Sometimes Books Hold Mom’s Stories Too

My children can’t always be held accountable for hanging onto things. When they finally feel inspired, I look into their bin of discarded ponies, plastic fast food meal toys, and assorted paper bits, and swell with glee to be rid of it all. But then my eyes wander and settle on the pile of books sitting amidst the junk—books my child feels she has outgrown. I see a pile of memories, a past that I can no longer get back and already feels worlds away. My heart sinks and my chest swells with that feeling of pressure you hold back when you’re about to cry.

Some books you never want to see again. Some books you read to your kids a million times and every word pains you. But when I looked at the Mercy Watson series teetering on my daughter’s pile of junk, I immediately remembered when my daughter wanted them. They were her first chapter books and a transition to something so much older. I felt sad and excited at the same time when we started reading them, the same way I felt when my son and I started Nate the Great. It meant something to be graduating from picture books just like it means something that my kids’ shelves are now mostly covered in more difficult books they can read alone. Each new stage takes them further away from me and those nights long ago when I’d point to words and show them in earnest how to understand the world.ohmercy

My daughter would never admit in a million years that she loved pigs at the time we started Mercy Watson, but she did—because they were pink. We’d snuggle in her bed at night and read several chapters. I didn’t do it for every book, but for these books, I had a special voice for every character. Crotchety Eugenia sounded like my childhood friend’s grandmother. We began those books not long after my daughter got her big girl bed. But what I remember more is when my daughter started reading them herself, a sign of the passage of time that I must have missed for she still looked like my baby to me. How could she possibly be reading them to herself?

I’ve read to my kids every night since they could sit up. Since they were old enough to talk, we’ve spent the time after bedtime stories talking about their day, escaping and connecting. So the books we’ve read remind me of those times too—conversations about not feeling wanted that have broken my heart, the revelation of getting in trouble at school after pretending all afternoon that things were fine, and worry upon worry about the world.

I snatched those Mercy Watson books from the pile yesterday. And there will be more. Some books have too many memories attached of nights with my kids, eras that have ended. For now Fancy Nancy still sits on my daughter’s shelf. I remember that phase when my daughter wore skirts over pants, strands of long beads, glasses with large frames, and purple plastic heels. It’s an image burned into my memory because it was a phase that passed too quickly. The books reminded me of the preschool her and they always will. I’ll always have images of her running through the yard singing in a tutu and pink cowboy boots or playing soccer in all her finery with her brother on the driveway, but I’ll never live that again. I imagine soon those books will end up on my shelves too. Some things I’m just not ready to let go.

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42 Comments

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42 responses to “Sometimes Books Hold Mom’s Stories Too

  1. Beautifully written :’-)

  2. YAY! A new read for me. I must go check out these books about pigs like me. You know my mommy reads me a story every night when she puts me to bed. I have my favorite as well. We are *never* too old to get a good story. Tell your daughter that – a pig gets read to every night and wants to hear the pig stories – snort giggles. Thanks for a great read. XOXO – Bacon

    • You may like Pigs Ahoy and Pigs Aplenty, Pigs Galore by David McPhail. I can still remember the words to those because my son made us read them to him so many times. (I have to admit though that I would not save them from the junk pile! Well, maybe. We read them way too often!)

      • I can’t wait! I’m writing this down on mom’s buy list for this weekend. I have a giant book of stories that mom reads from but pig stories are kind of close to my heart you know – since I’m an oinker 🙂 Thanks my friend. XOXO – Bacon

      • I LOVE “Pigs Aplenty, Pigs Galore”! My sister got it for my kids when they were little – the colors are so lovely, and the facial expressions of the pigs (and their oh-so-reluctant host) are priceless.

      • To be honest, I think the reason I was not enamored with it at the time was because my son made us read it to him constantly and then read it yet again and again (it’s not a short book!). Then my husband thought he was so clever to recite it to me when my son wasn’t around. I think I still know the words!

  3. K. Eley

    The best part of my day is when I can sit down and read to my kids. I love books and I love sharing my passion for books with my kids. It’s a time for discussion and one on one time. I also have a hard time of getting rid of those special books. I have a basket of baby board books that hold so many special memories. Even though I am still very young, I am looking forward to reading those books again to my grandchildren. Like you I can part with the junk and some toys; but the books, well, they hold all the memories of childhood.

  4. Love post! My kids still read my childhood books. I couldn’t part with them then and I can’t part with them now. Even the boys tattered Brown Bear, Brown Bear (which they have clearly outgrown and no longer want to hear three times a night) seems difficult to part with.

    • Yes, I have loads of board books I can’t part with. My son had it memorized and used to read it to himself at 2. I can still hear him reading it in that sweet little voice! Couldn’t part with that. Every book tells a story.

  5. love it and get it completely. i give so much away to my nieces and nephews but certain books will stay no matter how beyond them they are. because as you said, I am still that mom who wistfully remembers that place by the bed, with those special books in hand.

  6. This post really resonated with me! My son is starting to outgrow some of those younger chapter / early reading stories and it’s bittersweet.

  7. Lovely post – The ones I can’t possibly part with are the favourites from the baby days. Either the ones I read to them or my husband as I lay beside them… Time for Bed, Daddy’s Kisses… sigh.

  8. juniper9173

    I am the same with my daughter’s books. Certain ones bring me back to certain moments during her life. I have more trouble getting rid of books than toys or clothes. Thanks for the story.

  9. This made me want to cry! Books are so dear to my family. I read to every one of my four siblings and to my parents as well. Many vacations, school nights, summer days were spent with a book in hand laying about in bed painting stories aloud. Now I’m reading to my babies and find it so bitter sweet that those days are ahead of me but for a short time. ❤ Thank you for sharing this sweet story.

