Moms Passing Precious Time

Written by Marla Paul

One mom remembers the sweet days of bedtime stories.

Roaming the aisles of our grammar school book fair, I finally spied it. "There it is," I yelped. "The new Arthur book!"

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The antics of Arthur, a droll grammar school aardvark, had delighted my daughter, Elizabeth, and me for years. We looked forward to every new adventure, which we read so many times we practically memorized the words.

No, I should say I practically memorized the words. Elizabeth was content to listen, nestled on my lap, her brown curls tickling my nose as I unlocked the mystery of the words on the page.

Reading her a book was like unwrapping a present. I savored the spare and elegant prose and lush illustrations; she relished being transported into the tale, whether exotic or familiar.

"Read to me, Mommy!" she demanded at breakfast, after school and before bed. Those were the best moments of my day.

But as I stood in the aisle at the book fair and paged through the long-awaited Arthur story, an unwelcome realization tugged at me. This was too babyish. Now, at 8 years old, Elizabeth had moved beyond such simple sentences. I picked up some more picture books with gorgeous pictures and charming stories. They seemed too young as well. I began to feel depressed.

My daughter was growing out of picture books faster than a new pair of party shoes. I would miss them. But not to worry: I bought her some chapter books. At least she still needed me for those.

In the evenings that followed, I read Elizabeth a riveting mystery about a plucky orphan girl whose aunt had been enslaved by truly fiendish woman. Could the girl rescue her desperate aunt? We were enthralled.

"One more chapter, pleeeeeze," she implored.

"That's enough for tonight. We'll read some more tomorrow," I said. Then my daughter did something new. She picked up the book and read the next chapter herself.

The following night I walked into the family room to see her curled up in a chair, immersed in the mystery.

"Want me to read it to you?" I asked.

"No, that's OK," she said, her eyes glued to the page.

"Are you sure?" I said, my tone just short of pleading.

The following night my services were rejected again.

"That was a great book!" she said several days later, setting it down with an air of satisfaction.

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