I thought this would be easy. I’d give her a few books every month — books I treasured when I was her age, and carefully preserved for decades for just this moment — and she would retire in contentment to her reading nook, only popping out from time to time to comment on what a great Dad I am. Piece of cake.
Didn’t exactly work out like that.
For one thing, she’s really not interested in books from 40 years ago. She wants to read the books her friends are reading. And guess what? They’re not reading A Wrinkle in Time or Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators either. They’re reading The Hunger Games and Twilight and the Fallen novels and Vampire Academy and.. and…
And that’s the other thing. These kids read a lot. A few books a month? More like a few books a day. They’re voracious, and by the time I’ve ordered the book her friends are all taking about, they’re forgotten it and moved on. Forget being a great Dad… I’m left scrambling just so I don’t look like a clueless parent who’s perpetually “totally last week.”
Fortunately, I have people. People who work for publishing companies, and send me advance proofs. Of books that aren’t even out yet. Take that, bratty thirteen-year-old mean girls. I can still compete for my daughter’s attention by leaving these lying around.
She pretends not to be interested, but then picks one up. What’s this? she sez. Oh, that? The Scorpions of Zahir — just something some Manhattan publishers sent over. You wouldn’t be interested. Won’t even be on sale for another month or so. It’s about a girl in Morocco trying to keep a sacred city from being buried forever, or something. Your friends probably won’t be talking about it for weeks.
I know. I’m a bad person, but I’m desperate. And it works. Soon she’s curled up in her reading nook. She doesn’t come out to tell me I’m a great father or anything, but once she does ask where “Morocco” is. I show her on the map. We almost make eye contact for a moment, before she goes back to reading.
I get a quick hug the next morning. The book is tucked into her bag as she heads off to school. I’ll need to have a new book by the end of the day, but I’ll worry about that later.
Heaven help me when she turns sixteen. But this morning I’m a cool Dad again. Treasure the small victories.