Last spring, I found myself saying, “I can’t believe I have kids who don’t like to read.” My twin sons were nearing the end of seventh grade, and getting them to pick up a book was like asking them to grade our gravel driveway with a nail file—impossible.
I’ve read enough Literary Reflections submissions along these lines to know it’s not uncommon for reading and writing mamas to have kids who can’t or won’t read, but knowing I wasn’t alone didn’t make me feel any better. At their age, I used to stop by the bookmobile on my walk home from school every Friday and pick up an armload of books to read before the next week’s visit. Admittedly, I preferred books from a series called “Dark Forces,” about teens encountering the supernatural, to the classics assigned for my Junior Great Books club. My friend Moira, who joined me on my weekly bookmobile pilgrimages, called my favorites “weak books,” but at least I was reading.
After my tirade about their reading habits, one of my sons said to me, “Stages, Mom, stages.” Touché. I’ve certainly gone through stages in my reading life: sometimes devouring “weak books,” other times becoming absorbed in George Eliot or Jane Austen, and yet other times delving into nonfiction on various subjects. (It’s possible I’ve gone through non-reading stages, but I don’t remember any.)
Parenting is one long series of stages—for both our children and ourselves—each with its own challenges and rewards. As this school year begins, I feel myself on the brink of a major new stage, with two kids beginning eighth grade and one entering his senior year of high school. Literary Mama, too, has gone through stages over the years, and as we begin this new publishing year, we’ll be celebrating the journal’s 15th anniversary. Over the coming months, we’ll honor our earlier phases and look forward to the future.
As for my sons, not long after I despaired of them ever reading again, each of them picked up a new book which represented a major leap forward from the middle grade series they had preferred in the past—The Hobbit for one and a collection of P.G. Wodehouse's short stories for the other—proving that sometimes our kids are wiser than we are.
P.S. Stay connected between monthly issues by subscribing to our blog or by following us on social media. Also, explore our archives to discover more mothers’ voices!
Images by Eleonora Andracchio, Lee Guthrie, Maciej Ostrowski, Catherine Stratton, Elmira Gokoryan, Rudri Patel, and Heather Vrattos