Saturday, August 1, 2015

Exhausted Mom Syndrome, Narnia Read Alouds, and Why I Was a Big Fat Crying Blubbering Mess Today

In general, I'm not a crier.  I don't tear up at sappy commercials, romantic movies don't make me weepy, kids singing on the last day of Vacation Bible School don't set off the waterworks.  Today, however, I was an hysterical, emotional mess.    

It all started about two years ago.....  (how's that for turning readers off to whatever you've got to say!)

Two years ago I started reading The Chronicles of Narnia with my boys.  It took us 2 YEARS to finish.  It was a journey.  I had read plenty of other chapter books aloud to them before we started The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but these books were going to be our first series and were going to be just for them and me (meaning, we read while the girls were napping or were in bed for the night).  

Reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe went just as I had hoped and suspected.  Every night they begged for "one more chapter" or "please just a couple more pages."  We were sharing something very special with that book that we hadn't shared in many of the other books we had read - magic, excitement, fear, anticipation that spoke to children as well as to adults.  I loved reading it, they loved listening.  

I'm pretty sure I had only read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as a child, or rather I think my dad read it to me.  So I was just as excited as the boys to jump into Prince Caspian -- we didn't know what to expect, but we knew were were hooked.  I remember some real lol-ing during Prince Caspian.  We loved it... and our journey continued.

I've admitted this before, but The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, The Silver Chair, and The Horse and His Boy, were all sort of sleepers for me.  These three books were the reason it took us two years to get through this series; the reading just dragged on and on... we didn't quite have the same excitement about them to keep us forging ahead faithfully each night.  So our journey slowed, but we stuck with it and eventually crawled out of the slump.

And finally, our stick-to-it-tiveness was rewarded because we loved The Magician's Nephew and The Last Battle.  Very much.  

But it doesn't matter how much you adore a book -- when evening comes, Exhausted Mom Syndrome inevitably sets in.  Mom's eyelids feel like lead.  The words on the page look fuzzy.  One third of the words that come out of Mom's mouth are not even printed on that page.  Mom's neck feels weak, the weight of her head is too much to bear.  Her head bobs.  It rolls forward and jerks back up again.  Despite the kids holding her eyelids open and supporting her head from both sides, it's no use.  Mom declares she cannot possibly read one more page and it's bedtime.  

I know I'm not alone.

Last night the boys and I sat down to read.  We had a chapter and a half to go and we'd finally be done with The Last Battle!  The final pages of our two year journey among the Narnians were before us!  Only a few loose ends to tie up before we reached the satisfying conclusion of the story!  Soon we would know the fate of some of our favorite characters (of course the boys had been thrilled when Peter, Edmund, and Lucy had come back into the story earlier in the book!)  

I started strong, but soon we had three and a half pages left and I just couldn't do it.  The fuzzy words, the droopy eyelids, the nodding head.  It was Friday night, for crying out loud - the end of a very busy week (well, no busier than usual, but whatever...)  I was exhausted.  I could. not. read. one. more. sentence.  

I was already starting to doze off when I vaguely recall my husband coming in the room.  

I must have handed him the book... 

I felt the boys leave my side and go sit with him in the chair across the room.  

I heard him start to read something about a horse and the boys gasped and said, "It's Fledge!"  Oh, how nice!  I thought.

I heard a list of names I recognized, characters appearing from the past, Puddleglum, Caspian, Trumpkin, Glenstorm.  I remember thinking I wonder if Tumnus will be there.  I heard my husband read, "the two good Beavers and Tumnus..."  I vaguely heard my boys saying, "Oh!  It's King Frank and Queen Helen!!"

And that was it.

I woke up half an hour later.  The boys were in bed and I was alone on the couch.

WHAT JUST HAPPENED??????????????? 

The two year journey was over and I missed it.  Stupid, stupid Exhausted Mom Syndrome!  I was upset, but didn't think too much of it until today when I took the book out to the back porch to read the last four pages on my own.  I sobbed and sobbed through those pages.  The words were blurry, but it wasn't exhaustion, it was the buckets and buckets of tears I was hemorrhaging.  You can't even believe how I was crying as I finished that book and how I cried for the next two hours.  (My husband knew enough to leave me alone, but he was still sweet enough to check in with me every 3o minutes or so...)  I wanted to stop crying, so I'd try to hold it in and my throat would tighten and hurt and my eyes would be glistening and I'd just start up all over again.  What I really needed was to go to my room, shut the door, and just get it all out in a loud and awful way.  But my daughter was resting in my bed, so instead I  was in the living room giving myself the trying-not-cry headache as well as they I'm-actually-crying-so-my-face-is-blotchy-and-my-nose--is-red-and-shiny thing.  Uncontrollable ugly crying.

