Saturday, March 17, 2018

Don't Call Child Protective Services Yet


Every evening during my kid weeks, with the exception of Friday’s initial “Free Day,” I personally observe the best evidence I know for the primacy of nature not nurture: I torture my three adopted children by making them read for thirty minutes.1 

1“Free Day” is part of their collective bargaining agreement. As I previously reported, Oliver’s teacher asked us to substitute daily math flashcard practice for ten minutes of reading. Management sadly agreed. Even more sadly, management reports this amendment to the CBA resulted in Oliver gleefully gloating to his sisters.

I grew up in a reading family. Observers of any gathering of Leishmans or Phillipses invariably remark about what a chatty clan we are, always prepared with witty banter or sardonic observations. Nevertheless, if you visit one of our homes, you will eventually experience this phenomenon:  walking into a room to find multiple family members arranged on various couches, chairs, and corners of floor, each silently reading his or her book. Ditto all the rest of the rooms in the house.

Like my forebears, I’ve always loved to read. All the way from kindergarten through law school, I read several books a week. Unfortunately, the stress of legal practice and the fog of mental illness eventually left me incapable of reading for pleasure. When I found myself able to finish a book again, I knew I was finally on the road to health and happiness.

As I wrote last year in Reading Again,

In the 1990s I spoke at a conference in Utah. Every day I would make my pilgrimage to the Salt Lake Roasting Company. It was a caffeinated oasis in the Mormon desert, back before Starbucks was everywhere, and before Mitt Romney made Utah liberalize the state's quaint liquor laws so they could host the Winter Olympics. One morning as I clutched my Americano, a stranger approached and asked if I was one of the Leishmans from Brigham City. I told her our family had moved to Bellingham years before, and asked how she remembered me. She said she worked at the local library, “and your family were the only people in that town who read books.”

Bellingham is a much more bookish town than Brigham City. We’re never going to be local reading celebrities. (That’s my mother.) But I dream of the day when I’m walking through the Farmer’s Market with my children, and someone says to us “Didn’t I see you at the library?”

As Dick Cheney would say, sometimes torture is justified.


This week at the Leishman house: lots of books, no children

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