Song of the Failed Hardass or, On Reading in Bed

I don't mean to be a pushover.

Really I don't. I believe in discipline, and good manners, and all that sort of thing. I think kids can get stressed out if they never hear "no," if they don't get a sense of what the limits are.

But the thing is, just because I believe and even know what I think is right, doesn't mean I'm able to do it all the time. In my mind is some sort of paragon, a cross between Ma of Little House on the Prarie and the father in Peace Like a River and the uncles in Jim the Boy (which for some reason won't accept the link: it's this)—except without any beating the kids or being a prophet/visionary Christian or being a farmer part of it. So far, I haven't had so much success with this. But at least I have aspirations.

But my aspirations toward kind, calm, firmness go right by the wayside when it comes to reading. And it's beginning to concern me. A little bit, anyways.

I got to thinking about this the other night, when I saw this:


See that little "N" on the upper right-hand corner?  That's what made me tell Chestnut, "Oh look, it's a school book, we have to return it tomorrow."

"No it's not," she said.

"Yeah, it is, see, it's got a level thing." I pointed helpfully at the N.

She smiled, part sheepish, part dastardly. "I just put that there so I could read it during homework time and you would think I was reading school stuff." I gave her a look. She had the good grace to look abashed. But not very abashed. "I only did a couple of times though, really. Just a few."


Then there are the countless, countless, COUNTLESS times I have found Diana at extremely late hours closed up in the bathroom with one book or another, reading on the bathroom floor. Have I run her back to bed? Sure. Have I ever gotten really mad, like I would if she had been holed up there with her DS? Not at all.

Why is that? Is reading that angelic that it somehow nullifies all strictness? Where are the limits? Where's the righteous indignation?

I don't know. It's only lately that I've sort of noticed my double standard, my feeling that if you do something where you end up reading, I just won't come down too hard on you. I've been wondering, since I noticed it, if it's a problem.

But it can't really be bad, at least I don't think it can. I don't think it's possible for something so great to be harmful (though that's probably what people think about butter and cream too, I guess).

Diana took a book into her bed for the first time when she was just two. She asked us for a flashlight, and then she took something ridiculous and lovely in there, either The Roly Poly Pudding or Anatole, I can't quite remember, and curled up in her new big girl bed, turning the pages and studying them. I don't think she could really read yet, but she was so totally happy. And her dad and I just sort of watched her with this ridiculous fondness, like "Oh look, she's going to be one of us."

If this is what wrong feels like, I don't want to right (with apologies to whatever song that line actually comes from).

9 thoughts on “Song of the Failed Hardass or, On Reading in Bed

  1. Um. The same double standards apply over here. But, um, I have readers over here. I think that the former encourages the latter, don’t you? And that fondness, that is here too.


  2. I was an extremely good little girl. In fact, the only time I remember being “punished” was when I was caught reading under the covers really late. My punishment? I wasn’t allowed to watch that week’s episode of “The Walton’s” and “had” to read instead!


  3. Nah, with all the crazy things out there, I’d let them get away with the reading. 🙂
    P.S. I LOVED Wayside Stories, in fact, at 30yrs I still quote it…there was one character, a teacher who on the outside was very saccharine sweet, but underneath was evil (or something), and the quote is something like “the nicer you are outside, you have a mean little person in you inside” (I’m sure I’m butchering it)….I use this as an excuse when I’m in a grumpy mood. “At least I’m not being fake like that teacher in Wayside Stories.” LOL. I need to get a life, perhaps 😉 .


  4. I got away with reading under the covers for an hour post-bed, then my mom would come and take away my flashlight. I totally thought I was getting away with something.
    In my husband’s house the rule was bedtime, unless you’re reading. I think we’ll adopt the same. Bedtime is bedtime…unless you’re reading in bed.


  5. My kids are too young to be reading (to themselves) yet but I will totally do the same when they are older. I too was a good girl who got busted for reading after bed all the time. I am a night owl by nature and also spent a lot of my childhood lying awake and miserable after an early bedtime. So if my kids want a booklight and a book after bedtime, I think I will be more than happy to oblige. If a child is tired enough they’ll fall asleep regardless. And I think you’re right that reading is something very special to the mind and life–something to encourage at any time.
    (I’m also extremely liberal with butter and cream. Not the most toned bod ever, but I like my food.)
    Little House on the Prairie really did a number on you, huh? 😉 I haven’t read it since I was young, so I never felt like I had to live up to Ma. These days, I don’t need any unattainable role models so I’ll keep my distance! It’s hard enough to keep your head above the water in this parenting gig.


  6. To add to my already long comment–my three-y.o. already often asks for books at bedtime and naptime, and I am always happy to give them. He looks through them for a bit, then passes out.


  7. Our rule is that we look at the term bedtime literally, it’s time to be in bed. Not necessarily time that you have to be asleep. I will allow any activity in bed as long as it is a. quiet, b. requires no moving around, and c. can be done without getting out of bed at all. Brynna reads in bed a lot, but she also draws in bed, colors in bed and occasionally plays with paper dolls in bed. I check on her about an hour after bedtime and if she is still up, I will fuss a little and tell her to wind down, but very, very seldom is she still up.
    My take is that I don’t want to discourage her from reading, EVER, and that I want for her to learn to listen to her body. Going to bed when mom says you’re tired isn’t nearly as beneficial as going to bed when your body says your tired.
    As for the other rules, we haven’t gotten to that yet, but I will probably always be a little relaxed on the reading rules and already I am “altering” her teacher’s homework policy with regards to the reading log. All good things in measure, or something.
    Also, I totally didn’t know there was a second Wayside School book and I will be getting that immediately.


  8. I loved reading this today. I have a daughter who just turned 8 and our challenge is she just can’t stop reading and it doesn’t make her tired. I try putting her to bed earlier but even as late as 10 after reading for 2 1/2 hours she still wants to keep reading. This has been a problem since she started reading. At first always wanting to finish a book she started all in the same day. She has moved past that now with much larger books gaining her interest and longer series. I love it but she is a bear in the am. I told her she needs to start earlier then and also if she wakes up she can lay in bed until her alarm goes off. I feel bad she always says what is the problem if I am reading. But she does need some sleep. I am just glad she loves it so much!


  9. As one who used to get in trouble for reading both in school (when I was supposed to be doing something more important, like making a tracing of my hand into a turkey, or something) and at home (something about bedtime; I forget the details), I’m a softie too with reading in bed. As long as she’ll not keep me on the hook past bedtime. Because I’m tired. If she wants to read in bed? You got batteries in that flashlight, sweetie?


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