Micha knew how to get sucked into a good book. It was one thing Maggie figured she’d done right, though it hadn’t been her purpose from the start.
“No TV,” she’d decided a few weeks after he was born.
“What?” her mother said. “That’s ridiculous. Every kid needs a TV.”
“Yeah? For what?” She took a sip of her coffee. Though they were seated in the dining room of her mother’s house, Maggie could hear the television blaring from the other room. It was constant noise, constant distraction, constant hype.
“Well…,” her mother trailed off as she realized the fallacy in her own argument.
“Exactly,” Maggie said. “He’ll just have to find something else to engage with.”
Of course, Maggie hadn’t counted for all the times she needed a good distraction. Babies, as he discovered, can be remarkably engaged when they put their minds to it. But still, she persisted. No television. No screens, for that matter. No talking heads, no bouncing lights, no wacky sounds. It certainly made the house a bit more peaceful — aside from constant crying.
Maggie doubted that the television would’ve fixed that.
She first noticed the change around the third year, when Micah became such a sponge for knowledge that he’d read literally anything he could find. He asked her to pick him up so that he could read the spines on the bookshelf. Reaching out, he ran his fingers along the shiny, gold lettering and smiled at the roughness under his skin.
By five, picture books weren’t enough. At bedtime, Maggie was reliving her own childhood through a children’s mystery series. She’d forgotten how much of a page-turner those old books could be. Micah, hearing them for the first time, listened with rapt attention.
Soon, he was reading them on his own just to see what happened next.
“You’ve done a good job with him,” her mother admitted. It was an offhanded compliment from a woman who rarely gave compliments, and Maggie waited for the other shoe to drop. “It’s great that he reads, but don’t you think you should expose him to other forms of media?”
Maggie narrowed her eyes. “Why is that so important to you? We’ve had this conversation at least once a month since Micah was born.”
Her mother sipped her coffee, shrugged. “It just seems so cloistering. You should broaden his horizons a little. What happens when the other kids at school start talking about television shows and he comes home wanting to watch them?”
“Then we’ll cross that bridge,” she said.
Saying nothing, her mother lifted her coffee again.
“Mom,” Maggie said. “Is this really about Micah?”
“What do you mean?”
“You raised me watching television. Are you sure this isn’t about validating your own method of parenting?”
At that, her mother smiled. “Maybe a little. I do my best to respect your wishes when you leave him with me, you know. I don’t just stick him in front of a screen.”
“I know that,” she said. “I never blamed you for it, but look at him.”
They glanced out the window, where Micah sat with a book beneath an oak tree, reading quietly by the fiery light of the sunset. He was a smart kid, getting smarter by the day.
“Precious,” her mother said.
They agreed on that, at least.