بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
By J. Samia Mair
I don’t think a night goes by where I don’t look back on my day and wish I had done something differently with my kids. I wish I had not used that impatient or angry tone, or had listened more carefully to something, or I had given an extra hug when needed. I also think about how my husband and I might have raised them a little differently if we knew back then what we know now. I see their childhood slipping away far too quickly and know that we could have done better. I suppose most parents feel that way. But although we did many things wrong, one thing my husband and I did right was making sure that we scheduled time for him to read to them every night before bed.
Bedtime book reading was far more involved than simply reading a book at night. When they were very young, my husband chose the books to read, but before they were age two they were choosing books themselves. Each had their own little bookshelf and their go-to books. Most parents can recall reading the same book, over and over and over again. At some point, that blissfully ended. Even at a young age, we purposely steered them towards books with few illustrations to develop their listening skills and to encourage them to use their imagination. Before long, deciding what to read became a very involved process with hours spent perusing their choices, discussing what they were in the mood for, and each trying to convince the other two why they should choose a particular book. If either of my girls becomes an attorney, I can confidently say that her negotiating skills were honed on Amazon.com.
My husband and I love books and wanted to instill that love in our children. Experts tell you to read to them, so I read to them during the day and my husband at night. It worked. My daughters love to read and a gift certificate to a bookstore is still their favourite gift. But we did not realize how special the nightly reading with Baba would be. Often fathers do not get to spend enough time as they would like with their children due to their jobs or other commitments. But if nightly reading becomes part of the daily routine, the kids, as well as the father, know that they will have that special time together. I can honestly say that I believe one of the reasons my daughters are so close to their father is because they have been reading together for as long as they can remember.
It wasn’t so long ago that my three-year-old girls would grab their little toddler chairs and wait by the door of our small apartment waiting for Baba to come up from work. As soon as they heard the key in the door, they started screaming, “Baba’s home! Baba’s home!” Before he even got inside, they were hugging his legs, waiting to be picked up and kissed. They couldn’t wait to show him the pictures they had drawn that day or the things they had made. Each night was like a long awaited homecoming.
Those days are gone. No chairs are at the front door, no high-pitched excited screams, no rushing to show off the day’s achievements. Sometimes they even have to be reminded to pull themselves away from whatever they are doing to welcome their father when he walks in the door. If it were up to my husband, he would still have each daughter nestled up beside him on the sofa every night, eagerly anticipating the turning of the next page.
But it’s not every night like before. They have their own books now and other interests keep them away. But reading with Baba still holds a special place in their hearts, and some of their fondest memories are those bedtime readings. And if I had to guess, they will continue the tradition with their children.
J. Samia Mair is the author of five children’s books, the most recent Zak and His Good Intentions (2014). She is a Staff Writer for SISTERS Magazine and Discover, The magazine for curious Muslim kids and has published in magazines, books, anthologies, scientific journals, and elsewhere.
© IIPH 2015