I know I'm not alone (with the blotchy face, red nose thing, right??)  

Finally, I went to talk to my boys.  I cried in front of them like I've never cried before.  They were pretty taken aback but I blubbered my way through it....

I'm so sorry that I fell asleep last night.   I'm the one that's been reading these with you all these years.  It was supposed to be ME that experienced that emotional and stunning and wonderful ending with you.  But instead I fell asleep.  I spoiled my own opportunity of sharing the BEST part of Narnia with you.  I wanted to be the one that you ended the journey with.  I wanted to be with you to learn all the truths, and be reunited with all the characters, and learn of their destiny, and Aslan's beautiful plan for them...  I wanted to be with you for the Grand Finale... I'm feeling so sorry for myself that I missed out on the culmination of our two year read aloud all because I couldn't keep my eyes open and you got to the end without me.  It was my RIGHT to get finish it with you and I FELL ASLEEP!!!  

I went on and on and eventually the boys let me read those last pages with them... through my tears, of course.  It was a not-very-consoling consolation prize for the mom who fell asleep and didn't get to cross the finish line last night...  

I'm crying now writing this.  It's ridiculous!  But I just can't believe that after two years I missed experiencing that ending with them... the end of the first series we ever read together, the end of The Chronicles, the end of "Narnia," the "end of all the stories" and the beginning of the Great Story "which goes on forever; in which every chapter is better than the one before."   

You can only read Lewis' brilliant ending for the first time, once.  I'll never get that back. 

I lost that with my boys, but I know that in the next few years I'll be reading Narnia with my girls.  And I've already started Googling "highway truckers' favorite five hour energy drinks," or whatever else it takes to make sure that I never, ever miss out on the read-aloud rights that are mine again.


  1. Oh Theresa!! As I read this, I knew what was going to happen and I was yelling at my computer, but really at you, to WAKE UP!! I know that exhaustion. In the middle of a chapter, I've made my kids get off my lap so I could immediately fall asleep for 10 minutes. I KNEW you were going to miss that ending and I KNEW you would be so sad when you realized what happened. I'm so sorry. I would have cried, too, if I were you. Shoot, I was almost brought to tears for you. It is a great series. You won't do this again with the girls. Seriously. Pretty sure your husband and boys will make sure you stay awake. :)

    1. Aw, THANK YOU for sympathizing with me, Christine! Today was the first day I didn't cry about it ;)
      ANY other book or series it probably wouldn't have mattered so much to me... but *that* ending... wow!

  2. Wahhhhhh I love this but am so sorry for what you missed out on!!

  3. Oh goodness - we just started our first long book read aloud (The Hobbit), that's for the warning from the future!

  4. I hate The Last Battle. I always cry at the end. I know they are all in Heaven, and that should be wonderful, but it also means there is no point to checking wardrobes anymore. This is still such a sweet memory, even if it's not the one you wanted.

    1. yes, now I know where to turn for a good cry!
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  5. I feel ya! We started reading Charlotte's Web and I was sooooo excited to share it with my girls... Then my husband let them pick out a movie from Netflix and they recognized it and picked it. I wanted to cry!!!!! They won't be able to imagine their own characters or settings anymore and I couldn't (still can't) get over it. I kinda lost my desire to read it too :/

  6. I read several of the Narnia Series aloud to my 2nd grade class 12+ years ago. I had read them before but there was something powerful about reading them with the children. I cried numerous times through the books (Magicians Nephew and Last Battle are my favorites). At the end of the year, I created a memory questionaire for them to write and draw answers to some of their favorite memories from 2nd grade. One question was "I will never forget..." and one student responded "when Ms. Elpers cried reading the Narnia books." Those children are now juniors in college, and that child has likely forgotten. But maybe he hasn't. My kids and I got stuck in the boredom vortex of the Horse and His Boy. It's my least favorite and it shows. Maybe I should get that one on audiobook so we can get over the hump and get back to finishing what we started.

  7. Love this! What a treasured memory for your students! (I’m glad I’m not the only one who could barely slog through THAHB...). -Theresa


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