I stripped off all of his clothes, sitting him in the warm water with his birthday suit on full display. No shame, concern or hesitation would cross his face. Declan was in his happy place.
I had taken off my wrist watch, turned off the water, and carefully grabbed the 500-page novel that I am determined to read, in its entirety, to my almost 2-year old boy; and that book is ‘Jane Eyre.’
Okay, I admit it. It is a strange book to read to your son. The narrator is Jane, a whip-smart little girl, whose thoughts fill page after page, calling out the injustice of household tyrannies and the reality of a girl who has nothing in the world except for these fleeting observations that eventually shape her into a woman of character and personal power.
When I think of the story – one which initially grabbed my attention through the film version featuring Michael Fassbender, and directed by Cary Fukunaga (the acclaimed director of the entire award-winning first season of True Detective) – I love it: Young Jane goes through many trials, only to become the kind of person we could all envy – a person of incredible resolve; choosing presence over pleasure, character over feeling, truth over lies.
She has the opportunity at one point to grasp everything she was deprived of as a little girl, at the cost of looking the other way, and she chooses to take the harder route.
I want my son to know how to take the harder path, and know that as difficult as it is, it is better to know who you are and act from that place than to compromise for a bit of ease and pleasure. Of course, Declan doesn’t understand a word I’m reading to him, let alone appreciate the fact that I am helping his brain by reading all of these words to him ( words that he has surely never heard out the mouth of either Lauren or myself.) But I want it for him. I want so many things for him, but he has to want them in return.
So he insisted on throwing his wet toys at me. It was as if he knew I was making an effort to read to my 21-month old. And when I would turn to look at him, he would laugh with a gust of wind I didn’t know his little lungs had the capacity to contain. And in that moment I realize what all of that dodgeball training was preparing me for, as each drop of water barely misses the book.
“Either read me a story about defeating dragons, orcs, etc, or don’t read to me at all!”
“That picture book about Darth Vader raising little Luke Skywalker is my jam! Let’s read that again, dad.”
“Dad, I want adventure, and sorcery, and tales of fire and ash!”
I imagine him saying all of these things, and I think he may have a point. But there will be plenty of time for swords, daggers, and traveling adventures.
For now, he’ll just have to read what I want to read.