“Sleeping” Under The Sheets

In a red, three-inch photo album that lives in a cabinet on the first floor of our house, there exists a picture of a little girl in a white nightgown fast asleep on her bed, a stuffed rabbit by her side and a red sippy cup on the nightstand. And she is surrounded by books.

That girl is me, and the reason for the photo is a story I am very familiar with: instead of sleeping, like I was supposed to, I grabbed a stack of books and planned to stay up late reading them. Spoiler alert: It didn’t work. I promptly fell asleep with a picture book still in my hands, and my parents snapped a picture of the scene as a way to preserve the funny memory and to remind me that trying to skate around the rules was futile.

But try I did.

As a young bookworm, almost nothing could stop me from reading when I was supposed to be doing anything else, sleeping included. Once, I fell asleep behind an armchair in the corner of my room, where I had camped out with an arsenal of books while I was supposed to be napping, thinking my parents wouldn’t be able to find me evading nap-time if I wasn’t immediately visible when they walked into my room. Even as I grew out of midday naps, I had to find creative ways to stay up reading past my bedtime.

My parents could see if my bedroom light was still on under the crack of my door, so I had to be more careful than that. Sometimes, I’d use the light of my Game Boy Advance to read under the covers, in lieu of a flashlight. Other times, I’d take advantage of the dimmer switch on my floor lamp and camp out beneath it with the light as low as possible so my parents couldn’t detect it. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.

I was constantly reminded that there is a time and place for reading, and that time and place was not “anywhere, anytime.” But even still, I consistently ignored the rules in favor of finishing whatever book I happened to be reading that day.

My trick of reading past my bedtime was less a lie than a deception, and a very small one at that — but it’s also a habit I wish I hadn’t kicked. These days it takes me closer to a week (at least!) to finish a book, and I rarely stay up past my “bedtime” to read. Nobody told me that when you grow up, you actually prefer to be unconscious most of the time.

Honesty is important, and rules exist for a reason. But there are some things you absolutely don’t have to apologize for. The way I see it, reading is probably one of the best habits a kid could have — even when forfeiting an extra hour or two of sleep a night.

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