Mother Isn’t Always Right?

When my older child, Diana, first started sneaking a book into bed with a flashlight, I felt a weird combination of relief, satisfaction, and excitement: she was going to be (in a really vile phrase) one of us. We would have this shared taste in common, wanting to read more than to do almost anything else. We would bond over books. We would love the same things
Of course I was wrong. And of course the particular ways in which was wrong shocked and surprised me, because she is a child and I am a parent and so she's got to destroy all my preconceptions somehow.
First of all, she doesn't love reading the way I do; if anything, she loves it more, to the point of getting in trouble in school for reading too much and at the wrong times; she chooses to read rather than eat dessert sometimes. Second: Let's just say that I have now experienced that inescapable parental situation of having something rejected simply because I suggested it. It's like the opposite of the Midas touch: anything I recommend has this awful earnest taint to it, it says "This is something your mother likes, and thinks you should like." It's not how I pictured the book situation.
Somewhere right after my successful recommendation of The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (God I loved that when I was a kid), it just started backfiring. I watched My Friend Flicka and Wren get dismissed out of hand (though this didn't bother me so much, as I wasn't much of a fan), but then I saw the Chronicles of Narnia ignored, and witnessed the out and out rejection of  D'aulaires Greek Myths. It was a drag. And the only reason I am posting about it (in what is supposed to be a more or less positive blog—could you tell it was supposed to be positive?) is to let all of you know who are in similar situations: it is not necessarily a bad thing. I've watched Diana, and Chestnut, too (by the way these are code names they've selected, for those of you ready to judge) after tossing aside my offerings, go on to create their own aesthetics from nothing. Diana is far more interested in fantasy, and sorcery, and the dark side than I ever was, and Chestnut seems to go for historical fiction and strange picture-book stories, wherein she extracts messages I had no idea were there until she showed them to me. And they've both circled back around, once I let the matter drop, to books I'd championed in the past, to everyone's satisfaction. It's still a delicate matter when we're all in the library together. But so far it's worked out well.

12 thoughts on “Mother Isn’t Always Right?

  1. Oh my god, this post made me laugh. I’ve been facing the exact same situation with my son. And how the phrase “one of us” made me laugh, in this exact context. You hit the nail on the head. Thanks!!


  2. You make such a great point! I find it with books more than with other things, because that’s one of the things I’m really passionate about, but it’s so hard to see this person (especially one who seemed just like me in this way) rejecting things that I hold so dear. We’re still more in the picture books stages, but after my oldest’s long love affair with “Where The Wild Things Are,” my other two haven’t had the same fascination with it. And I was so hurt! Will they also reject the Chronicles of Narnia, Trixie Belden mysteries (I know, old books, but I loved them so much!), even A Child’s Garden of Verses?
    It’s good to have a reminder that they won’t always like the things we loved, but they’ll find the power in other things–and maybe come back to the things we want them to like, eventually.


  3. So did Diana ever get into the Narnia books? At least TLTWTW, which is one of my FAVORITE fantasy books ever, just for the first description of leaving the fur coats and stepping into the snow. (I hope she did!)


  4. Ah wait until your little sweetheart brings home the D in English lit because she was reading in class instead of listening. 😉
    My second kids rejects any and all recommendations I make. I gave up and he’s finally reading more than just those warrior cat books.
    My third kid reads five books at once and never seems to finish anything.
    My fourth likes to read chapter headings and call it good.
    My fifth hasn’t yet established a pattern but she does tend to reject recommendations. It’s sad when you can’t get a preschooler interested in Dr. Suess.
    But, hey, they all read, and that’s not too shabby. 🙂


  5. You could always try a little reverse psychology: “Narnia? Oh, I don’t know. I mean, I liked it but it might be a little too exciting/mysterious/scary/insert-adjective-here for you.”


  6. And I have to add that I absolutely love the Wolves of Willoughby Chase et al and don’t understand why Joan Aiken wasn’t/isn’t ten times more successful than she was/is (so awkward with a deceased author).


  7. SassyO: She loves the D’Aulaires now. And to Kaitlyn and Lisa: she had a long intense love with Narnia and is on to other things now. The way it worked was just to leave them lying around the house, or to read them myself and then she would steal them.


  8. I wonder if Diana and Chestnut read your blog? If they do, do you know what they think? I would’ve been keenly interested to get a peek into my own mother’s publicly personal thoughts and feelings.


  9. Jennifer: Diana does, Chestnut doesn’t. Diana loves to read it, actually, but then keeps mum about her response (she’s a very private person) except for some rather prickly comments. Chestnut, I don’t doubt, will someday. It keeps me honest. And scared.


  10. Oh my god, I must have taken D’aulaire’s Greek Myths out of my school library about 20 times! And the Chronicles of Narnia! I even re-read them as an adult! I’m going to keep my fingers crossed.


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