The Sweetest of All Peas

This is a short piece I wrote about reading to my daughter.

At night, it’s always Sweet Pea. During the day I call her “Sweetie”, or sometimes “Little Guppy” in the summer, because she swims a lot in the summer, but after story time, always Sweet Pea. “Good night, Sweet Pea. Have sweet dreams and I’ll see you in the morning.” It’s a brag, confident; I’m always constricted in terror at the thought that maybe I won’t see her in the morning, maybe she’ll just be gone because some evil stranger, either angelic or mundane, stole her away. It’s also a sigh of relief, because reading to Gwen has not always been easy.

I wanted her to be a reader, so having story time every night was very important to me. This was easy when she was an infant; she seemed to like the Mermaid book with the mirrored surface slightly more than all the other books, but mostly kept her opinions to herself. But as a toddler, she went through a severe “Look and Find” phase where we had to read Look and Find books that task the young reader with finding the objects in the pictures. “Where’s the hoe? Where’s the tractor? Where’s the rake?” This might not have been so bad, except my girl was very fastidious about it and would not allow us to skip any object in the book. Eventually my Sweet Pea was up to four Look-and-Find books every night, and I had to stifle a groan every time it was time to sit down for story time.

I read a few books in Japanese for her, even though I only partially understand them. It seemed like a good idea to present the fact that more than one language exists, so she knows that now. I don’t know what she’s going to do with this information, but she knows. The Very Hungry Caterpillar is especially fun in Japanese for some reason.

Lately reading has become pretty easy again: we just read about mermaids. Cat-mermaids, and unicorn-mermaids, all kinds: I’ve become something of an expert on mermaid cross-breeds. She has story time with her Daddy too, but they read comics together. I’ll do my reading with Gwen, cover what’s going on in the undersea fantasy realm for that night, then say “Go ask Daddy if he can do his reading,” and she bounces off to find him, wearing pajamas that are just a little bit too small for her now. He acts out more when he reads, so it could be that she likes his story time better, but I haven’t asked; I don’t need to know.

Sometimes one of us is indisposed and the other reads a double session to make up for it. When Daddy is upstairs playing online with his friends, I’ll read two chapters of Purrmaids or Mermicorns, and she likes this. We’re running out of mermaid books though; someday soon, I will have to bust through the doors of the children’s department at the library and gasp, “Mermaids, please. Anything you have with sparkling fish people.”

She doesn’t look anything like me; we joke that we’re trying to figure out who the real mother is. But I must be her real mother because I read to her every night, so I guess that’s a true thing. I read stories with her and wonder about the days to come. She’ll still be my Sweet Pea, some little divine vegetable, but she’ll become many different things to many different people, some of which I won’t even recognize. I read stories to my tiny little Sweet Pea and pretend I don’t know that those days are coming.

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