I used to marvel at his patience, wondering why I couldn’t muster the same tolerance for lounging on a bed and laboring over storytelling though I adore reading and being read to.
It was years before I clearly understood that my time with the children, even relaxation time, was generally sandwiched between household responsibilities and a serious pile of work.
Their dad traveled, I was juggling a full time managerial job, and my day typically ran late and started early.
But might there be more to this picture than I realize?
The Importance of Dads Reading to Children
The Telegraph UK asks “Are Fathers Better at Bedtime Stories Than Mothers” and I’m newly curious, especially with regard to boys.
David Atkinson cites psychologist Dr. Emyr Williams on the subject, who:
… believes that fathers can have more impact on a child’s fledgling grasp of literacy. In a preschool world dominated by female figures, dads are different – hence they exert more potential to influence social learning.
… The role of father figures is, he says, particularly important to encourage boys to read independently, a group that traditionally loses interest in reading faster than girls.
While this is testament to the influence of dads reading, is it relevant to ask if they’re “better” at it? Are we well advised simply to note the need, along with their critical influence in raising both sons and daughters?
Better Bedtime Routines
I also recall that my ex was better at the bedtime routine in general. More accurately, he was insistent that it never drag on and invariably, both boys had a tendency to play on my emotions. My little one in particular never wanted me to leave the room.
Of course, that was a period of time when he was adjusting to a space of his own after sharing a room with his brother for seven years. It was an arrangement I think he would have happily enjoyed On the other hand, my firstborn on the other hand was thrilled to settle into a 12×12 spot of his own, ever an independent kid and at the time, fairly fearless.
In the wake of that adjustment, bedtime wasn’t easy… with or without reading, as he nestled into my arms to feel cradled and safe. My memories of those days (and nights) are bittersweet; there were tender moments, many worries, and enormous fatigue.
Dad Time… More Than Bonding
Citing research from the UK’s Fatherhood Institute, Mr. Atkinson continues:
… “Evidence suggests that when dads do bedtime stories well, they can have more impact… dads talk round the story, respond to the child and ask more questions.”
… [The Fatherhood Institute] found… that preschoolers whose dads read to them a lot behave and concentrate better at nursery, and do better in maths… At age five, these children know and use more words, can pick out letters more accurately, and are better at problem solving.
Food for thought.
Single Dads and Bedtime Routines?
Are they coming home and scrambling to get through the day just as I was for all those years? Do they find themselves as tired and impatient by bedtime as the single and solo mothers may feel? Does reading with a child at night become just one more chore?
More food for thought.
Yet none of this negates the potential power and pleasure of reading with our children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews – or any other bonding rituals that encourage their questions and conversation.
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