Joel is a bit under the weather. A mother waiting with me at preschool said, "He's not his normal self," meaning that he was not attempting to topple the life-size statue of Mary or tear apart the "Choose Life" poster by the front door.
These antics, as far as I know, do not reflect my son's views about abortion. We're tabling those discussions until he's at least---at least---eighteen months old. You know, when he's old enough to understand nuance. We also plan to bring up the concept of transubstantiation, discuss health care reform, and form opinions about stem cell research. After all, that's what babies like---food, toys, soiling themselves, and intense intellectual debate about touchy political topics. Am I right?
Anyway. Joel was under the weather and we were all Old Mother Hubbard after five days away from home. I decided to forgo storytime with Joel and instead took him grocery shopping. And, while it pains me deeply to say it, I must.... both of us had so much more fun. We laughed, explored, laughed some more, and didn't miss the reading of Goodnight Moon or the rousing rendition of "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" one bit.
Joel is a man of action. He doesn't like to read.
Writing these words is a bit like boiling my eyes in battery acid.
I'm a reader. My mom and dad read. My extended family reads. My brother reads. My in-laws read. My brother and sister in-law read. My nephew reads. Paul reads. And Owen, bless his heart. loves to read. LOVES IT.
As I write this, Owen is upstairs with his Richard Scarrey books, and he's reading to himself: "Oh, Able Baker Charlie is putting yeast in the dough! Too much yeast! Look at the big bread! It's so big, Able Baker Charlie! Yum, Yum, Yum! Eat it all up!"
The other night, before I kissed him goodnight, he said, "I want my teacher to show me how to read the crickets." By "crickets,"he meant words. He calls them crickets because he always wants to watch the credits of his Curious George cartoons. Hence: "I'll turn it off after the crickets."
Owen and I return home from our weekly library visits and tear the new books open like Christmas presents. We can sit next to each other on the couch, both lost in the pages.
Now, Joel...not so much. He never really loved books. He likes them more now that he has his glasses, but they are still low on his priority list. Give him a chair to climb or toilet paper to unroll anyday.
We try. Believe me, we try. He'll hand us a book and our hearts will soar. But, half a page in, he's already moved on to the next thing.
"He's just a baby," people say. 'What do you expect?"
Owen and I would read for forty minute stretches when he was Joel's age. That's what I expect.
I fear that this comes across like Owen is great and Joel is not. That's not my intent. I can just as easily say that I love Joel's fearlessness. My Owen would NEVER go down a slide, face first when he was Joel's age. Owen was shyer, more subdued, a different kind of charmer. My Joel---though---nothing will hold him back. He's the dancer, the flirt, the devil-may-care playboy. He's Tony Hawk mixed with Lance Armstrong---tough as nails, reckless and beautiful.
I will continue to take him to the library, even though we had a lot of fun at the store, because storytime is a good thing, and I want him to have educational opportunities.
And yet---if it doesn't work, I'll try something else. I'm learning, in my own bone-headed way that children really are, duh, in fact different.
Joel, in many regards, is uncharted waters. I'll need to throw away my old map, and chart the new worlds discovered with him.