Saturday, December 22, 2012

Bedtime stories with a four year old

Every parent knows how little kids like to hear the same story every single night. Some parents luck out and their kid likes short stories. My kids don't like short stories. Especially not our little guy. He likes at least one, if not two, stories from A Treasury Of Peter Rabbit. [Sidenote, this was my absolute favorite book as a child. Oh, how precious I thought it was when he started to fall in love with it too! Now, however, I would be happy to never read another Beatrix Potter story for the rest of my life, and delight when he chooses something else at bedtime.]

And I can't just read the stories quickly; tuck him in with snuggles and a prayer, and go about my merry way. He has questions, and he wants answers. More specifically, the same questions (and answers) EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. I kid you not. I nearly have our entire storytime commentary memorized. Its one of those things that I don't look forward to. I know, its completely horrible to not look forward to putting your sweet child to bed. If I were energetic and nice and other things I should be, I might look forward to it. But at bedtime I am usually crabby and tired and wanting to take a bath or read something grown-up or clean the kitchen or do laundry or or or or .....

Anyway. I know someday he will not want/need me to lie with him and read the SAME STORY and ask the SAME QUESTIONS and expect the SAME ANSWERS every single night. So I decided to record our nightly Peter Rabbit commentary, that way when he doesn't do this anymore, I can read this blog entry and cry and say ohhhhh why did he grow up so fast?!

I'm not even close to that point yet, as far as reading Peter Rabbit goes. But I hope you enjoy it. Nighty night!  Oh, and the parts that are quoted from the book are italicized. His words are in blue, to prevent any "who said what?" confusion.

"Once upon a time there were four little Rabbits, and their names were Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail, and Peter."
He points at the biggest bunny in the picture. "Who's that one?"
"The mom."
Points at the right-most bunny head. "Who's that one?"
And the next: "Who's that one?"
And the left-most bunny head: "Who's that one?"
And the rear end of a bunny at the far left: "Whose butt is that one?"
[We used to argue over the butt. I said it was Cottontail's butt, and that Peter simply wasn't pictured because he was off somewhere being naughty. Little Guy disagrees and thinks its Peter's butt. I gave in long ago.] "That's Peter. They lived with their Mother in a sandbank, underneath the root of a very big fir tree."
"What's a fur tree?"
"Not fur, like animal fur. Its a type of tree called fir. Like an apple tree or a birch tree. Its a fir tree."
Him saying 'oh' is my cue that it is OK to move along.

"'Now, my dears,' said old Mrs. Rabbit one morning, 'you may go into the fields or down the lane, but don't go into Mr. McGregor's garden: your father had an accident there; he was put in a pie by Mrs. McGregor.'"
"Why did she put him in a pie?"
"Because they caught him in their garden and killed him, then baked him up in a pie and ate him for dinner." [thinking to myself, this probably isn't the best thing to chat about directly before bed]
"Because farmers don't like bunnies getting into their gardens."
"Because they eat up the plants and mess stuff up."
 At this point he doesn't interrupt me for a page. Then, the next page:

"Then old Mrs. Rabbit took a basket and her umbrella, and went through the wood to the baker's. She bought a loaf of brown bread and five currant buns."
"Why did she buy five currant buns?"
"One for her, and one for each kid." Secretly thinking to myself, I'm sure Mrs. Rabbit is capable enough to bake, but she is a single mom of four kids, so instead of getting all hot and crabby baking in her sandbank, she loved the excuse to get the heck out of the house.

"Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cottontail, who were good little bunnies, went down the lane to gather blackberries."
"Like us!"
"Yep, just like us." [in the fall, in the mornings after big brother goes to school, the little guy & I take walks around the neighborhood and pick berries.]
"We pick berries just like them. Why aren't there any blackberries right now?"
"Because its winter time (or whatever time of year it is where there aren't blackberries) and blackberries don't grow right now."
"Why not?"
"Because its not the right season."
"What's a season?"
"Seasons are summer, fall, winter, and spring. Different stuff grows during different seasons."

"But Peter, who was very naughty, ran straight away to Mr. McGregor's garden, and squeezed under the gate!"
"Shame on him!" [One time I said "shame on him!" after reading that page, and now EVERY TIME we read the story he reminds me to say "shame on him!"]
"Yes, shame on him."

"First, he ate some lettuces, and some French beans; and then he ate some radishes."
"Mommy, you forgot carrots." [apparently the things Peter is eating (are they radishes??) in the picture look like red carrots, according to Little Guy. I gave up arguing about which vegetable they really were a long time ago.]
"Oh, sorry. First, he ate some lettuces, and some French beans; - and some carrots! - .. and then he ate some radishes."

