Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A parenting confession

Want to feel better about yourself as a parent?  Yesterday, I took my five-year-old kids to the library.

For the first time. 

I know, I know (hides under desk). 

They have been to Storyville, a fabulous play area in a branch of the Baltimore County Public Library with topical books in each of the play zones.  We have a veritable library at home, with more books than we can fit on the shelves, and a steady stream of new books, including easy readers and short early “chapter books” passed down from their cousin.  We read books together every night, and they love to read.  They see me reading all the time.  But somehow… somehow, I just never took them to the library.

When normal parents were taking their kids to story time or circle jerk or whatever it’s called, my two were too crazy.  They were in a “pull every book off the shelf” phase, and it was enough work for me to just get through the day with my destructor twins without (a) subjecting some sweet librarian to their antics, or (b) sweating my junk off trying to corral them both and make them sit and listen.  The idea of one of them pulling shelf after shelf of books down while I chased the other was more than I could handle. 

But then they got older.  I should have taken them then.  But I didn’t.  Why not?

See, here’s the thing.  Until yesterday, I didn’t have a library card either.  I read books, every day, every chance I get.  I write books, or try to.  Whether or not I ever finish a novel, I AM a writer.  It’s part of who I am, something I am driven to do.  So why don’t I go to the library?  It should be my magical place.  But no.  I like to own books.  I like to read them in the bathtub and not worry about the edges turning wavy where they sit on my damp boobs.  I dog-ear too.  I know.  Shameful.  Bad Pam.  But they’re MY books, so I can.  I know I’m hard on books, so I buy them instead of borrowing.  Used when I can, new if I must.  Paperbackswap.com is awesome, although they won’t take “water damaged” books (see above re: damp boobs).  I read books over and over, so it just makes sense to own them.  I am on my third copy of Worthing Saga, having loved it to death twice over.  Three paper copies, plus then I bought it on kindle.  Kindle will save me from having to buy Fionavar Tapestry again, because that book has been read to pieces.  Literally.  At some point, my kindle will fall in the tub.  I am at one with that expense when it happens.  It’s a drop in the bucket compared to what I have spent on books for that thing.

Also, when I used to borrow books from the library, I wound up paying ludicrous amounts in overdue book fees.  I bring books into my life and absorb them into my library, into my heart, into my soul.  Books I read become part of who I am and I don’t give them back.  Don’t lend me books.  I will steal them.  I won’t mean to, but I will do it anyway.  Don’t ever, ever lend me books.

In my defense, once I realized this about myself, I stopped letting people lend me books.  Someone would recommend a book to me.  I would write it down (or, later, text it to myself).  They would try to give me the book to borrow.  And I would say, “No, don’t lend me a book.  I will never, ever give it back.  Ever.  I steal books.”  You know what happens when you say that?  People don’t believe you.  They lend you the book anyway.  And then they never see it again.  Friends who may or may not read this blog, I have your copy of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.  Another friend, been looking for one of your Sandman anthologies?  Yeah, I totally have that.  Grad school friend who lent me Middlesex and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, loved ‘em.  Yup, still have ‘em.  Oh, and I also still have your copies of Even Cowgirls Get the Blues and Cynthia Heimel’s Sex Tips for Girls, lent to me well over a decade ago before I knew to warn you of my book stealing problem.  Grad school roommate who was convinced you would get your books back by using an elaborate system similar to a library, with cards inside the book and cards in your little index-card box saying who had what, how long did it take you to get your books back?  Something like four years?  Did I ever actually even give those to you?  I know at some point I pulled them off my shelf, but I can’t remember if I ever actually gave them to you or not.  If you did get them back, congratulations, you might, truly, be the only person who ever has. 

I remember my mom trying to get my dad to sell books at yard sales, and him being so sad about it.  Dad, I totally I get it.  I have a few of my dad’s favorite series that he smuggled to me or to my sister to save them from the “5 for $1” box.  Don’t worry, Dad.  They’re safe here with me.  I’ll never give them back to you, of course.  But you know where they are.  You can steal them back if you need them.  But not Foundation.  I need those. 

Where were we?  Oh, right.  Library.  So yeah, I don’t do the library thing.  So I didn’t think to do the library thing with my kids.  They get attached to books too.  Imagining having to return Harry the Dirty Dog, or Mog the Forgetful Cat (affectionately nicknamed “Drat That Kitty” in my house) to the library after three weeks?  No way.  I get that I should try books from the library and then buy the ones we love.  I understand why that’s better, you don’t have to tell me.  But here’s the thing, we don’t need more books.  We have more books than we could ever read. 

