Joining us today is Alisa, who graciously wrote this post while moving from her beloved adopted Scotland to England. I met Alisa almost seven years ago at the beginning of a great adventure for us both. I was nothing if not terrified by this new venture in my life while she was effervescent with joy. Pretty characteristic, I’d say. Of anyone I’ve ever met, Alisa is the person who best exhibits joie de vivre. I loved reading about her experiences with reading as a parent and I hope you will too. Welcome, Alisa!
Tell me a little bit about your family.
Hello there. I am Alisa and my serious case of Anglophilia and Scotophilia finally lead me away from Utah to Scotland in 2008, where I met my husband, Euan, and where we have started a life together. I was studying English and History and had high hopes for my education when I met Euan and we decided to start out our marriage in Scotland to allow Euan, who is a native Scot, to finish his degree. My degree was put on hold due to outrageous international fees and Euan is now benefiting from completing his degree by working as a graduate design Engineer at Dyson. Putting my educational dreams on hold has taught me just how invaluable reading and continued learning is and has made it a high priority for me as I raise our two completely energetic and completely loving daughters, Eleanor (2 ½) and Charlotte (10 months). I also tend to have one or two piano students at any given time. We have loved living in Scotland but Euan’s job at Dyson is sending us down to live in a small town in South West England.
There are 3 things that we really cherish as a family; music, learning and nature. We love being outdoors as a family and when we are at home we usually end up singing or dancing at Eleanor’s request. Recognizing that for our whole lives, regardless of where we live, we will be split between two countries and cultures has made us very deliberate in making efforts to have our girls be involved in the history and culture of each place. We ultimately want to live in the States so making sure that our family embraces Scottish culture in every way possible is so important and so much fun for us. We want our girls to always remember that they were Scottish to begin with, no matter where they end up!
Tell me about how reading works for you as a parent.
I read much less as a parent than I did pre-kids. There are some times that I feel like I could hardly be classed as a reader anymore, but those weeks pass and time for reading makes its way back into my schedule. I am always setting goals to read more, which slowly but surely are helping me to find best how to fit reading into my life as a parent. One thing that I deem to be very important is for me to always have at least one book that I am actively reading. It does not matter how long it takes me to finish it, at least I am reading a book and always will be. Another thing I do that helps me read is to read with others. My best friend and I read a book together via long distance once a year and my husband and I like to read a book together aloud every now and again.
An interesting observation I have made living here is that in Scotland, the library system is not as good as what I was used to in the states. We visit a village library regularly and it fills Eleanor’s needs but leaves me wanting. Even within the system, trying to request books from larger libraries the selection of a lot of newer books is limited. I just end up buying more used books now if I can’t find what I am looking for at the local library.
We read a lot with Eleanor. Charlotte still wants to eat more books than look at them but Eleanor has loved them since she was much younger than Charlotte is now. Eleanor spends chunks of each day, in between running about singing and dancing, sitting on her own looking at books or reading with me. We also read with her for 30 minutes or so before bedtime. The other night as we were reading Eleanor said to me, “Mum, I want to go in this book.” She then put the book up to her belly and truly tried to get into the book before declaring herself to be too big. I sure hope she keeps that love for reading and that understanding that books are magical and can take us to other places and change us forever.
Has what you read changed since you became a parent?
I do not read as many books as I used to and I read many more articles and essays than I ever did before. It is completely out of convenience that I have done that but it has also been an enjoyable change. I myself enjoy writing essays and so reading them in my spare time helps me to keep in check with what I like/don’t like about essay writing styles. A lot of the parenting advice or wisdom that I draw upon is from articles, essays or blog posts. Other than that the genres I enjoy reading hasn’t changed, just the amount of reading that I do.
I have always loved children’s literature and so now that Eleanor is slowly enjoying more text-filled books, I am thrilled. The day she actually wanted to sit through Dr. Seuss or Beatrix Potter books was a day I was giddy as can be. I am looking forward to reading many other classic children’s books together as a family in the coming years and exploring new ones together as well. We read a lot of books from British authors, mostly because they are what we find at the library but also because they are brilliant. The Tiger Who Came to Tea is a favourite, along with the Tilly and Friends book series by Polly Dunbar. Let’s not forget anything Oliver Jeffers and the stories of Scottish Island life in the Katie Morag books by Mairi Hedderwick. We also love books that are put out by Itchy Coo, an initiative that is promoting and celebrating the language of Scots.
What reading you have done since becoming a parent that has impacted your parenting in a big way?
Reading is constantly changing me. Especially since becoming a parent because I seem to be seeking out the kind of wisdom that would help me down that road to becoming a better person more than ever before.
There are a few examples I can think of words that have really helped to shape me as a person and a parent. A children’s book. A poem. And an autobiography.
Horton Hears A Who! will always be a favourite of mine, but now as I read it to my children I am reminded that if I teach them nothing else in life, I want them to know that people are worth loving and helping, no matter how different they may be from you. I love the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay and long ago took a book of her collected poems from my mom and I have still yet to return it. The best thing she has ever written is her extremely moving tale of rebirth and awakening in nature called Renascence. That poem runs through my head so often it feels like it is a part of me and I strive every day to let the concept of that poem, that great awakenings can and will happen in nature, help me to help our children love and appreciate nature.
Most recently I have been reading The Story of the Trapp Family Singers by Maria Trapp. For those familiar with the musical, The Sound of Music, it is easy to recall the love story between the Captain and Maria. Not surprisingly the real account of the love story happens within the first few chapters of the book and is much less romantic than what Hollywood made it to be. Maria writes about her absolute dilemma when the Captain told her that he wished her to marry him. She didn’t want to. Not because she didn’t love the man but because she did not want to give up the life that she was working to have; serving God at the abbey. I drew so much from reading her experience and the honest way she expressed her feelings. I learned that it is perfectly normal and necessary to mourn the loss of one thing that you wanted even when you are given something else that is really wonderful too. The world will try to tell us all otherwise. That it is ungrateful and selfish to be sad about missing one opportunity for another one that is good, but different. I want our girls to know that it is ok to feel the whole range of emotions of life and then to gird up your loins, get on with it and embrace it while you do.