It’s the smell that has stayed with me. After all these years the smell hasn’t changed. The smell of the paper and the plastic that surrounds the hardcover books. As soon as the door opens I’m hit with first the silence and then that old familiar smell.
My mother took me to the library often as a child. I remember walking the rows, my hand sliding along the spines of the books on the shelves, inhaling their scent and feeling at peace. I remember how happy and relaxed my mother was when she had a book in her hands. I remember the joy as I walked into that children’s section and got lost in a sea of books. I remember the excitement as I checked out my books, anxious to get home and discover the magic that lay hidden between the covers.
I remember how grown up I felt when I got my very first library card.
The library has always been a bit of a hideout for me. It is quiet and peaceful and I can wander the aisles alone, without having to speak or be spoken to. It’s like a candy store and I am an excited child not quite sure which treat I’m going to bring home and enjoy.
The library was one of the very first public places that I took my son.
I wanted nothing more than to pass on the love of all things books. We would pay our local library a visit at least twice a week, attending story hour, baby playgroups and always walking out with a few books to add into our bedtime reading routine.
Our local library offered story time in French and turned a little room into a play space for my toddler with tunnels for him to crawl through, blocks for him to build with and a corner lined with plastic garbage bags and filled with easels, paint brushes and brightly coloured paint. He was able to run around and play safely while I sat off to the side nursing his baby sister. Selecting which books we would bring home with us quickly became the highly anticipated part of our outing.
Once again, the library became my refuge. As a new mother, I was offered a safe, free space to bring my children. A place where I could meet other mothers while I was introducing my children to the wonderful world of storytelling.
My son quickly understood the joys of the library and was thrilled when at four-years-old, I allowed him to get his very own library card.
He looked so little and so grown up all at the same time as his chubby little fingers grasped the pen and wrote out his name on the back of the card. He tucked it safely into his tiny wallet and remembered to bring it with him every time we went. Every trip he thoughtfully selected each book he wanted to check to out and brought his loot up to the counter, presenting his card with pride.
This library card was his first taste of independence. He chose his books and he checked them out, all under his name. Yes, at four years old I would have to remind him of the impending return dates, but he would gather all his library items on his own and happily place each one in the return drop box. He knows that if something happens to one of those books it will be his responsibility and he treats them accordingly.
Almost four years later, both my kids still love our trips to the library. We all walk in together and immediately go our separate ways. My youngest heads off to the children’s section where she settles in to a cozy castle with her books. My oldest goes to the junior section and scans the comics and joke books. I continue to wander the rows upon rows of books wondering what treasure I will bring home this time around. Will I go for a mystery or a romance? A biography or a book of essays? I love the fact that I have no idea what I will walk out with.
The library opens up a whole new world for my children. New books, the opportunity to do crafts and see magic shows. They check out games for their Wii and pick movies for family movie night. They watch as newcomers to Canada gather to practice English and tutors help students learn math.
The library is a community hub. It is a necessary part of our lives and we are so fortunate to have access to it. The library has helped foster a love of reading in my kids. It has introduced them to stories they may never have experienced otherwise. Getting their very own library card was a rite of passage and is teaching them responsibility and commitment.
Maybe one day, as my mother passed on to me, my kids will pass on the love of all things book at their local library. Maybe one day my grandkids will find peace in the silence of books just as I do.
I filled with dread as soon as I opened the invitation and saw the word…
Immediately, I started formulating the reason as to why my kids won’t be sleeping over. For the first time ever I found myself thankful for early morning soccer practice.
I’m not a fan of sleepovers.
I can almost hear the eye rolling. You’re thinking “Relax,” or “Why are you making it a big deal?”
Trust me when I say I’m not an overbearing parent, at least I don’t consider myself one. I wouldn’t describe myself as a helicopter parent. While I’m not sure I would refer to myself as a relaxed parent, I do think I grant my kids enough freedom for their age.
I drop my kids off at birthday parties and skip out with a smile as wide as the Grand Canyon, mentally planning what I will do with two solid hours of alone time. I don’t worry about them when they are playing at their friends’.
I look forward to date nights with my husband when someone else will be fighting with my kids to put them to bed.
My kids have been looked after by family, by daycare providers and by babysitters.
Yet when it comes to nighttime, my gut tells me my kids should be at home, tucked safely into their own beds.
My son has been invited to sleepovers where I don’t even know the parents’ names let alone know what they look like. I’m just not comfortable sending him to sleep somewhere that I have so little knowledge of. Even when you know the other family, you may not know them as well as you think you do. Seen them around school? Your kids play soccer together? Go to the same church? That doesn’t necessarily mean you know them. While the chance of trouble may not be high, the middle of the night while everyone is sleeping is the time when a situation your child isn’t prepared to face could arise.
While the safety factor does come into play it’s not my primary reason for not wanting my kids to sleep at friend’s homes.
The most important reason is because I don’t feel as though my kids are ready.
My daughter still climbs into bed with us almost every single night - don’t judge. She often wakes up because of nightmares and looks to either myself or her Dad for comfort. How can I send her to a friend’s house to sleep when she hasn’t even spent an entire night in her own bed?
My son doesn’t often wake during the night but he is an early riser and he always comes looking for me when he wakes up. There are moments when it annoys me. When I wish he would just go downstairs, turn on the TV and pour himself some cereal allowing me just a few more minutes of sleep. But for the most part I love it. We are morning people, him and I, and I love chatting with him in the quiet morning light. Him with his cereal me with my coffee, in hushed voices we get to know each other. This will always be one of my favourite memories of us. I’m definitely not ready to give that up but I don’t think he is either. I think he enjoys those moments just as much as I do.
I am a firm believer in sleep being one of the most important building blocks of a healthy lifestyle. I’ve been to enough sleepovers to know that not an ounce of sleep is actually had. My kids don’t function well without the proper amount of sleep. One late night for my son can actually lead to days of crankiness. It’s not worth it. I don’t want my kids spending the next week trying to get over last weekend’s party. They will have plenty of time to have party regret when they hit their University years.
It has only been in the last two years that my kids have even started sleeping over at their grandparent’s house. For no reason other than I see no reason. Yes they have fun but they also have tons of fun spending the day with their family and coming home to us at night. My husband and I can spend time alone together and still get to cuddle their sleepy little faces.
While many families may feel perfectly comfortable with sleepovers it’s just something we don’t do right now. If parenting has taught me anything it’s that things change and our opinion on this may change as my kids get older but for now we have fallen into an informal no sleepover policy.
When it’s all said and done I think my kids are okay with our family policy and that makes me sure of our decision. We picked my son up early from his last sleepover party and when he saw his Dad, his smile held a sense of relief. While the other kids were nowhere near ready for bed, he came home and snuggled with us in his own comfy bed, telling us about all the fun he had that evening and before we knew it he was fast asleep.