Friday, July 06, 2007

It's a Dirty Job, but Dad's gotta do it.

It's been a good few days around the house. We got off of work early on Tuesday (to honor America) and yesterday, my colleague cookout went off very well. We had plenty of food, the weather was cooperative, and the general time was relaxing. It was good to see VG back in town and I'm very glad she could come. Plus, Jack and Cordelia came (and we never get to see enough of them these days). Even MAS came by and enjoyed herself for a while, even to the point of playing Frisbee with Sarah, Grace, and myself. The girls were very good little hostesses and were very charming (as they always find a way to be when company comes by).

So, Tuesday afternoon, we get off work early and Lynda and I go to get the kids. We get home and have additional hours to kill before swinging into the normal evening routine of dinner, books, pajamas, baths, etc.

Since the kids are currently obsessed with Webkinz, they got on the computer and played with their stuffed animal avatars for a while while Lynda and I decompressed. I decided to flip on the Discovery Channel--always good for an informative show.

Dirty Jobs was on, a show that I enjoy, even if I don't watch it consistently. Sarah wandered over and sat down on the couch to watch with me. She was enjoying the show, or maybe she was enjoying the fact that I was enjoying the show. In any case, when one episode ended, another one began. I made movements to turn to something that she might like more (read Disney Channel), but she wanted to continue watching Mike Rowe create shark chum. (Truthfully, I wonder if she wasn't fascinated by the very real fact that at one point, Mike was overcome with the smell of freshly ground Halibut and promptly threw up over the side of the boat. I suppose that might have held some fascination to her, since she's never seen anyone else do that before?)

Anyway, I promptly forgot about that entire experience until Thursday morning as we were driving back to daycare in the morning. From the backseat, Sarah asked me what channel the Dirty Jobs show was on, indicating that she wanted to watch it again when we got home.

We never did watch, but I was surprised that she felt intrigued enough about it to ask a few days later.

Last night, however, it became clearer how much stock Sarah places in my opinions. The girls were getting ready for bed and Lynda felt that she needed to stay downstairs and get started on some work. Lately, she has been reading books to Grace and getting her into bed while I handle Sarah. Usually, Sarah and I read a chapter of the latest Harry Potter book--we're currently beginning Goblet of Fire--and then she goes upstairs. But, last night I needed to handle both of them.

I was going to read to Grace first and then get her in her bed before reading to Sarah, but I didn't want to be up there all night reading. It was about 7:30 and I knew that if I read to them individually, it would be around 8:30 or 9 o'clock before I got back downstairs. So, I initially though about reading HP to both of them, though I knew Grace wouldn't be interested for very long.

Grace was all for this idea, but Sarah was immediately against it. After some wheedling, I was able to coax out of her that she didn't want Grace intruding on what Sarah saw as her "thing" with Daddy. But, I didn't know what else to do. I told Sarah to be patient while I began reading other books to Grace. I knew that Grace would be upset when I tried to get her to bed without reading HP as I said I was going to. But Sarah didn't want that. I heard Sarah begin crying in her room and then tearfully head downstairs to tell the sad story to Mom.

I kept on reading to Grace and when I finished her two books, I called Sarah upstairs and got the two girls to resolve this problem. After some fussing and crying, they managed to work out a compromise. Grace would stay in the room while I read to Sarah, but she would "read" her own HP book. And so it was that Grace flipped through Sorcerer's Stone while I read Chapter 9 (The Dark Mark) of The Goblet of Fire to Sarah.

Eventually my throat grew tired, so I stopped and got Grace in her room to sleep. But when I returned to Sarah, in our bedroom, it was clear that she really wanted to keep reading--and she wanted to do it herself. So, I listened while she read four or five pages of the chapter and then asked me to finish up the last three or so--it was one of the longer chapters in the book, I guess.

While reading, we had a few clarifying discussions about the actions in the chapter. For instance, Sarah could not understand why Winky the house elf was so upset that she was going to be given clothes (and therefore set free). I reminded her that house elves, so we are told, don't appear to want freedom. Sarah really didn't understand this, but I reassured her that this subject would be reinforced throughout the book and so didn't get into it very much. She also wanted to talk a bit about her upcoming birthday party, which will occur when we get back from our Kentucky trip. She has decided (with absolutely NO prompting from me) that she wants Harry Potter to be the theme of the party.

While I like the idea, I'll admit that it does worry me a bit. I doubt that her friends has as much involvement in Harry Potter as she does and so I worry that her ideas for games and such will not be received enthusiastically by her friends. The last thing I want her to feel at her party is disappointment or any nascent embarrassment. But how to tell her this? I know that she has recognized my love of the books and is excited to be sharing this with me. I don't want to present my worries as some desire to keep this idea from her. I recognize that this time where she wants to be connected to me and my activities won't always be there, so I don't want to stop them now.

So, I guess I'll try to help her come up with some party activities that have Harry Potter inspiration, but don't lean so heavily on them that non-fans will be left out. We've got some time to work out details, but I want to guide her creativity and enthusiasm with caution.

As we were finishing up the chapter and I was asking her to go to her room, she asked if she could continue to read a bit more. I agreed, but I couldn't resist asking her as she walked away. book in hand, if she enjoyed the books because of the story or because I liked them so much.

She looked back and told me "Well, it's for both of those reasons."

I'll take it.


Anonymous said...

Awwww. That's awfully sweet! If her friends don't like Harry Potter it's obvious that she's hanging with the wrong crowd.

And I know a certain daddy who has what might be the perfect HP stationary present for his perfect daughter....


Sven Golly said...

I hear ye, bro: 'I recognize that this time when she wants to be connected to me and my activities won't always be there, so I don't want to stop them now.' My recent trip to Minnesota w/Zelda was a case in point.