A note to welcome student parents to The family that reads together —
One year during finals in college, I remember trying to write a philosophy paper. I wasn’t a philosophy major—far from it, in fact; it was one of my three required Humanities courses—which is probably why I had left this one to the end. I hadn’t slept more than a few hours in the past few days and I remember staring at the computer screen trying to make something come out of the keyboard. I was powered by orange juice and powdered sugar doughnuts. At one point I read back what I had written and realized I had typed a direct quote from the late night DJ right into the middle of a sentence. I don’t remember what the paper was about or how I ended up finishing it, but at some point before midnight, or likely right around that time, I printed out what I had, walked across a dark campus and slid the paper under the professor’s office door. (No, I was NOT the kind of student who would have banked on him not actually being there until the morning and turning it in later. You’d have to see my husband for that…) I would give anything to see that paper today.
I’m thinking about that now because it reminds me a bit of being a parent. There are a lot of sleepless nights. There are the days like yesterday, when taking a “sick” day as a stay-at-home mom means laundry, grocery shopping, and making a mess in the kitchen with my toddler as we make pies for dinner. In other words, it looks a lot like a non-sick day. I was so tired I ran a whole load of hot laundry without putting the clothes in the wash. And the other day when I left my computer on top of my car and drove away. (It’s fine, if slightly dented, thank you; I’m typing on it now and I highly recommend the BuiltNY laptop sleeves.)
The other similarity about being a student and being a parent is that you are constantly learning. I’ve never felt more confident in my life than when I brought my son home from the hospital and began to care for him, a human life in my trust. But it’s not just about learning how to diaper and when to check his temperature. There’s also a re-learning–a learning about the world around us, a remembering that the little things ARE miraculous.
So for those of you who are both students and parents, I know your time is doubly taxed. I know your brain is doubly speeding ahead. And I hope you know how lucky you are! In this blog I talk a lot about modeling reading with your kids. You are already doing an important modeling job—you are modeling education, arguably the most important thing in their lives. I encourage you to model it explicitly. Show your kids when you struggle with your homework. Remark about how hard it is and how you sometimes need to spend extra time on it to get it done. When you accomplish something you are proud of, tell them, and tell them how you worked for it. If you emphasize brains over hard work, it only gives them an excuse later to say “I’m not good at this,” or “I can’t do math.” (Read my article in ParentMap about girls in science and math if you want to hear more about that!)
When it comes to reading with your kids, get the most out of it by choosing quality books (for little ones, school-age ones, and adolescent ones) and using some of my ideas for conversations and activities to follow up on those books. Good luck!