Tonight was big at our house. But I almost ruined it.
My girls and I finished Narnia. We started the series, which was a Christmas gift to my kids, on December 26 and we plowed through them because we could.not.stop. And tonight we closed the book on the Last Battle. It was breathtaking. From start to finish, the series was epic.
But tonight, which we had been giddy for all day, started out really crummy; and it was my fault. All day long I knew that tonight we would finish Narnia...a night much awaited and anticipated. But it was also "Art Night" at our elementary school and a solo-parenting night for me, which meant crabby Mom trying to keep an eye on four kids (one of whom is a 3-year-old boy) in an overcrowded school building filled with families, art stations and a hundred third graders putting on a recorder concert (Oh my!). After listening to all ten recorder songs with a three-year-old clinging to my neck and then crawling under the chairs (because it's 7pm and all his behaving powers are gone for the day), while simultaneously trying not to drop all the clay creations my kids had just created, by the time I got home and tucked in half of my children, I was done. Exhausted.
When I finally plopped down on the couch to finish Narnia, I instead heard my own voice lecturing my girls on the decibel of the laughter coming from their bedrooms as I'd been trying to tuck in their brothers. Lecturing made me even more "done" than before. (To make matters worse, I don't even think that their decibel level was actually too high; pretty sure I was just so crabby and over-stimulated from the evening that I was making a mountain out of a mole hill). Their eyes pleaded, "Aren't we gonna finish? It's Narnia!"
I sighed deep sighs. My sinful nature was fighting hard against every single fruit of the Spirit within me. I told them my mood wasn't up to finishing the greatest book series of all time tonight. (Jerk!) They looked so sad. I sighed some more. My spirit fought some more. And then, only by the grace of God, I looked into their pleading eyes, pulled up my big girl panties, and started to read. Within a few pages, the wonder of Narnia worked its magic on my sour mood and we finished strong. It was breathtaking.
And as much as I wish I had gone into tonight with the right attitude, the way it all played out is really a perfect example of why we still read together. Because it is so very worth it. Because those last 20 or 30 (or 60) minutes of reading together can take a sour day and end it well. Because that time on the couch, when we are wrapped up in a story together, makes all the mother-daughter conflicts and sister rivalries of our day just fade away into the distance until we no longer remember them at all.
For as long as I can remember, like most of you, we've read to our children at bedtime. We started at some point in Evelyn's infancy, and gradually progressed from board books to picture books to chapter books. Biscuit turned to Ladybug Girl to Fancy Nancy to Junie B. to Jack & Annie to Ramona to Laura & Mary and then to High King Peter, Queen Lucy & a Lion named Aslan. We have loved them all.
Naturally, at some point along the way my girls learned to read. Friends often ask me why I still read aloud to them rather than letting them read alone. The best answer I can give is that we simply just never quit. Oh, they could read these series on their own, (though Evelyn got scolded earlier this week when she told us she read ahead two chapters in The Last Battle. She dare NOT finish without us!) but instead they have other series they read solo...and we save the best to read together. Reading together is something that we just have not, cannot, and will not stop.
If you do a quick google search on the benefits of reading aloud to older kids, it takes about one minute to see the wealth of educational reasons to keep on reading. Vocabulary, fluency, voice inflection, pronunciation, confidence, listening ability, moral lessons...the list goes on and on. There are absolutely tremendous educational reasons to keep reading.
But that's not why we do it.
And I certainly don't keep reading because I feel like reading after 13-14 hours of parenting. Tonight is a perfect example of how so often I feel very much like locking myself in my bedroom and turning on Netflix or mindlessly perusing Facebook (which, by the way, is not necessarily a bad thing to do...I just do it after we read). No, feeling like reading has nothing to do with it.
Here's why we read. Because every night at the supper table, when we go around the table to say our favorite part of the day, no matter what else happened that day, my nine-year-old says, "My favorite part of today is going to be reading tonight." And then my seven-year-old says, "Oh yeah. that's gonna be mine too." Every suppertime. And that, my friends, humbles me greatly. That makes me feel so ashamed of my crappy, pathetic, "poor me I've had such a hard day of motherhood" attitude that overtook me tonight and overtakes me so many other evenings. It's their favorite part of the day. Sitting on an old frumpy couch with their Mom, their sister, a really old picnic blanket, and a book...that's their favorite part. And that makes it my favorite part of the day.
That is what turns our frumpy old couch, which has had more formula bottles puked up on it than any couch should ever have, into sacred territory. Sure, it's been demoted out of the living room into the basement, but it is sacred. It's our reading couch, and holy moments happen there. On that couch, all of the mother/daughter head-butting we do during the day disappears...every argument about piano practice or homework or leggings...it all fades away. On that couch, all of the squabbling that the sisters did during the day is forgotten. On that couch, we dive deep into stories and vicariously live adventures, dreams and fantasies. On that couch, the hardest topics of life are confronted via story, creating a safe place for us to talk about love, sorrow, marriage, brokenness, grief, tragedy, disobedience, divorce, death, illness, doubt, faith, hope, friendship, poverty, redemption. On that couch, we laugh. On that couch, we sometimes cry. On that couch, we stay up too late. On that couch, we have our favorite part of every single day.
Even on days when I'm way too tired to want to make it happen. It's too worth it to not. It's holy ground and holy moments.
And that, my friends, is why we still read.