Word emergency! Call 911!

My reader and her books.

My reader and her books.

I had a kid-lit lesson last night.

My daughter has a history of midnight treks to my bedroom. I’ve read the parenting books, and I knew I should send her back. But a round-trip bedroom trek left her fully awake, ready for breakfast and a bath and Polly Pockets. Back then, I’d wrap my arm around her, pull her across me, and let her sleep between us.

The parenting books say you’ll be a bit tired with all this motherhood business, and if you just grab a power nap, you’ll be shiny and fresh and ready to tackle the day. If I wrote those books, I’d tell the ugly truth: When you’re so tired you begin hallucinating about Polly Pockets, you have the right to send your child to a boarding preschool, if only those schools existed.

For me, that trek-to-mom never ended. These days, it starts with “Mommy?” (Because it’s hard to resist when she calls me mommy instead of mom or hey, you.) Then comes her sleep problem: my leg hurts, my head hurts, my stomach hurts, my eyes hurt, there’s a weird sound, I think I smell fire, it’s snowing and I can’t stop thinking about a snow day, my room’s too hot, my room’s too cold, I had a bad dream about computers.

So, last night:

My book-crazy daughter (go figure) bursts into the bedroom and snaps on the light.

Hey, mom, I need help.

Help? Could this be a real emergency? I ask, what’s wrong?

I can’t pronounce this word. You’ve got to tell me how to say it. She’s wide awake, holding book eight of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.

She points to a word: craniectomy.

I say, crane-ek-to-me.

She’s nearly bursting. What does it MEAN???

Something to do with the brain, like brain surgery.

What kind of brain surgery? Mom, it’s about Violet. She might have a crane-whatever.

I take the book and, sure enough, the evil Count Olaf is arranging some kind of terrible surgery for Violet. The thing about Lemony Snicket, however, is he constantly uses big words, and in the next line or two, defines the word.

I turn the page and there, in the very first line, he writes something like, “A craniectomy is a big word for surgery of the brain.”

I point this out to my daughter. She giggles.

I’m tempted to fume. First, she woke both of us up; second, she’s reading way past the lights-out deadline; third, she’s reading a book that prompted a question and then answered the question in the very next line.

But, truly, I’m thrilled. She cares about words. She cares about saying them right and understanding what they mean, although if she cared about mom’s sleep, she could find the answer in what do you call them? Oh yes, dictionary.

My daughter doesn’t want to miss a twist in a story, she wants to follow every plot point and talk about characters and what motivates them to act – or not.

She’s a reader. A fanatic reader. A fantastic reader.

And maybe, someday, a writer.


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