“You betta’ hurry and get in bed, or you’re gonna miss the story!” was shouted down the hall at a retreating #7, who rushed to change into cooler pajamas.
The shouter was not who you might expect. The shouts were made expertly, with command and confidence like a Master Sargent, and with plenty of lung capacity. But, it was neither Wife nor I calling from the bedroom, book in hand. It was #3, an older sister.
She cried out several more times before she gave #7 up for lost, and started without him. Mind you, it was not Chesterton, but a simple children’s book like a Dr. Seuss. #8 wiggled beside her with a book of his own. While #9 flopped on the bed next door, finding the ability to sit still intangible. Above on the bunkbeds, #5 listened and #6 examined his own book across the way.
For some time now, the scene I described above has been a semi regular affair. The reader changes, but most nights, one of the girls read aloud a children’s book or two to their younger siblings. Sometimes, if the girl reading feels patient enough, one of the boys are allowed to go pick out the story. And at others, there is no vote given to charity.
When the girls were younger, I was the orator, reading aloud Dr. Seuss to them after work while they sat in my lap. I have to admit, at times I miss those little days. I cannot fit all the children in my lap now. And the boys have a much harder time sitting still. As my work load increased, I read to the children less. Then, one night that seems so long ago now, as I stomped down the hall to kick off my boots and slide into bed, I heard #1 timidly reading a story to her sibling that gathered around her on their bed like a campfire.
Ever since that night, like runners in a relay, they passed the baton from the older sibling to the next in line. Wife would pop her head in at night, giving a special kiss to her older girls, and thanking them to taking care of their younger brothers.
With Father’s Day come and gone, the best gift I got was listening to #3 read to her brothers in the bedroom, while #7, now properly attired for summer sleeping, ran down the hall so as to not miss the story.