By Louise Vaughn
I feel the weight of trying to make the most of our pandemic days. I wake up with the intention of keeping to a schedule, and I crave a routine as much as my children need one. But as these surreal days start to run together, not much of a routine has solidified. It can be hard not to fall into the parent trap of thinking that I should be spending this time with my children more productively.
Every few days, I write a schedule and hang it on the refrigerator. Each hour between 7am and 8pm is ascribed an activity: breakfast, cleaning, Tin Can Kids, homeschool, bike rides, lunch, cleaning, baking, art projects, exercise, free play, self-care, dinner, cleaning, and finally the bedtime routine. So far, the only things we’ve done consistently are Tin Can Kids and the bedtime routine.
And our bedtime routine is sacrosanct. There will be no peace (and no sleep) until the children have taken their bath, brushed their teeth, and we read. There’s a lot of tedious redundancy in parenthood, but somehow reading a favorite book over and over again remain something that I always enjoy.
Picking out books and settling into our chair, I start to feel focused and present. A familiar routine that hasn’t changed. I can beat down the bubbles of fear trying to carbonate into panic and escape into the joy of reading with my children. Now is a great time to take advantage of our local libraries or support our local independent bookstores (my favorite is Quail Ridge Books). Also, there are some wonderful children’s books out there. Because we’re in a pandemic, people and this is no time to be stuck reading Paw Patrol.
Tin Can Kids has been a great source of inspiration for me and my family. My children and I have made art projects with purpose, baked cookies and cobblers, and learned about some good books like Frankie’s Favorite Food. In the spirit of helping to inspire other parents, here are some of my favorite books to read with young children.
This is the story of a lighthouse and a lighthouse keeper. The lighthouse keeper and his family live in and tend the lighthouse, which stands, “on the highest rock of a tiny island at the edge of the world”. As life swirls around, the lighthouse keeper and his family find ways to love their quiet life while tending a source of light that guides other boats on their way. I’ve always loved reading this book, with its beautiful illustrations and swirling lines. Now, as we’re all living on our own tiny islands at the edge of the world, reading this book also reminds me that with isolation comes opportunities for simple pleasures.
Little Bird is one of my all-time favorite books. I love reading it to my children because there’s actually not a lot of text. Even my wiggly, not-a-great-sleeper, very active son will settle down to quietly take in the story as it unfolds over the pages. Not to give it away, but small things are not made to be noticed. They are meant to be discovered.
Escargot is a sassy French snail with a keen sense of fashion and hell bent on getting to a delicious salad with a few croutons and a light vinaigrette at the end of the book. I think Escargot is my soulmate. While he is trying to make you agree that snails should be your favorite animal on the way to that salad, Escargot is sliming his way by beautiful French cheeses, green grapes, olives, mini quiches, and a bottle of wine. There’s no reason why we can’t picnic our way through this pandemic with a lovely charcuterie plate because you are my favorite animal, Escargot.
Julia Donaldson has written many wonderful children’s books including The Gruffalo and Room on the Broom. But one of her best books is the Snail on the Whale. It’s about a snail that is not content to sit still on a rock, but wants to travel the world and see all there is to see. So the little snail catches a ride on the tail of a humpback whale and learns that even though the world is very big, and she is very small, anyone can do great things.
The true story behind the bear that inspired Alan Alexander Milne’s Winnie the Pooh is a story of incredible kindness and beauty. Captain Harry Colebourn, rescued a bear cub from a fur trader on his way to serve in World War I. Naming the little bear Winnie, after his hometown Winnipeg in Canada, Captain Colebourn’s decision to listen to his heart and take Winnie with him to Europe made all the difference to everyone who has delighted in the Winnie the Pooh stories. Captain Colebourn’s great-granddaughter is the author of this book and it is another gift that she captures this incredible tale with her gift for writing. Truth is often much more fantastic than fiction. Warning to the reader, I’ve never been able to read this book with dry eyes.