Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Wonder and Missed Opportunity

I was the only reader in my family growing up. I read all the time. I took books with me in the car, in restaurants. Once I even took my French textbook into the movie theatre because you know, the minutes before the previews start are precious minutes when I could get a few more pages read. I wasn't encouraged to read. I came upon the pastime on my own. Often, I felt like an outsider. Like a puzzle piece inside the wrong puzzle box. A reader in a non-reading family.

“Remember when you used to ask me to read to you?” my mother asked once when I was a young adult.

“I do,” I said.

“Well, I would try and then I'd get so upset. Reading to you reminded me of not being read to as a child. It made me so sad, I just couldn't do it.

One of my daughter's honorary aunts and my best friends has created a long-distance book club as an enticement for Cadence to read for pleasure. A positive peer pressure sort of thing. It's such an act of love.

Our first selection is Wonder by R. J. Palacio. Cadence picked it out at her recent book fair at school. Tammy finished it first. I read it over the weekend, and now we're waiting for Cadence to finish it. 
I couldn't put the book down. The story is sweet and heartbreaking and restores one's faith in humanity. The characters are endearing. The dialogue sounds genuine, real, believable. I thought about my daughter as I read. I wondered what her reactions would be to certain plot points or what her response would be when she saw me crying, choked up, working on getting through a poignant scene.

And then I thought of my mother's admission. When she told me years ago what kept her from reading to me, I felt cheated. Angry. Hurt. Those were a daughter's reactions.

Now I see that admission differently. I hear those words as a mother, and I am sad for her. I know from experience now that the things we do for our children can also serve as healing for the child within.

Cadence and I read a few chapters before I took her to school yesterday. “I like Summer,” Cadence interjected. “She's kind and a good person.” I nodded and smiled in agreement. I turned the page and kept reading.

Reading this book together feels like the sacred moments I used to have with my baby and toddler at bath time. There in the water, she would splash and smile. The tension of a difficult nap time or meal time melted. It was like hitting a reset button. The bath time and reading together are each intimate moments that can help cement the relationship between parent and child. They nurture slowing down, breathing deeply, and letting go of the busyness of work and school days. 

The story underscores something I've been talking with Cadence since she entered kindergarten: Kindness matters. I am so grateful to have these opportunities to reinforce the values for which our family stands. 
By choosing to not venture outside of her past and work beyond hurt feelings, my mom missed out on these conversations and intimacies I am sharing with my daughter. I can't help but think she lost out twice--as a child and as a parent. She also withheld from herself the opportunity to heal something important by offering it to her children. As a mother, this makes me so sad.

I plan to read what Cadence reads for the foreseeable future. I see how this habit will help give us something to talk about that doesn't have anything to do with either of us. Neutral territory. Safe space to discuss important things if talking about ourselves becomes too risky for a time. Plus, I really like my daughter's brain and the way she uses it. I'm in awe of the thoughts she articulates, and know that as she grows her thoughts and her perspective will get even more interesting. I wouldn't miss these moments for anything.

One of my favorite quotes featured in Wonder.


  1. I am a reader too. Have been since I was little. I love that you are reading with your daughter. What a gift!