30 months – Henry

Dear Henry,

A week ago, you finished your first year of preschool. You will soon learn that I enter a phase of mourning at the end of each school year. Most parents seem to feel the passage of time at the start of school. I feel it at the end.

You were in the Cubbie Bear Class, which might be the most perfect name ever devised for a group of toddlers. I felt so good leaving you with those affectionate teachers, to the point that I wanted to stay in the class and sit on the rug and soak up all of that warmth and security. I would stand to the side of the window when I came to pick you up, trying to spy, because as soon as you saw me you would come running. When I did get to watch you and your friends, the tears welled. All of you were so earnest as you sang songs, said your names and tried to identify colors. What sort of world would we have if we could hang on to that innocence?


Over the winter, your language skills bloomed. Now you speak in full sentences, and when you aren’t sure of the word for something, you use a word that seems appropriate. You call watermelons “lemons” and corn on the cob “popcorn.” Motorcycles are “cycle motors.”


You are always hungry and push a chair over to the pantry or fridge to reach things when I am not looking. Yesterday, you ate half a box of crackers while I was elsewhere. Today, heaping handfuls of raisins that you nearly choked on when I caught you. When I take away your snack, you squeal in anger like a crazed pig and shout, “But I hungy!” (You cannot say your Rs.)


Your imagination has recently become a big part of your play. Fires everywhere! And you are always ready to put them out. You also spend a lot of time devising stories for your train cars. I spend much of my time putting out the more figurative fires in our house, but when I do find time to play with you, you are a total mama’s boy. The other day, when I started to get up after playing, you grabbed Daddy’s bag of tae kwon do gear and threw it across my lap in an effort to pin me down. Then you slammed the bedroom door and blocked my passage.


You live at full tilt. You are never a little hungry or a little engaged or a little mad. For your mama, who is cautious and nervous, you are a wonder. Keep your boisterous spirit always.


Is it good to love reading?


Is it good for children to love reading? The question sounds blasphemous, doesn’t it? Obviously we want children to love reading. Do we want them to really love it, though, in an English major sort of way?

When I was a child, my parents sometimes had to force me to put down a book to go outside to play. Playing outside was fine, especially if other kids were involved, but it also came with the risk of bee stings and scraped knees. Books provided adventure from the safety of my favorite rocking chair, a place I spent so much time that I started to wear holes in the tan fabric. I sometimes found the clever middle ground and carried my book outside, plopped down on our front steps and reopened it. I was outside, wasn’t I?

Eleanor is also the sort of child who has to be forced to put down her book, whether to play outside or come to the table for dinner. She told me on the walk to school a few days ago that she wants to learn to read really big books, the kind that I read. Has she already tired of her collection of Boxcar Children and Magic Treehouse books? First-graders are so jaded these days.

I know that a love of reading is linked to success in school and also to greater empathy. Plus, I want to be able to discuss books with Eleanor someday. But as we walked, I pondered how I could work math into our conversations more often. It’s okay to love books, just not too much. Love something else with better employment prospects, Honey!

Fortunately, Eleanor is only 7 and has already declared her intentions to be an artist. (That’s a relief!) Reading is great for school and great for a hobby but not so great for finding work. Not that money is everything, but when I consider my friends, I would say that reading has a negative correlation with income. The more we read, the less we earn. Far better to like books and love math or science, it would seem. Though I imagine that many of you would defend reading to the end because of the way it enriches your lives.

So, is reading worth it? Or does it lead to a lifetime of suffering at jobs where you are undervalued?

Speaking up

Every few months, I read a new essay about stillbirth. Almost inevitably, the title is “Breaking the Silence of Stillbirth.” In fact, I have written one of these essays myself. Women and families should be sharing these stories, over and over again, because stillbirth remains a hidden problem. Yet, I always find myself wanting more after reading these essays. Once we have said that stillbirth is a problem, what do we do about it?

I have a piece up today at the Washington Post about what comes next. I’ve talked with some leading stillbirth experts about what the United States needs to do to tackle this problem. In countries where the government has made stillbirth reduction a priority, the rates have fallen dramatically.

Please share this story. If you have the time, register at the Post so you can leave a comment. Onward!