Feed on

Role Reversal

The only thing sweeter in a given day than reading Simon his night-time stories? Having him read them to me.

Simon rediscovered an old favorite, Old Hat, New Hat, about a week ago and just about wore me out with it. I get that toddlers love familiarity and repetition, but reading any book—even a cute one—four times per sitting can wear on one. But that’s what we did for several days straight: four times before a nap, four before bed-time. Simon would never settle for less, and I could never bear more.

Old Hat, New Hat sports precious little plot. It’s about a bear who goes shopping for a new hat, rejects every one he sees, and then happily settles on the old one at the end. The joy comes from the silly hats pictured and the clever rhythm and rhyme of the adjectives.

     “Too red, too dotty, too blue, too spotty…

The challenge for the reader lies in choosing an appropriate inflection for each word. Thus, “too heavy” comes out leaden and breathless from exertion, while “too light” comes out airy and breathless from absence of the same. Then there’s the long string towards the end:

     “Too beady, too bumpy, too leafy, too lumpy…too twisty, too twirly, too wrinkly, too curly….

Here I just speed through it and gallop along with the rhythm regardless of meaning.

Sunday night I learned why Simon insisted on what was, even for him, excessive repetition. We had retired to his room after putting on pajamas and brushing teeth. His shade was down, the overhead light was off, and I was just ready to hop into bed with him to read Old Hat New Hat four times when I realized that two of his wooden cars were still downstairs. He insists on playing with these cars every night, and usually falls asleep while clutching them. They are his security cars.

So I handed Simon the beloved book, hopped over his bedrail, and ran downstairs to fetch them. When I hit the stairs on the way up, I heard a small voice. Simon talks to himself all the time, but the rhythm was suspiciously familiar. What was that he was saying?

“… too fat [flat], too tall…”

No! Could it really be? I padded down the hall as quietly as possible and crouched outside his door.

“Too red, too dotty, too blue, too spotty….”

Yes! He was reading the book out loud to himself. When I finally walked into the room he looked up at me, beamed with pride, and kept going:

“Too beady, too bumpy, too leafy, too lumpy…

Some of those words he doesn’t really know. When in doubt, Simon just made something up that fit the pattern:

“Too twisty, too tooly, too winkie, too curly…”

Then he insisted I sit next to him. He scooted over as close as possible, held the book in the space between us, and proceeded to “read” the book to me FOUR TIMES. By the third and fourth, he was getting tired and losing more and more of the words but none of his enthusiasm.

After the fourth, I told him it was time for me to “go sleepy”, another reversal, a suggestion he smiled broadly in agreement with. When I went to kiss him goodnight, he was still smiling from the accomplishment, and I from a surge of maternal pride and affection.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.