Omigod Mom, You Have to…

I am the proud…not possessor, certainly, but the proud room-mate, parent, audience, chauffeur, restauranteur, and wailing wall for two daughters.  They are the light of my life, and my favorite forms of entertainment, even better than the dog (who is entertainment personified).

Maybe eight years ago, Sarcasm Girl (now, I suppose, Sarcasm Woman, as she is over 21) went from merely reading books to wanting to talk about them  Really talk about them in long, involved conversations drawing on everything else she’d ever read, seen on TV, thought about, heard in a song-lyric… Since I was just such a teenager, I was delighted to indulge her.  We have had great, enthusiastic, arm-waving discussions about Twilight and Jane Eyre and Ender’s Game.  There’s been a little friction when she discovers that I’d read something a couple of decades before her and she couldn’t just spring its brilliance on me, but we work through that.  And all the time I’m just grinning at my enthusiastic daughter getting all analytic and excited about fiction.

And now her sister is at it.  And again, I’m delighted.  And a little exhausted.

Sarcasm Woman’s sister, Avocado, is 16.  She’s not just 16, she is enthusiastically, bombastically 16.  She’s discovered politics.  She’s discovered languages.  She’s discovered reading (again…this has happened more than once).  And while her enthusiasms and the things she lassos in to discuss when she’s talking about a book are different from her sister’s the underlying energy is the same.


So I do.

I have read several books by Kevin Brooks this way (YA author, quite good), a book called The Maze Runner, which did not impress me (OMIGOD, why not?), and we re-read the Hunger Games books before the movie came out.  Last week she had me read a Joyce Carol Oates story she’d read for English class that blew her away. Because I had to read it so we could talk about it.  Where her sister’s focus is on the story and the literature that might be referenced in these works, Avocado is getting into sociology and history, and seeing that.  Oddly, she loves YA science fiction and fantasy, but won’t look at any of the SF I leave in her way.

One of the rules of OMIGOD, MOM, YOU HAVE TO READ THIS is that it’s not reciprocal.  I can’t say OMIGOD, KID, YOU HAVE TO READ THIS.  It somehow takes the bloom off the literary rose, knowing that she’s reading something I recommended.  So I have to wait until she’s found a work I like and pretend I don’t care until she’s done reading, at which point (OMIGOD, MOM, YOU HAVE TO…) I can say “I know, right?  What did you like about it?”

And we’re off.

When I was a kid my mother had a book she’d cherished as a child.  It was about a little girl named Babs who wanted a chum, and my mother all but hit me over the head with this book, insisting that I read it and love it as much as she had.  And I tried, because I was a dutiful child, but it was kind of dreary and twee.  What I took from this was that I could not push books on my kids.  The worst I did was occasionally suggest something for read-aloud time.  The rule was “one chapter, then decide.”  That’s how we got through the All-of-a-Kind Family books and the Ballet Shoes books, and the Edward Eager books, and… I’d get to the end of that one chapter and say, “wanna read something else tomorrow?” and I’d be told in no uncertain terms that I was not stopping there.  “Nother chapter, Mama.”

Which I suppose was the toddler version of OMIGOD MOM, YOU HAVE TO…  I’m a sucker for a kid with a book.


Madeleine Robins is the author of  The Stone WarPoint of HonourPetty Treason, and The Sleeping Partner (the third Sarah Tolerance mystery, just out from Plus One Press).  She is also the author of a double-handful of short fiction, most available on her bookshelf. Her first Regency romances, AltheaMy Dear Jenny, and The Heiress Companion, and Lady John are now available from Book View Café.  She has just completed The Salernitan Women, an historical novel set in medieval Italy, and scheduled for release in winter 2013.


About Madeleine E. Robins

Madeleine Robins is the author of The Stone War, Point of Honour, Petty Treason, and The Sleeping Partner (the third Sarah Tolerance mystery, available from Plus One Press). Her Regency romances, Althea, My Dear Jenny, The Heiress Companion, Lady John, and The Spanish Marriage are now available from Book View Café. Sold for Endless Rue , an historical novel set in medieval Italy, was published in May 2013 by Forge Books


Omigod Mom, You Have to… — 7 Comments

  1. Hee. My toddler-sized daughter brings me one of her books, we read it together, I hand it back, and she…usually hands it back to me for another go, at which point I tend to describe things that aren’t in the text, since she’s at the Eats Words, Must Have More Words stage. Your post isn’t news 🙂 but it’s very good to keep in mind as my daughter continues reading and growing. As a teen I was relatively lonely in book-consuming, though my mother did listen patiently to my arm-waving attempts to explain interesting stuff to her. (My father didn’t and doesn’t read for pleasure.)

  2. I read to my daughter almost from the moment she was born, and of course our house is brimful of books. She taught herself to read by the age of 3. All I did aside from the reading aloud was turn on SESAME STREET.

  3. My go-to baby gifts for new parents are always books, particularly the books my kids loved when they were small. Because everyone should start out with a library.

    Brenda: when Sarcasm Girl was in pre-school I said to the teacher, “I think she’s reading.” Teacher said, “I think you’re right.” When she started kindergarten I told the new teacher, “I think she’s reading,” and the teacher gave me that kind, slightly pitying look one gives Aggressive Parents on the upper west side of NYC and told me “it probably just looks that way.” A week later, she said in passing, “And I think she’s reading.” Like you: reading aloud and Sesame Street seem to have done it. That and peppering my comments to her with big words (I almost fell over the day I told my 3-year old daughter not to stand behind the elevator door, and she responded, “Because it might hit me inadvertantly?”). Favorite forms of entertainment, my kids.

  4. I love this post. Maybe your kids can start recommending books to mine? : ) With everything else they are doing, and all the lures of the internet, reading for sheer joy seems to have slipped away from my offspring.

  5. For years, at back-to-school-night teacher conferences, I would tell the teacher, “You have a razor blade here. Don’t let it get dull on your watch.” But after a while I felt compelled to reword it into a warning. “You have a razor blade here. Always guide it away from your body.”