Ah, December. When we all join hands and leap into the lava pit that is Stuff ‘n’ Things. Gift-wrapping services available, just beyond the burning ring of fire.
This isn’t really my season.
And since I don’t opt into the frenzy, I have more time to tell everybody else that they’re doing it wrong.
I’ve noticed a trend or two in my decades of paying more attention to bashing the behavior of others than to improving my own.
A whole lot of folks don’t put their money where they claim their values are.
In certain circles, grownups talk up one side and down the other about the importance of books in the lives of children. But then, at the big year-end consumerism bender, do these very people give children books? Not often, or not abundantly. What they tend to give children, often and in abundance, are plastic contraptions, electronic devices, and noisy whatsits.
I’ve got nothing against any of those non-book gifts. I’ve bestowed my share. My kids have enjoyed their share. I’ve hidden the batteries to more than my share. Everything in moderation.
But I wonder what it says about our principles, this contrast between the loudly-proclaimed exaltation of the written word and the written-word-free piles ensconced in bows and ribbons.
And children do have a knack for noticing when we talk one game but play another.
Adults urge: “Read, read, read!” Then, at the big-time gift-o-rama, when parents make a show of trying to delight the youngsters, books tend to be an afterthought.
At this time of year as the spotlight shines most brightly on those how-to-make-‘em-happy priorities, reading typically stays in the shadows. Ad budgets for this season’s must-haves carry the day. It’s a missed opportunity for parents and their ilk to model the beliefs they espouse, to celebrate the enduring beauty and joy and fun and vitality and transcendence and riches and thrills of words and pictures on a page.
Of course, there are plenty of parents who don’t particularly care about books. There also are plenty of families for whom the cost makes holiday presents out of reach, period. Those are stories for another curmudgeon to tackle. My focus involves people who say they want to raise readers, and who have the resources to buy books for holiday gifts, but don’t.
Allow me to interject at this juncture that I understand that the purchasing decisions of others are none of my beeswax.
Families do what they do, and more power to them.
But during the high-profile commercial extravaganza that is December, we have a chance to show kids that we believe books matter — that books are exciting and indelible and deserving of a perch on the best-presents-ever award podium.
As I look back on my parenting adventures, I realize that books dominated every holiday. (Okay, once or twice I mixed in some educational place mats).
You could accuse me of lacking range, and you’d be absolutely right.
Correlation does not imply causation; it could be my kids were simply pre-wired this way and my social engineering made no difference. And perhaps one day soon they will inform me that they used to wish that I would change it up sometimes fergawdsake.
But I’ll tell you what — my sons grew up as devoted readers, with ridiculously long attention spans, vivid imaginations, a thirst for details, and gusto for getting lost in another world. Most of our family’s in-jokes and catch phrases and special references — those bonds that we treasure our whole lives — have come from our favorite books.
So even though I know I am an insufferable and condescending snob to say this, I just can’t help it: I hate to think that anyone else could be missing what’s brought us so much bliss.
I want to shout this from the rooftops: Books are best! They open doors you never even knew existed! Bring your kids to the library all year round, and for the grand finale every holiday season, to the degree that you can swing it, buy them books, books, and a few more books!
Or, don’t. Your choice. I hear Stuff-‘n’-Things is having a Holiday Sales Event, over at the mall, right past the food court at the infernal abyss.