Today, I became the mother of a teen. And while that comes with its share of anxiety, disbelief and nostalgia for my baby boy, there are many unexpectedly wonderful things about having an older child. One is being able to share books with him in different ways than when he was younger.
My son has always been an enthusiastic reader. “Book” was actually his first word, uttered to an ecstatic mom before his first birthday. We read everything together since he was an infant, graduating from The Going to Bed Book to Where the Wild Things Are to the Chronicles of Narnia. And then, it stopped rather abruptly. My son started reading on his own, impatient to continue a story beyond where we left off at bedtime. Occasionally he’d come into his little brother’s room, squeeze onto the bed and listen to his old favorites. But mostly, reading became a solitary endeavor for him.
Since we didn’t read much together anymore, I started to pass on to him the books that I had loved as a child. But I had mixed results. He loved Tales of Fourth Grade Nothing and A Wrinkle in Time. But he rejected the Lord of the Rings, even when I bribed him with the reward of watching the movies when he was done. If he rejected Tolkien, I had no chance he would pick up my all-time favorite, Little Women. But I stubbornly tried.
A better approach was for me to start to read the books he was reading. I found myself eagerly waiting for him to finish the latest Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Percy Jackson and, later, Hunger Games. And then I suggested we both read recommended books that were new to us both. We both loved Wonder and Shooting Kabul and, recently, A Long Walk to Water. When I asked him what he thought of the latter, he actually said he “felt like a better person” for having read it—once again to an ecstatic mother.
I couldn’t be more proud of my big boy and look forward to sharing more stories with him. Even still, I do miss snuggling him on my lap and letting him turn the pages of the picture books I could recite with my eyes closed. So happy birthday to you, son. I can’t wait to see what the next chapter brings.