We do buy books when the kids get obsessed.  Currently, books about Mario.  In the past, books about the Wonder Pets or Little Einsteins or whatever.  And guess what?  The library doesn’t even have most of those.  Thanks to my mom’s book-loving generosity, we have roughly double the library’s selection of Miss Spider’s Sunny Patch Friends books.  And you know what else? The library didn’t have a single Mario book!  Not a single one!  My kids went up to the librarian, so brave and big, and asked her if they had any Mario books, and they didn’t.  Well, library, booyah to you, because we have two.  Four if you count the two my kids wrote and illustrated for themselves.

I feel like I am protesting too much.  No Mario books!  Down with libraries!  You guys know that’s my shame talking, right?  Because my poor kids were five before I took them to the library.  The librarian who took our info for the library cards, let’s call her Judgey McJudgerson, looked at them and asked, “How old are they?  Three?  Two?”

Bitch, you know they’re not two.  Go to hell.  They’re five.  And I brought them here because they’re going to kindergarten in a week and I don’t want them to go to the library at school and tell the nice teachers that they have never been to the library before.  Because that would make me look bad.  We’ll probably go once more this week, so they can get in the groove of the whole checking out and returning books thing.  So that I won’t look like quite as bad of a mother as I am.  Because really, my kids are healthy and loved and secure, so most other stuff I do is about not being judged.  Just me?

I seriously considered telling the librarian we had just moved to the area so she wouldn’t judge me, but I was afraid my kids would rat me out.  Sick.  I know.  I have a problem.  Well, more than one.  Fear of judgment, book-specific kleptomania, the list goes on and on…

So anyway, I took them to the library.  They loved it.  We read several books there and picked four to bring home.  Pinkalicious, Me and My Cat (both awesome), some Sponge Bob book I couldn’t talk my kid out of, and a Sid the Science Kid easy reader.  I took this adorable photo of them reading a book of animal-based fables from around the world.

My kids, reading together like angels.

And then I was afraid to post it on facebook because I didn’t want to be judged for being that excited about them at the library when it should be old hat to all of us.

So I did what I do when I am overcome with shame.  I told the entire internet all about it.  There you go, people.  My failure, here for your downward social comparison and amusement. 

I think they’ll live.  I know they’ll love to read.  They’re mine.  They will read.  You probably shouldn’t lend them any books, though.


  1. Love this. As a co-reader of your vast library, I enjoy your wide variety of books, both bought and pilfered. I do use the library because buying books is not an option in this house (thus the co-reading of your stuff). But I do love to own books too. I read in the bath. I have bought 2 copies of Worthing Saga for myself, and at least 3 others as gifts for people who I think need to read it. I have bought many Ender's Game so I can lend it out as well. Even have that one on audio book for my honey. Your kids have more books than any others I know besides my own two(sorry about that... we just aren't ready to pass some of those down yet.) Glad they had fun. Let the shame go. Great entry for all our amusement. :)

  2. This strikes me very funny because I am totally the opposite of this. I will only buy books if I've already read them and am sure I would read them again, or want them to collect like I would pieces of art. Buying a book without reading it first is to me like buying a painting without seeing it first. Even if I already like the artist, I wouldn't take the chance!

    But, library fees ensue. I think I am single-handedly responsible for the maintenance fees of our county library. In the end I'm probably spending as much money as you.

  3. I didn't go to the public library until I was in grade 2 or 3. Didn't even know it existed, and never would have gone if not for a school field trip- my brave teacher took our class downtown on public transit and got everyone their own library cards. And I turned out fine :)

    Taking your kids at 5 sounds like a great age to take them. Sounds like you've instilled a love of reading in them already.

  4. "Grad school friend who lent me Middlesex and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, loved ‘em. Yup, still have ‘em. Oh, and I also still have your copies of Even Cowgirls Get the Blues and Cynthia Heimel’s Sex Tips for Girls." Me, me, me, meeeeee! I support the gifting and stealing of books, and am sad not to be able to do that as easily on Kindle. I learn about my friends and learn about great books that way. So happy long-term ownership/theft. I still have a *lot* of other people's books. xoxo

    1. Ding ding ding, yes, you are the winner, um, loser of those four books. Thanks for the absolution! So much love. xoxoxo

  5. We are homeschooling (kindergarten) and I am in a similar situation with the library. My kids are 5, 3, and 17 months, so it's just HARD for me to take them in the library. Leaving the house at all requires 30 minutes of prep work! So instead, I buy piles of books for a few cents each at Goodwill and yard sales, and it's great because some of them lend themselves particularly well to homeschool topics. We are becoming acquainted with the library again, though--Saturdays are going to be our library days, when Daddy is home to help me corral the kids!