Awhile back, I wrote a post called "The Joys of Reading" in which I described the tedious torture of "teaching" a first grader to read. This post identifies a related issue: the tedious torture of reading a mind-numbing children's book out loud.
Each night, Isaac picks out three books for his bedtime stories. I try to stack the bookshelf such that only short, memorable, and semi-bearable classics like "Goodnight Moon" and "Where the Wild Things Are" present themselves for selection. But invariably, he chooses the Elmo "lift the flap book."
This book features every imaginable annoyance: it's boring; it's long; it's pseudo-educational; it's designed for a two-year old; and it requires "active" engagement in the form of flap-lifting and shape/letter/number/object identification. Of all these flaws, the last is the worst by far. "Active" reading (if you can call the handling of this book "reading"), is perfectly fine on a Saturday morning after I've had six cups of espresso-roast coffee and feel semi-prepared to engage with humanity. But lifting a zillion flaps in a 20-page Sesame Street board book at 8 p.m.--after two vodka gimlets, three Benadryls, and a full day of work--is simply untenable.
Isaac doesn't know it, but this time is MY time. Yeah, yeah, I know. It's cherished mother-son bonding time and all that. But it's also my time to read him a mindless book that lets me zone out on my empty bank account and full dishwasher until he asks me a question to which I don't know the answer, because I wasn't paying one iota of attention.
I try to discourage Isaac choosing from the Elmo book by displaying the animatronic "Tickle Me Elmo" doll someone gave us several years ago and that absolutely terrified him as a toddler. When that fails, I explain that the guy who voiced Elmo touched someone in a bad place and had to quit being Elmo. When that doesn't work, I just skip as many pages and flaps as possible and hope he doesn't notice.
But of course he does, and calls me out: "What about the ovals and the triangles page, Mommy?" "I don't know honey," I mumble as I shove the book off his bed and onto the floor as discreetly as possible. "Just go to sleep now."