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Awesome (Slightly Selfish) Perk of Having an Older Kid

Erin Zammett Ruddy

We are pretty big readers in our house* and over the past few months Alex has been bringing home books from his school library that have actual facts in them. Which means I’m able to use my brain at bedtime and absorb something other than “She hangs by her feet and she lives in a cave, I do not think that is how llamas behave.”

Last night I read Nora three longish rhyming books. They all had good, legit writing (my fave of the bunch: Snow, by Roy McKie and P.D. Eastman of Are You My Mother fame). But I could (I did) literally turn off my brain and sing song my way through her books. The fact that I’ve read Hooper Humperdink 853 times didn’t help the cause, either. My brain was shutting down for the night. Then I moved to Alex’s room to relieve Nick and I read Alex a book about baby cheetahs. Did you know that cheetahs don’t have retractable claws like other big cats? Their claws are always out and act like cleats when they run. And girl cheetahs never move far from where they were born but boy cheetahs hightail it out of there. And cheetahs are single moms! So interesting! My brain started to reboot and it felt…invigorating.

Some of the other books we’ve recently read include Foxes (how did I not remember that a female fox is called a vixen?! Of course! And I love that the mom and dad both raise the pups together!), Hyenas (they nurse their babies for 12-18 months, super long for carnivores—and they are really $%^*! mean, especially to people), Aircraft Carriers (can’t remember anything from that one—whoops!), and his go-to from our own collection: To Market, To Market, a long, detailed look around a farmer’s market, which my friend Elizabeth (who installed our amazing garden) gave him a few years ago. He wasn’t that into it as a younger kid but now he’s obsessed so we read about the way kale grows and how apples trees are grafted and what exactly goes into making goat cheese. I have to be honest, at first I was a little eye-rolly** about these very dry books Alex was into. I mean they come with real photos and glossaries and facts, how much fun can they be?! What about fantasy and illustrations and escape?! But now I’m digging the education.

As happy as I am to not be in school (and to know I would never, ever go back for an advanced degree), I did love learning and absorbing facts and just knowing things. Interesting things. My brain used to be jam-packed with knowledge and lately it feels like a sieve. But last night I actually felt my synapses firing in a way they just don’t with Is Your Mama a Llama (I’m not hating on that book at all—it’s actually one of my faves). Last week I told Alex I love the books he’s been picking out. His response:

“Well, I only like non-fiction, not fiction because I only want to read about stuff that actually happened. Like those foxes actually happened, right, mom?”

Love him. Also love that he’s still a huge fiction guy too despite what he says (we’re reading Polar Express nightly now). But anyway, it’s been an interesting development. And it’s been nice to give my mom/deadline/holiday/stressed-out mush brain a little workout lately. Use it or lose it, right?*** I’m sure I’ll be eating my words once he gets a little older and his homework gets even a little harder (as it is I have a tough time following his math directions) but for now I’m happy to be using my brain a little at bedtime. That said, my half-asleep reading with Nora (she refuses anything but fun, colorful, often sing-songy books) was pretty awesome last night, too. Before I started reading she said this, which she’s never said before: “Mom, when you’re done reading books can you lie with me for a while because you’re my best friend,” Melt.****

So what kind of books do your kids like? Have you learned anything interesting lately? Enjoy your weekend!

*In case this post comes off to anyone as "wow, my kid likes books, pat me on the back" I wanted to add that we also like TV. A lot. 

**I do not actually roll my eyes at my kid, particularly about reading.

***I do also read on my own—and I love non-fiction—and I realize this is a good way to learn new things but lately I’ve been working so much I pretty much pass out. So a few kid-friendly facts about four-legged creatures will have to feed my brain for now.

****Soon after saying this, Nora said: “I want you to leave now mom, go get daddy.”

(sorry for all the disclaimers--I won't be doing this regularly just still a little sensitive after the great Christmas List misunderstanding)