Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Guilt and the Local Library

This summer I've decided to do something nice for myself. I'm avoiding the local children's library.

Throughout the year we visit the library nearly every week. The girls dart toward the shelves as we enter, and we lug stacks of books with us as we leave. So why would I avoid it? It's educational. It's pleasant. It's kid-friendly.

The answer is simple: the summer reading program. Or perhaps more accurately: my current inability to keep up with the summer reading program.

I visited the library with the girls just once after Kerrington was born, and the place was bustling with more strollers, more children, more parents, and more decorations dangling from the ceiling than I could absorb. Instead of settling into a relaxed space, we were swept up into a crammed feeding frenzy of little readers.

Don't get me wrong. I love reading to my children. It's just that this summer with a new baby I wasn't up to the task of tracking that reading. Titles. Authors. Page numbers. Genres. Reviews. Pamphlets. Deadlines. Considering that my energy waned and my left eye twitched with the mere thought of the documentation involved, I suspected that the pleasure derived from snuggling a child into my lap with a book might diminish if I needed to follow it up with record-keeping.

So, I opted out.

And shortly after I felt badly. Why would any mother withhold something good from her children? My girls enjoyed participating last summer, so why am I depriving them this summer? What about the opportunity to win prizes? The coupon for the free soft pretzel?

Come on,
I badgered myself, you're causing your kids to miss out.

How often do we try to do more, even when our better judgment advises us to do less? I had to reason through my decision. The purpose of the summer reading program is to get children to read. We already do. That settled the matter. We didn't need the program, and the girls wouldn't suffer from its absence.

In fact, they probably will benefit from its absence. Sure, they might read a few less books. They won't get their free soft pretzels. But they'll have a mother who recognized and cast off a false expectation of what constitutes "good" parenting, one who was calmer and happier for it. It's a worthwhile trade-off.

Come fall, we'll begin visiting the library again on our own terms. The pace will be slower, the aisles less crowded. We'll still leave with a stack of books, and I'll even take them across the street for a soft pretzel.

1 comment:

  1. I think a calm, happy mom is the best gift for your kids! I’m guessing you have plenty of kids’ books around your house. The library will still be there in the fall.

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