Raucous laughter erupted for the third time in the nearby game room. I repressed the undercurrent of anger brewing inside me. Now that we are home schooling, I am attempting to replace some of our marginally acceptable bed time reading material with “the classics”. I was thrilled earlier in the day when I happened across a copy of Charles Dicken’s beloved classic, Oliver Twist. Anticipation of sharing my discovery had been building throughout the day. I envisioned the looks of joy rivaled only by Christmas morning that would adorn my children’s faces when I announced “Kids, we’re going to read a classic tonight, Oliver Twist.” I was so excited that several times I had almost divulged my secret, but somehow, I managed to withhold it until exactly the right time.
Completely opposite of my expectations, my “surprise” was met with screams of belligerence instead of squeals of delight. “CAN’T WE READ GIRLS RULE?” they wailed in perfect unison. I wondered where I had gone wrong. It took ten minutes of negotiation, deep breathing and verbal “conditioning” to get the energy in the room back to a state that was conducive to reading.
And then came the laughter…
I persisted and resolutely commenced reading, deliberately raising the volume of my voice to cover the laughter coming from the game room. Within three paragraphs I was losing my voice, questioning my judgment and doubting my literary selection. This was way over their heads, I thought to myself. Maybe I should acquiesce to Girls Rule and just forget the classics.
My son saved the moment by offering to venture out to the game room to tell my husband to lower the volume. Thankfully, this broke my pattern of negative thinking. Thirty seconds became two minutes. My daughter volunteered to “go get them”. Two minutes became four minutes. I heard my husband say “Check this out Frankie, this guy farted and split the seams of his pants right open.” More raucous laughter, only this time my children were partaking.
How did we digress from reading one of the world’s best literary works to seam splitting farts? And how was I going to regain control of this situation? It was pretty clear that viewing strange bodily functions on the big screen was much more appealing than what I was offering. Even a fluffy down comforter and the promise of backrubs couldn’t turn this situation around. My plan for enlightenment… my calming and enriching bedtime routine was being sabotaged by none other than my "other half". Where was the “unified front”. Weren’t we in this together? Aren’t the classics going to take our children much farther in life than farting? I felt overwhelmingly alone.
I took a few cleansing breaths and convinced myself that it was going to be okay, and before I knew it, I heard my son say to my daughter, “we better go back with Mom or she’s not going to read.” Had I hooked them in three confusing introductory paragraphs? Probably not, but my kids really love story time, so thousands of prior nights of reading were working in my favor.
Ten minutes later, we were back to where we started...at the very beginning. I decided correctly that if I was to have even a slight chance of making this work, I had better stop every three or four sentences to translate the starkly different English of the mid 1800’s to the English of the early 2000’s. My translation was questionable, but I persisted and before I knew it, they were engaged.
Then my darling husband, in a decidedly disruptive fashion, entered the room, ready to share commentary about another gross bodily function he had just observed. In his awkward attempt to crawl into the tiny twin bed with all of us, my tween daughter screamed, “Dad, you’re hurting my womanly parts.” Womanly parts? She’s 10. She doesn’t have womanly parts. Dear God, what was happening to my family?
I took three more cleansing breaths and waited patiently. Things eventually settled down and somehow, we managed to get through a whole chapter of Oliver Twist before my son drifted off to sleep. I guess great writing is great writing and a great story is a great story, no matter how poorly translated by me!
I wouldn’t yet call us a “classics family”, but there was a glimmer of hope this evening as I realized that even when I have to compete with “womanly parts” and “seam splitting farts”, we can still enjoy a little “Oliver Twist” at bed time.