Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

It Got Me Thinking…About the Story Time November 27, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

I am going to be a “mystery reader”! This is nothing like a mystery shopper, someone who goes into a store, shops a bit, then rates the service. Instead, I am the mystery. On a given day, after tantalizing clues about my identity have been revealed, I will surprise my 6-year-old nephew when I show up to read a story to him and his fellow first-graders.

I about leapt out of my chair when I read the invitation my sister forwarded from the teacher to aunts and uncles, grandparents, and special friends. “I AM SO IN!!!!” I replied. I love reading to my nieces and nephews. Bedtime stories with friendly monsters, fairytales with happy endings, wild yarns that tickle the imagination; hand me any book and we’ll read it together. Before I moved closer to them, I even checked out books from the children’s section of the library, made up silly voices for each of the characters, and read to them over the phone.

My date isn’t until after the new year, but I immediately started thinking about my selection. Make Way for Ducklings is a personal favorite from my childhood. I regularly give Mo Willems’ Knuffle Bunny and Knuffle Bunny Too as shower and first birthday gifts. Dr. Seuss, wild rumpusses, Shel Silverstein, the many adventures of Winnie the Pooh…and then it hit me. I’ve been giving these beloved books as gifts for years, but I don’t have any of them on my own shelves.

Dangitall! I always assumed I’d have a shelf full of children’s storybooks, and I imagined how I would teach little ones how to read then sit in awe as they discovered the joys of reading for themselves. I looked forward to becoming reacquainted with my favorite characters, experiencing precious stories through a grown-up perspective, and appreciating anew the artistry that goes into creating them. I’ve been making such good progress in coming-to-terms with my childfree status that I didn’t see this left hook coming. Like with so many of our experiences as childfree women, something that made me so happy also makes me so very sad.

I will pick myself up, dust myself off, and pick a story that I think will be fun for everyone. It’s no mystery that I’m going to savor every moment I have with my wee audience. Meanwhile, I tip my hat to the thoughtful teacher who came up with the mystery reader program and is giving me the opportunity, just for one morning, to live in my fantasy world.

Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She is mostly at peace with her childfree status.

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5 Responses to “It Got Me Thinking…About the Story Time”

  1. Andrea Says:

    “Fantasy world”..! Mine is when I visit the daycare center where I worked for about ten years (and still do work on the side for). The last few times I’ve been there I’ve been on a photography assignment for the center’s website, and it’s been such a delight! The kiddos’ faces light up as they recognize me, and in no time they’re all running toward me to give me a big hug. Nevermind that not one of them can remember my name; I’m just that “camera lady” who smiles all the time 🙂 Once I’ve visited with the older classes, I scurry to the infant room to hold the babies there. Yes, I SO KNOW that fantasy world you’re talking about..! For the time I’m at the daycare, I am walking on cloud nine.

    P.S.: “Mystery reader”… what a GREAT idea!!

  2. loribeth Says:

    Bless that teacher for being so inclusive. There are so many of us aunties out there who would just love to do something like that with our nieces & nephews but were never invited (even after much hinting or even right-out comments that we’d love to attend that soccer game or judo competition). Have fun!! (For the record, I still have some of the children’s books I began collecting — favourites from my own childhood that I wanted to share with my children — a boxed set of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books, some Enid Blyton, etc.)

  3. Maria Says:

    I love to read. Spent so much time in the library as a child. It was my solace. I still do love to read. My very favorite children’s book is Walter the Farting Dog. I bought it for myself because it made me laugh every time I read it. I then passed it on to my friend’s son and it is his favorite book. He takes it everywhere. If you think it would be appropriate for the class, I highly recomend it. It was a NYTimes bestseller for a very long time.

  4. loidid Says:

    I do have a great many children’s books on my shelves, and that’s hard too. I have collected books my entire life for ‘someday’. I would always look at second hand books anywhere I saw them, and always ended up getting some. But a couple years ago I quit.. What’s the point now? So there they sit, I feel guilty that no-one is enjoying them and wonder if I should donate them somewhere. But it’s hard to give them up too.

  5. I have many of the same thoughts and the probably the same boxed set of Little House books from the ’80s… my bookshelves overflow with my childhood favorites yellowing from age, a wistful reminder of treasured bedtime story moments with my parents that I will not have the privilege of knowing with my own children. Just another part of the grieving process for what could have been. I feel fortunate, though, to be able to share my love of books and specific characters/series with my upper elementary students. It’s a great feeling to see their eyes sparkle when they really get into a book. As for my own collection, I occasionally lend a favorite to a student, but I can’t give up my books… they are a part of me.


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