A few days ago it was National Children’s Book Day. I know it’s a bit of a departure from the things that we usually write about, but I couldn’t help but think, what unifies us more than our children and families? And who doesn’t love a good book? I mean even if you’re not really a “reader” everyone has a story or a memory that is inspired by a book they’ve read or a story they’ve been told. Some of my fondest memories with my children came from reading to them when they were little.
Just a couple of weeks ago I sat in a diner with a friend and talked about an old familiar children’s book and how it had come to remind me of my life as a mother. I had even written about it on another site that I used to write for. While my friend was not familiar with the book (unheard of with young children I gasped!), she was certainly familiar with the pitfalls of parenting and how I had likened my days to those of the main character.
The story was If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Nemeroff. If you’re not familiar with the book, basically it goes like this: A boy gives a cookie to a mouse. The mouse asks for a glass of milk. He then requests a straw (to drink the milk), a mirror (to avoid a milk mustache), nail scissors (to trim his hair in the mirror), and a broom (to sweep up his hair trimmings). Next he wants to take a nap, have a story read to him, draw a picture, and hang the drawing on the refrigerator. Looking at the refrigerator makes him thirsty, so the mouse asks for a glass of milk. The circle is complete when he wants a cookie to go with it.
I likened it to the endless attempts that parents of young children make to get things done day-to-day while a barrage of seemingly unrelated events try to derail us or run us in circles throughout our day. More or less, Nemeroff gives us a series of cute kids books that describe a whimsical and funny chain of events that occur when you try to do one thing, but each of the things that you do, leads you into a continuing chain of events that actually preclude you from doing the very thing that you wanted to originally do…. sort of… well, that’s how I’m telling it any way. And if you’ve ever taken care of children for any period of time, you know exactly how this goes. I have often been asked (clearly by the childless or those not directly involved in the day-to-day care and upbringing of one), how it is that I can start a basket of laundry when I wake up in the morning, and somehow at bedtime that basket still somehow remains unfinished- either unfolded or still lingering somewhere in the wash/dry/fold/put away cycle. And I can only explain it by taking a page from If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.
I start the day ready. I’ve managed to get a load of wash successfully from washer to dryer on the same day- score! I hear the dryer bell ding and I am off to the races. And then, the cycle of events goes something like this:
Pull clothes from dryer and put in basket. Place basket down on my bed for a second to go help yelling son in the bathroom. Come back to get basket. Notice on the way back to basket that the dog has chewed up contents on trash can and strewn them throughout the family room. Start to clean up mess. Phone rings. Answer phone and converse briefly with sister-in-law on other end. What was I doing again? Oh right, folding the clean laundry. Have to finish picking up that mess the dog made first. Go to grab a trash bag. Notice while getting a trash bag from the cabinet that I am out of dish soap. Go to write dish soap on my grocery list. Where is my grocery list? Note that middle child has taken grocery list and turned it into an art project. Follow trail of crayons and markers to her room. Pick up crayons and markers from floor. While picking stuff up from floor notice seven pair of underwear underneath her bed. Remove said underwear and place in hamper (Is it dirty? Probably not, but I’m not taking any chances). What was I doing again? Oh right, folding the clean laundry. Back track down the hall, putting grocery list back, and finishing picking up dog’s mess on the way back to where I left that darn laundry basket. Begin to fold laundry. Fold two shirts. Doorbell rings. It’s a package. Put package aside. Walk back towards laundry. Hear the calls of my son yet again. He wants me to open the box. Spend 5 minutes explaining why I can’t open the package because it’s not addressed to me. Listen to 10 minutes of how he needs said box to complete his fort masterpiece he has been working on for the Fort Olympics. Agree to help him find another box. Locate another box in garage. Oh hey there’s more dish soap! Go cross dish soap off grocery list. Come back to the laundry basket, fold two more shirts… that’s 4 if you’re playing along at home. What was I doing again? Hear the bus… here come the other two kids. Time for after school snack… homework… dentist appointment…. dinner…. showers…. dishes . Gotta get back to that laundry. Stop to pick up the wet towels. Get everyone ready for bed. Distribute drinks of water to the parched masses. Collapse in a heap on my… oh hey what’s that?… the laundry basket!
Better luck tomorrow!
So, which kids book is most like your life? And what was your favorite children’s book growing up?