The boy and I were having problems. Problems involving storytime.
Storytime is serious business around the Cronin household. Has been since I was Cooper’s age. My mother still tells the story about the terrified phone call she got from my teacher on the first day of pre-school that began “Um, your son already knows how to read and he WON’T STOP READING ALL THE BOOKS.” My terrible eyesight is the result of reading Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary novels under the covers with a flashlight, even though it annoyed my college roommate. The main reason I wanted to have a kid in the first place was that it would give me an excuse to re-read all the Richard Scary books without looking like a weirdo. Before Cooper was even born, he had a whole bookcase filled with books waiting for him in his nursery. Sometimes late at night I’d run my fingers over their spines and picture myself sitting in a rocking chair with our son in my lap and What Do People Do All Day stretched out before us.
Cooper would have none if it. Storytime was agony to him. Whenever I would place him in my lap and begin to read, he would shoot me a tortured “Why are you doing this to me” look. By page 2 he would be squirming. By page 3 he would be crying. By page 4 he would be attempting to throw himself off of my lap and towards his toy blocks. I would read page 5 silently to myself while Cooper bounced a ball against the wall, cheerfully oblivious, free at last.
“How’s it going in here?” Kristen would say, peeking her head into the room. “Our son is a jock who hates books and is clearly adopted,” I’d reply.
I do not want to get a phone call on Cooper’s first day of pre-school informing me that whenever someone tries to read to him he fakes his own death. I needed a gateway drug, something to hook him. I thought about this one night when the three of us went out for a walk after dinner. And while I was lost in thought, an old blue pickup truck drove by us and Cooper pointed at it. “TW-OCK” he said.
Trucks. Trucks! Cooper was scarily obsessed with trucks. They were his weakness. And a weakness was all I needed.
I bought a book called My First 100 Trucks. It’s just (SPOILER ALERT) 100 pictures of trucks. I placed it in front of him one night when he was pushing his toy truck around. “Cooper, you know how you like trucks? Well, here are (SPOILER ALERT) 100 trucks that you can look at whenever you want!”
He looked at me, looked at the book, flipped it open to the first page, and blew his own mind.
We read now. We read all the time. When Cooper fusses and wails during diaper changes, I just hold a book in front of him and he goes still and complacent. When bathtime becomes a bore, we float a waterproof bathtime book over to him. He pulls books off his shelf himself now, and will run over to me, waving them, demanding. He happily sits in my lap as we read book after book after book. During a recent bout with the Coxsackie virus, the only thing that would stop him from crying was reading Maisy’s Bedtime. We read it over fifty times in a row. That is not a humorous exaggeration.
There is a voice in the back of my head telling me to be careful what I wish for, that I’ve created a monster, that he won’t be able to help me get around the house in my old age because he’ll be as blind as I am. I ignore that voice. Because the best part of my day is when we get home and he immediately runs into his room, pulls Pat the Bunny off the shelf, flips to the last page (“Can you say bye-bye? Paul and Judy are waving bye-bye to you.”), and then says “BYEEEEEEEEE” while waving at the page with a big smile on his face.
I’ve already picked out the flashlight he’s getting for Christmas.
Brian PJ and Kristen Cronin live in Beacon with their three cats, and their son Cooper James Cronin. Check out their blog A Rotisserie Chicken and 12 Padded Envelopes at hvmercantile.com, and view more of their photos at www.flickr.com/teammoonshine.