I grew up watching my parents read the paper, as you probably did too. My dad would often leave the arts and culture section of the daily paper on the table so that I could read it as I ate my morning cereal. Later I think it was the full paper but the arts and culture was the perfect place to start for a young reader. When my parents read something remarkable or about something they disagreed with in the paper they would talk about it. In that way my parents modeled the practice of reading about the world and being informed. The news landscape is so different today and it's a good thing and a terrifying thing all at the same time. What hasn't changed is the importance of trusted reporting and being informed about the world.
Eons ago, before we were parents, we used to pass many Sunday mornings at The Coffee Shop leisurely reading the New York Times, scones and coffee on the table. Chris is an avid crossword puzzler and I would usually join him for a while or drift back and forth to the crossword in between reading articles. And then, you know how the story goes, we had kids and mornings and leisurely were no longer words we used together, except to say how we used to have them. But I knew our days of reading the paper weren't over for good; we were just taking a hiatus. Although some days it was hard to remember that hiatus means temporary.
And then, perhaps you know how this story goes too, I looked up from the snack-making and Lego-building to realize that mornings look a lot different lately. Not quite leisurely, at least in the way we would have defined in before kids, but more like a brisk stroll in the park as opposed to a grueling marathon. It occurred to me that it wouldn't be a crazy assumption to think we could read that paper for at least half an hour on Sundays. It certainly would be worth of try.
So the very next Sunday Chris took the boys out to get the Sunday New York Times, buying chocolate milks to sweeten the deal. At home we flipped pancakes and I put water on for my tea. Everyone stacked their plates high with pancakes topped with butter and syrup. Chris and I had ours with homemade Greek yogurt. When we sat down at the table, everyone being civil and not even one person with the possibility of a diaper change, I enjoyed a very satisfied sigh. I thought about all the mornings when we were exhausted after a night of little sleep and faced a long day of caring for two needy boys. On those mornings I would try my hardest not to wish time away, tried to appreciate having a baby that fit just so in my arms and who fell asleep so deeply on my lap after nursing. And I did find appreciation in those demanding days and seasons. But looking back on it with fondness is something I can appreciate too.
Since that first Sunday we've instituted Paper and Pancakes every Sunday morning and it makes me so happy. I love it for my own enjoyment of immersing myself in a full article, instead of reading a headline and synopsis, which lets me appreciate the writing and ponder the subject more deeply. I make reading the Sunday paper my only news consumption for the most part which I've noticed gives me a broader perspective on what's happening around the world. Reading online news it's easy to think that the only news is the latest (and often abhorrent, in my opinion) thing the president has done. Those things are captured in the paper as well. But so are articles about books, travel, art, technology, and profiles of interesting people. At the end of a reading session I don't find myself in despair. Or at least the despair I feel over some of the things I read is tempered knowing that the world is a mosaic of happenings and not all of them are appalling.
I also love Sunday Paper and Pancakes because of what we are modeling for the boys. I love for the boys to see us reading something physical, not on our phones or computers, and to hear us talk about what we're reading. Not to mention the lessons for which I hope we are laying groundwork about news sources, accuracy, integrity, and fact versus op-ed. I also like for the boys to see us designate a time when we will not be focused on them or even very available. We tell them, "On Sunday mornings we all have pancakes together and enjoy looking at the paper. You can stay at the table or go play but mama and daddy will be reading for a while." They are welcome to sit with us or bring a Lego construction to us to be mended but we will be at the table for a good measure. So far this has gone really well! In the mornings they are typically able to engage in independent play without much intervening (they are three and a half and nearly five and a half years old) so the timing helps to set us up for success. There have been some mornings where both Chris and I enjoyed a solid hour plus of reading. On other mornings the boys have been restless and Chris has peeled off early to build Legos (bless him) but we try to fend them off for at least 45 minutes, which seems reasonable for their ages.
And so the Sunday paper is back in my life. Reunited and it feels so good! Now I'm the one leaving sections of the paper in front of Dash and Cedric's plates of pancakes. I look for colorful pictures or illustrations to try to entice their interest in looking or asking questions. On the last Sunday of the month the New York Times issues a truly fantastic section just for kids and earlier this summer (when my in-laws saved the section for us) they sat with me while I read them nearly the entire section. It was a good parenting moment.
Our Sunday Paper and Pancakes is a little reminder to me, and I hope to you, that your interests and passions don't go away when you have kids. They might look different or go into dormancy for a little while. But don't let that spark go out. You'll find a way to bring those things that make you you back into your life and often they feel richer and your appreciation for them is deeper than it was before.