Seeing yourself in your child

As Tilly gets older and we see more and more of her personality and quirks, we see more of ourselves in her. For the most part, she is just a mini version of her dad. They both like things to be tidy and ordered in a certain way; they’re both cautious in new situations; they both hate naps and sleeping (and often wake up from naps cranky, as though they are mad that they fell asleep while the world was still awake). Sometimes Tilly is such a mini version of her dad that I wonder if she’s mine at all. 

But then I realised that there is one way she is a lot like me: as a reader. Yes, we both love books and reading, but it’s more than that. There are many different types of readers and reader personalities, and it would appear that Tilly is more like me than I initially thought. Let me count the ways…

One, we are both hesitant about trying new books. Tilly doesn’t really like new books much, and when I borrow books from the library or buy her new books, she often has zero interest in reading them and would prefer to read books that she already knows and loves. My way of introducing new books to her is to just leave them on her bookshelf and eventually she may see it and bring it to me to read to her. The one exception is books from series she already knows (she had no issues when I brought home new Spot books, or new Hairy Maclary books) or by authors and illustrators she already knows (she was very happy when I showed her the new Julia Donaldson and Axel Schleffer book that I had bought a few weeks back, Superworm). 

This is pretty similar to me, but perhaps for different reasons. For me, time feels so limited that I don’t want to read books I’m not going to love — I don’t even want to start them even though I know not finishing them is an option. There are a handful of authors whom I love and will always read books by them, and there are a few non-fiction topics I’m fascinated by, so those tend to be the books I stick to. I used to read more adventurously but not anymore. For now, give me the authors and topics I know and love and trust.

Two, we don’t like public reading as much as private reading. I realised recently that Tilly is not good at storytime. At Gymboree, when the teacher is reading a book aloud, Tilly will rarely sit for it and instead would rather be off somewhere climbing and playing. At the library for storytime, during the actual reading-a-book bits, Tilly will often wander off to play with toys or explore the stacks. However, this isn’t because she doesn’t like stories or being read to — we read all the time at home, and often it is initiated by her when she brings me a book and asks me to read. Bedtime stories usually contain about five to eight books and I spend 30–45 minutes reading to her at bedtime. I think she prefers the more private and intimate modes of reading than the more public performances of reading. 

Tilly loves the library, but more for the computers and toys than for storytime.
Private reading with Mummy at home.

This too, is like me. I don’t often seek out or attend author events, and I especially do not enjoy the ones where the author is reading aloud from their books. This is partly because I’m not very good at listening and words seem to go in one ear and out the other, whereas if I see it on a page I actually absorb the text (this is why I can’t do audiobooks). It is perhaps telling that my favourite author event I’ve been to is the one with Mem Fox and Judy Horacek when they were promoting Bonnie and Ben Rhyme Again back in 2018. The length of their books is about perfect for what I can absorb through listening. I do, however, love being alone with a good book, and reading before bed.

And three, we both like rereading. I think this is related to the first point, but rereading is something we both do a lot. Although this one is probably less of a personality trait and more of a toddler development stage; there are wonderful magical things happening in their little heads when we reread the same stories over and over again. But I get a lot of comfort from rereading old favourites and I’d like to think that Tilly gets some comfort too when it’s the hundredth night in a row that I’ve read Tiddler at bedtime. 

I only know a handful of toddlers, and I don’t know their reading lives as intimately as I know Tilly’s, so maybe all of these things are just toddler things and nothing at all related to Tilly’s character and temperament. But I’d like to think that these things are Tilly and not just ‘toddler’, if only to reassure myself that she isn’t entirely a carbon copy of my husband.

Leave a Reply