My youngest son has always been a reluctant reader. Sometimes guilt about it consumes me, like during bouts of insomnia when your brain rifles through every failing of your life. "I should have read aloud more when he was little. I should have been one of those moms who took weekly field trips to the library. I should have created themes every week based on Hungry Caterpillar food."
But when the sun is shining and I'm well-rested, I try not to be too high pressure about it. Everyone has their own interests and I strive to create a family culture in which we all celebrate the things we love, whether it's super hero movies, spotting bald eagles or the Minnesota Vikings.
And it's hard to nail down his reluctance to read. Kind of like a chicken or egg situation - hard to know if he doesn't love to read because it didn't come easily for him or if it didn't come easily because he just doesn't enjoy it that much.
He and I recently finished listening to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. How we started it was totally random. I had no grand plan to force a classic down his throat. Quite simply, we were bored in the car and couldn't find anything satisfying to listen to. It was already in my Audible library from a time when it was on sale for .99 cents. So we gave it a try.
It had been decades since I had read it. Not gonna lie, the liberal use of the n-word was jarring. We looked at each other and cringed so many times. We only listened in the car. As the weather has gotten nicer and we've rolled the windows down, we would find ourselves lowering the volume around pedestrians for fear of an extra loud random n-word piercing their spring evening. Yikes.
But that's what is important about literature, right? It can be record, even if it's fiction, of the way things used to be.
The best part, so rewarding for this mom, is that when we would get in the car for any reason, he requested it. Again and again he would choose Huckleberry Finn over music or podcasts. He loved the adventure and the whole idea of this kid, about his own age, off on his own. In danger. Sleeping under the stars and scrounging for the next meal. It was a whole new world. But not a fantasy world. Our world, a long time ago.
He truly loved it and no one was more surprised than me. And it made me realize that his reading situation was bothering me a lot more than I wanted to admit. Sharing this experience with him and seeing him fully embrace a story from over 100 years ago...it eased a pang in my mom heart that I hadn't fully acknowledged.
We moms don't always get a do-over or a chance to make good on a regret. It's a rare moment and I'm so grateful for it. This summer, on the occasions when he's on his iPad for three hours straight, I'll probably cling to our season of Huckleberry Finn so I can feel good about myself.
By Kudoso Kontributor, Lorri Strand