story about a readers who develop in their own way. Really inspirational!

Don said...

You are a fortunate mom!