"And then, feeling rather sick, he went to look for some parsley."
"What's parsley?"
"Its an herb."
"What's a 'erb?"
"Its a plant you can eat; it adds flavor to your food."
"Why did Peter want to look for parsley?"
"Because parsley helps when you have a tummy ache."
"Because that's how God made it."

"But round the end of a cucumber frame, whom should he meet but Mr. McGregor!"
"Mommy, you forgot to say OH DEAR." [again, one time after reading that page, I said "oh dear!" and now I'm expected to say it every time.]
"Whoops, sorry. OH DEAR!"

At this point, he doesn't interrupt me for quite a few pages. I think the story gets exciting and he doesn't think up any questions because he's too engrossed in the adventure. But then:

"And rushed into the toolshed, and jumped into a can. It would have been a beautiful thing to hide in, if it had not had so much water in it."
"Why does it have water in it?"
"Its a watering can, for watering plants."
"Why did Peter go in the can?"
"He probably thought it was the best place he could fit in a hurry."
 He doesn't interrupt for another page, but then:

"And tried to put his foot upon Peter, who jumped out of a window, upsetting three plants-"
"Why are the plants upset?"
"It doesn't mean upset, like mad; it means they got tipped over. Upset is another word for something getting messed up."
"The window was too small for Mr. McGregor, and he was tired of running after Peter. He went back to his work." [Once, after that sentence, he asked "did he walk or drive?" I didn't get it at first, but then realized he meant, did he walk or drive back to work? I laughed so hard, and then had to explain that Mr. McGregor's garden WAS his work, so when it said "went back to his work" it meant he simply left the shed and went back to finish whatever he was doing before he saw Peter. It was quite the tangent that night, I tell ya. Super glad he didn't remember it and choose to ask it every night from then on.]  He doesn't interrupt for a page, but then:

"He found a door in a wall, but it was locked, and there was no room for a fat little rabbit-"
"Is he fat?"
"I guess. That's what the book says."
"Why is he fat?"
"Probably from always stealing food from Mr. McGregor."
"And there was no room for a fat little rabbit to squeeze underneath. An old mouse-"
Points at mouse: "is she old?"
"I guess. That's what the book says."
"An old mouse was running in and out over the stone doorstep, carrying peas and beans to her family in the wood. Peter asked her the way to the gate, but she had such a large pea in her mouth-"
"She had PEE in her MOUTH!?!?" Hysterical laughter.
"Not pee. A pea, like green peas, like the ones in the pod that you and Brother like."
Still laughing. "she had PEE in her mouth!!!" [seriously: every time we read the book, we have this conversation. Sometimes when I'm in a good mood, we'll laugh about it for a while and make naughty jokes about how much pee would be 'large' and how a mouse could do such a thing.]
"but she had such a large pea in her mouth [now, regardless of if I'm crabby/tired or not, I'm secretly trying not to laugh, imagining a large PEE] that she could not answer. She only shook her head at him. Peter began to cry."
"Poor Peter. Say it, Mommy."
"Poor Peter." Again, something I once said that is expected to be repeated every time.
He doesn't interrupt for three whole pages, and usually at some point during these pages has closed his eyes and started to fall asleep. 75% of the time, if I've made sure to read those three pages reeeeaaally slooooowwly and quietly, he will have fallen asleep entirely. But the other 25% of the time:

"Mr. McGregor hung up the jacket and the shoes for a scarecrow to frighten the blackbirds."
Mumbles .. "What's blackbirds?"
In my head I say "CRIPES!!" just like Jim Carrey in Dumb and Dumber. But out loud, I use my nice mom voice and say "Crows." I hurry to continue the story with no more questions so he'll fall asleep....

"Peter never stopped running
or looked behind
him till he got home to the
big fir-tree.

   He was so tired that he
flopped down upon the nice
soft sand on the floor of the
rabbit-hole, and shut his eyes.
His mother was busy cooking;
she wondered what he had
done with his clothes. It was
the second little jacket and
pair of shoes that Peter had
lost in a fortnight! 

I am sorry to say that Peter
was not very well during
the evening.

   His mother put him to bed,
and made some camomile tea;
and she gave a dose of it to

   ``One table-spoonful to be
taken at bed-time.''

But Flopsy, Mopsy, and
Cotton-tail had bread
and milk and blackberries,
for supper.  THE END"

[At this point I climb over my sweet lil' snoozing guy, hoist myself out of the lower bunk with only a tiny bit of difficulty, and go about my evening. Unless he's still awake, at which point I move on to The Tale Of Benjamin Bunny, and I won't even begin to type up that entire story with all our commentary!! Maybe another time...]

All images came from  this great website.


  1. It seems to me this is further evidence that children require order, routines, and consistency.