One thing I know confidently we're doing well as parents is raising bibliophiles. E carries books everywhere with her, and even snuggles her favorite du jour when she goes to sleep each night. L is obsessed with Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, hoarding the daycare copy by day and beelining for the family room edition when we return home each evening. I can't imagine a life without reading and of all the traits we find repeating in our girls this is way up there on the List of Most Satisfying.
A few months ago we realized the collection of books we had was just too simple for E. She was ready for stories that come in paragraphs, not sentences; on pages, not boards. One book we got for her was Tiki Tiki Tembo, whose syncopatic language tantalized me as a child, and whose main character's full name, Tiki tiki tembo no sa rembo chari bari richi pip peri pembo stayed in my memory from my own childhood, through the years when I couldn't even name a single small child, until now, when my very own child was ready for a story of this degree of complexity. When we first got this book sometime last year I told E that it was one of my favorites from when I was little and she hangs onto that as a stone in her pocket. Every time she pulls it from her shelf she asks, this is your favorite, Mama? as one of those truisms that children love possessing: when the sun goes down, the moon comes up! and silly L, we don't climb in the bath with diapers on! and this book is your favorite, Mama. Having now reread this book probably a hundred times since late summer, my esteem for it has diminished. Critically speaking, it's got some racist undertones that I never understood as a child and as E gets older, we'll have to talk about that but for now she's attracted to it for the sound of its lines, just as I was so thoroughly enchanted that I remembered that name for 25+ years of being away from the text.
A few nights ago we were reading Tiki in E's bed before she went to sleep and I asked her if I should put him down on the shelf or if she was snuggling him. She's been snuggling In the Night Kitchen and Olivia all week so Tiki was about to go on the shelf when E asked me this is your favorite, Mama? And I replied, as I always do, that yes, this was one of my very favorite books when I was little. She then said, bursting with love as well as the seriousness I would momentarily see was due the gravity of the offer she was extending, Mama? You can borrow him if you want. You can take him to your bed with Daddy and read him before you go to sleep when it's your sleeptime and you can snuggle him. Because he's your favorite.
For moments like that: that's why (responsible, full-grown) people should have kids. And that's why Tiki is next to my pillow.