  10. Ah, so bittersweet. I just boxed up all the board books, those baby books for counting, but also The Big Red Barn, The Going to Bed Book, Are You My Mother, Guess How Much I Love You. I needed to make room for the chapter books and other big kid books, most especially the Captain Underpants series, The Littles, and James and the Giant Peach. The boys watched me with little interest whereas they usually fight to keep each and every one of their books. I am telling myself that I am holding on to that box of books in case I end up teaching Kindergarten or even Preschool somewhere along the way, but really, I am keeping it because it is a box of memories I am not quite ready to let go of.

  11. The books and reading time – I get the connection. My wife also has a hard time getting rid of the boy’s books. There are a few in particular she seems connected to.

  12. themominblack

    So bittersweet! My oldest is two so we get about 3 pages into a book when he shoves another one in my face. I actually made myself sick straining my voice to give my best pirate impression for a story the other day. He was not as impressed as I was with myself. *sigh*

    • Mine were never impressed with my impressions either, or so I thought. The other day my 11-year-old said I did a great Professor Trelawney impression from Harry Potter. (I haven’t read it to him in a couple of years now.) Every now and then a character deserves a different voice.

      Hang in there with your two-year-old. It will get better. Or worse. Mine repeatedly asked us to read the same book over and over and over. Torture.

  13. My son Jacob left for his senior year of college just yesterday. On his shelf are some of his favorite books from grammar school. On my shelf are some of the books I loved sharing with him for all the reasons you mentioned. I bring them out for visiting children, and I will bring them out for grandchildren. Books never outstay their welcome. They are treasures. Which reminds me, I wonder where my copy of Treasure Island from when I was a girl ended up …

    Beautifully written!

    • Senior year? Wow. Mine is starting fifth grade next week and I wonder where the time went. I’ve noticed my son tends to hang onto his books longer than my daughter does. Tattered Harry Potter copies may just be there when he goes to college too.

  14. My kids aren’t as old as yours but I can already relate to how you feel. I’ve been feeling nostalgic about growth in general, and since I don’t plan to have any more kids, I know that this truly is it: there won’t be any more baby moments, and my preschooler is turning into a big kid… it’s exciting but saddening at the same time.

    • Those realizations are sad when they are little. Right now it’s not as hard as leaving that preschool phase, I think because they’re in the elementary school years for so long and you feel a little safe for a while. But middle school is looming. That’s another growth that seems bittersweet.

  15. rooksgolla

    this just made me cry as i’m sitting in my parents driveway with two sleeping babies. I’m dropping them off because my 2.5 yr old was driving me up the wall….I even cried cuz I was so MAD! I know he’s just so little still and still trying to understand how the world works. thank you for reminding me at justt the right time to cherish my little boy.

    • Don’t feel bad. 2.5-year-olds can make you plenty mad. So can 10-year-olds and 8-year-olds. It’s hard! Just get through it and move on. There are plenty of awesome moments too, right? Like when they sleep. 😉 Angels.

  16. Oh, so painfully true! I have a hard time moving on from some books.. But thanks for these recommendations..my five year old daughter and I will try them! She doesn’t dress up on a daily basis anymore and that is hard to let go too.

  17. We read to our kids every night since they born and I am convinced that is why they are both very good students.

    My youngest just did a super-cleanup of her room (practically at the point of a gun, though) and I noticed not a single book in the Goodwill pile. She spent her spare time this summer rereading her favorite Brian Jacque/Redwall books from junior high.

    • I agree, Peg. I’m also convinced about that reading to your kids thing. I swear by it and I’ll do it as long as they let me. If it weren’t for that, I am convinced my son wouldn’t like to read as much as he does. We pushed through the hump until we found books he liked. Leave them hanging every night, and they’ll pick up those books on their own to see what happens next.

  18. Do you still read together? I have a friend that sits with his family and they plough through great works like The Lord of the Rings by J R Tolken. I hope I can do this with my son who is 4 and will soon start to read.

    • Yes, my husband and I both read to both of our kids every night. We each read to one and then swap. My son is nearly 11 and my daughter is 8. We’ve been doing it since they could sit up. I highly recommend it. They both love to read and I think that’s why. My son went through a phase where he only wanted to read Harry Potter or Diary of a Wimpy Kid. I was able to get him to listen to some really great stories if he would “just listen to a few pages and see what you think.” He would be hooked after a few pages and I’d always stop at a cliffhanger. I did read with my son most of the Tolkien books. I encourage you to do it now if you aren’t. Nate the Great and Magic Tree House are good places to start! As you can see this is one of my passions. 😉

      • We read every night (picture books with simple stories). This is really the only time my son will actually allow me to read to him. I make the most of it and read a few. I’m hoping we’ll share some of my favourites soon. The BFG by Roald Dahl is one I’m looking forward to the most!

      • Oh, my son loves Roald Dahl! He went through a phase where he read all of his books over and over. I do miss the picture book phase though. My kids are starting to clean theirs out and they just bring back so many memories. Just cherish that bedtime!

      • I will, I’m trying to start bedtime earlier so we can spend more time reading.

  19. eisees

    my children thank me for introducing them to “reading” – I am grateful. Your
    cronicle of events pierced my heart, that while I “taught” them the value of reading I missed the value of reading with them.

    • I don’t know how old your children are, but maybe it’s not too late? I remember reading a blog post quite some time ago about a family with children who were college aged. When they came home, the parents (who were maybe professors and had professor friends, can’t remember) and their friends and their now grown children would sit around the dinner table after dinner and read, often staying up late to finish a book. Chronicles of Narnia was a favorite. I thought that was so unique. Most people’s dinner parties are spent talking, maybe the kids run off to watch a movie (or at that age leave?). And I know of some people (couples) who read to each other on long trips. It’s a thought? I’ve always wanted to try that.

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