The Library Book
You know the Mommy Wars, right? The Stay-at-Home Moms against The Working Mothers. Then there was the Tiger Moms versus Western Moms.
If you have More Than One you look down on the Only Child parents (unless you have as many as The Duggarts, then you’re too busy counting your kids to bother with anybody else’s).
The Single Parents have twice the workload and half the support of the Smug Marrieds, of course.
As a Special Needs Mother I admit to occasional feelings of jealousy towards the Moms of Typically Developing Kids.
The Multiple Moms must want us to shut the hell up with our easy-peasy single gestations. And let’s not forget a gender fight when it comes to parenting. It goes on and on.
It is time for all parents to stop fighting and unite against a common enemy.
The Library Book.
Now, I don’t hate library books per se. In fact, one of the things I miss most when I’m living overseas is a decent library. Free books is right up there in my list of good things. If it hadn’t been such a hassle to join the local library here, I probably wouldn’t have resorted to downloading the victorian mathematical fantasy Flatland, which bewildered me with gender inequality throughout the dimensions. (What do you mean I’m just a line?)
Cubby’s preschool has a library, and each week he brings a new book home. One time it was a book about a bear and colours. No plot, nothing of interest for the little man, who decided that in the absence of a story it would be better for him to just chew on it to spare other children having their hopes dashed.
Sometimes there will be a story, but in Afrikaans, which we don’t speak. He gets bored of my inability to translate, as do I.
This latest book was about dinosaurs, and I still have pronunciation problems. No matter how I try to linger on the pages for Tyrannosaurus Rex and Triceratops, he always flips to the pages I struggle on:
Cubby: “Mummy, what does that spell?”
Cubby: “No, I don’t think that’s right. Try again.”
But it doesn’t matter wether the book is beloved, or discarded, the same thing happens each week. The morning the book is due back, it goes missing. I don’t know where it goes to, but it is the same place any letter home from school hides. And then we are united, because all over the world, already late for work, millions of parents are searching for lost books. I won’t have time to get dried after taking a shower, I’ll be out of breath before 7 am. But I know I’m not alone in this, and Natsuki’s Tiger Mom in Tokyo, working single mother Sarah from London, and Vladimir’s stay-at-home father in Moscow are all going through the same thing. The Duggarts twenty times over. All thanks to the malevolence of library books.
When asked, Cubby reverts to his default tactic of blaming his sister for taking it, even though she has her own mini-library of about 10 books that she has memorized and no interest in adding any others to it, would that she did.
Even though we put our books in storage, we haul the kids’ books around the world with us. We add to them whenever we move. You could say we have our own library. I could loan them to the entire school, and then I could be the one to frown disapprovingly at the parents who’ve forgotten to return them, yet again. I don’t need any more of your books, okay school? You’re just bringing me more work, and that totally puts me off my reading!
Eventually, I’ll find it, in some place I’ve already looked. And while I’ve been searching, the kids who were ready for school will now have spilt milk or squished blueberries into their clothes. Often Cubby will need another diaper change, because I think he is waiting until he learns to read before he can go to the bathroom so he can be Just Like Daddy. There’ll be no time to dry my hair, or fasten my buttons properly, and forget make-up. Then we’re so late that even if we avoid the Stares of Shame for forgetting the book, we get them for interrupting circle time, which Pudding is keen to point out is not actually circle-shaped.
I’ll shake my fist at the great librarian in the sky and vow that next time I won’t even let him see the book, and just hide it in the car until I return it.
But this time when I finally found the book locked in a sensual embrace with the missing PTA letter, I learned that they were raising money for more library books. I think they are actually trying to push me over the edge, until I read on and discover that they are raising money for library books for a local orphanage.
And then my heart lurches as I think of all the times we’ve snuggled up together with books. Whether it is the sweetness of Pudding’s voice filling in the last part of each sentence, or the earnest look of concentration on Cubby’s face as he learns and anticipates what comes next.
That is something all of us parents have in common; we’re so incredibly lucky. To hold our little ones close, to read to them, to nag at them when they lose something, to see them live and grow. And our babies have people who love and cherish them. Who will take the time to read to them, and help them learn in turn.
We’re just so fortunate to be here, each and every one of us. Even the wet-haired, bedraggled, perpetually late mothers of absent-minded book-biting boys who can’t yet read, but love the library anyway. I suppose he got that from me.