How To Read A Book Among The Savages

Congratulations! It’s Saturday afternoon and you have managed to scrounge up half an hour of free time. I am proud of you for choosing not to loiter on Instagram. And double-proud for the self-control you’re exhibiting, staying away from the kitchen. Snacking is a chronic ailment for the idle human! We’re really doing this, you and me. We’re going to read a book!

Let me guide you through the steps that may be necessary to engage in this worthy pursuit, given that you are the parent of small children. Certain things just take a bit more work when you live among the savages. It sounds like it should be a simple endeavor, reading a book, right? Well, that’s what I thought about boys and peeing inside the toilet. Newsflash: not happening.

First things first. It may seem obvious, but you must acquire the book. Who would remember to do such a thing! I don’t recommend borrowing one from a friend because, let’s be honest, you will forget to give it back and there will be this unspoken resentment that haunts your relationship forever. They will think it’s too petty to ask for it back, but at the same time find it thoughtless on your behalf. And you’re just too embarrassed after seeing the book on the shelf for the better part of a year, so what you do is you push it behind other books so you can’t see it anymore. Because you’re an adult and you can make your own choices.

We don’t need any additional stress in our lives at the moment, so let’s not even go there. You must do this on your own.

You may be tempted to simply tap tap tap on your phone and get free shipping on a best-seller at the worst-price. Yes, that corporation loses money with every book sold, but hey, who cares! Free two-minute shipping! Well, I do care, and so should you. They treat their employees like garbage and are cheerfully destroying small businesses as if it were a game of global whack-a-mole. So let’s be conscious about how we source this book, okay?

My recommendation is to gently peel yourself off the couch and venture out to either your local independent bookstore or the public library. Either one will welcome you with open arms and envelop you with a tidy blanket of possibilities. How about some political nonfiction with that romance novel? Perhaps these snarky essays to go with the travel memoir? We don’t judge adults who love YA.

Alright, so now that you’ve got your hands on a book, chapters and all, it’s time to get back to the couch. However, as hygge-inducing as it sounds, that may not be the best option. You see, couches tend to attract other members of the family. Before you’re able to re-read the first paragraph — which you know you need to do due to your inability to focus — a dog will appear out of nowhere, sticking a ratty stuffed squirrel on your face. If you choose to ignore this, the dog will take it as a cue to push the dirty squirrel further against your face. You’ll make a mental note to wash all the dog toys in hot water after taking an involuntary whiff of the squirrel’s tail, then relocate to the kitchen counter. The barstools are high enough that they’re out of reach for Fido.

But see, the kitchen is enemy territory. The kitchen is where the snacks live and where grilled cheese sandwiches are made. No matter where they are, children will detect your presence in the kitchen and suddenly manifest themselves there, starved almost past a breaking point of misery and neglect. Their pleas will escalate quickly and you will be forced to put your book down and assemble an assortment of carbs that should hopefully keep them entertained and their bellies full for, oh I don’t know, maybe fifteen minutes.

You may be getting impatient at this point and consider retreating to your bedroom. This is an understandable rookie move. See, children are militant about routine and order — and a parent chilling in their bedroom on a pleasant Saturday afternoon is cause for alarm. They will barge in within minutes demanding answers. “Why are you in bed? Are you sick? Do you have Covid?!” After you dispel their concerns about your certain impending death, you’ll find that they have perched themselves on either side of you. Count to seven in your head. The pillow fight has begun.

So you see where this is going. Don’t look at me like that, we both know the truth. There is no shame in it. The best, most secure location for your book-reading is the bathroom. It is the one place in the house with a working lock on the door, the one place where you will be reliably left alone. If the savages persist, take a deep breath, coat your voice with a touch of strain, and simply say “diarrhea” loud enough for them to hear. They will stay the hell away from you.

Get yourself a couple of pillows and a glass of wine, settle into the empty bathtub, and let the words quietly wash all over you.

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Teresa Lagerman

Teresa Lagerman

Hudson Valley // Musing about donuts 60% of the time