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Guest appearance!

I’m guest blogging today at Tales of an Unlikely Mother.  Darlena asked me to describe what it’s been like for me this past month, changing from working a nine-to-five* job to staying home all day.  I’ve gotta admit, it wasn’t entirely what I expected!

* OK, we all know it was rarely a nine-to-five job. Software engineers in the office at nine a.m.? Leaving the office at five? Unheard of! 😉

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I’m bringing paperback

Kindles, Nooks, iPads, even smartphones… it feels like everywhere I look, someone’s got some kind of e-reader. Heck, even my mom got one for Christmas last year! Being the voracious reader that I am, you’d think I would be first in line for the latest device. But this is one geek trend I’m skipping, for now. I’ll take my reading the old-fashioned way.

I grew up devouring books. Most times when I got suspiciously quiet, it wasn’t because I was up to mischief, but rather because I’d gotten lost in a book. And I wouldn’t just read them once–if I liked a book (and I rarely met one I didn’t) I was happy to return to it many times. Even as an adult I get as much pleasure reading a book for the second or third time as I did the first time through. Some people watch their favorite movies over and over, spouting memorable quotes. Why should it be strange that I do this with my favorite books?

So, it seems like a no-brainer.  Electronic readers have all kinds of advantages over traditional books. They’re kinder to the environment than printed editions, they’re easier to carry when you want to take the whole library along, and I could read late into the night without turning on the bedside light. Anti-glare screens make it convenient to read outside, and advances in battery usage make it possible to go for weeks without needing a charge. But I’m still not sold. I’ve got a more important, less personal reason to pass for now: I want my son to love reading as much as I do.

Kiddo is still too young to tell an iPod from a smartphone, and the only difference to him between those two and our laptops is their size. In this little boy’s eyes, all of them serve the same purpose: to prevent Mom and Dad from paying Kiddo his rightful share of attention. If I pull out my phone to take a quick peek at my email, he’ll grab my arm and say “No, mom!”  He’s even reacted that way occasionally to other electronics like our digital camera. So, as handy as an e-reader might be for me, he’s not going to see it as a book. He’s going to see it as one more distraction.

Children copy the behaviors modeled by their parents. I remember playing in the backyard as a child while my own mother sat nearby with a book in hand. To show Kiddo how enjoyable reading can be, we have to demonstrate it with items he recognizes as books, not gadgets. Frankly, it’s not that much of a burden for me. I like reading traditional-format paperbacks.  They’re a good fit for my small hands. I like the feel and sound of fanning a new book’s pages; I love flipping to a random place in an old read and thinking, “Oh yeah, I remember this part!” and diving in.

And there are other benefits to analog versions. It’s easy to purchase a new one without needing any special software installed. I don’t worry about breaking them if I drop them, and I can keep reading on the airplane during takeoff and landing, while other electronic devices have to be turned off and stowed. Sure, they both get ruined if they fall in the bathtub, but the replacement cost of a mass-market paperback is considerably lower.

I have no doubt that a couple of years down the road, I’ll be ready for the latest Kindle or its kin. But for now, I’ll take my dead-tree versions, with the hope that I’m planting a seed for the future.


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Little man with a plan

We’ve noticed a change in Kiddo the past week or two.  He’s gotten more assertive about letting us know what he wants to do–and especially what he wants us to do.

For as long as he’s been able to say “No” (and boy, that feels like forever) Kiddo has had no qualms about telling us that he doesn’t want us to do something, whether it’s checking email on our cell phones or attempting to get him dressed. But he generally didn’t take the initiative to tell us what he actually did want to do. Recently, though, he’s figured out that he can show us through actions what he’s got in mind.

In the morning, when either I or my husband is trying to sleep in, Kiddo will come up and grab an arm, trying to pull us out of bed. If I’m at the kitchen table and he throws his new orange ball over the baby gate and down the stairs, he’ll lead me by the hand to where the problem is. He doesn’t wait for us to serve him anymore at mealtimes, if he can help it. If there’s food he wants and it’s within reach, he’ll simply help himself.

This is exciting to me because it tells me that he’s learned he can influence other people’s actions.  He’s long past the stage where he figured out that Mom and Dad are separate people who sometimes have different opinions than he does (for example, whether he should go to bed or not). He has frequently demonstrated that he knows he’s allowed to express his opinion. But suddenly it seems like he’s realized that he doesn’t have to wait for other people to make a decision–that he himself can decide what we should do next.

Obviously, as parents we’re going to overrule him at times, but right now I’m getting such a kick out of seeing how he asserts himself. He’s so confident in his belief that of course Mom or Dad will do what he wants, if he can just show them what it is he wants to do.

My favorite example of this so far happened a few days ago. We’ve got a regular group that gets together weekly to watch the latest episode of Survivor. We’d all taken our shoes off when we arrived at the hosts’ house, and piled them just inside the front door before heading to the viewing area at the back of the house. About 15 minutes before the end of the show, Kiddo plopped down in my lap and handed me his shoes.  I put them on him–after all, sometimes he just likes having shoes on.  He disappeared, then reappeared a few minutes later carrying my husband’s shoes.  Next he ferried mine over as well.  “Mom shoes!” he announced. When he dragged our coats down the hall to us, we finally realized what he’d been trying to tell us: it was time to go home.  Never mind that we were literally about to find out who was getting voted off! When a not-quite-two-year-old has his mind made up, there’s no such thing as a rational appeal.

On our way to the car, we realized something else as well. Every weekday morning, as we get ready to head off to work and daycare, putting on coats and shoes is the first step to heading out the door. That night, when Kiddo decided it was time to go, he didn’t whine or throw a tantrum. He simply repeated the routine he knew from home and expected it would have the same result. From his point of view, his actions were totally logical. They may not be rational quite yet, but in their own way, toddlers actually can make sense.