Courtesy of Samantha Darby

Endless Bedtime Stories

There are some things about parenthood that are just as magical as you imagined they would be when you were pregnant. That first night of rocking your newborn to sleep in the nursery you meticulously designed. Putting on tiny footed pajamas with a satisfied ziiiiiip when they still smell like baby lotion and their hair is wet behind the ears. And reading books to my children.

Reading to my two little girls has been one of the highlight reels of motherhood for me. I know these are the memories I will look back on when I'm old and gray and missing that baby-lotion scent. I will wish desperately for just one more night of reading to the two of them, their giggles punctuating every line, their chubby baby hands reaching out to smack a page — even when my kid picks the book with the longest storyline and the most damn letters per page on the night we're an hour late for bedtime.

Because no matter how tired I am, no matter how much I wish I could toss The Day the Crayons Quit for a board book featuring nothing but one-word pages proclaiming things like GREEN and BIRD, I turn into Robin f'n Williams with my soliloquy and soak up every single word.

I believe this was Cinco de Mayo, yet she insisted on a Christmas story, because it was the longest book on her shelf.

Look, sometimes I am too exhausted for Calico Critters. Those tiny lemons the size of my pinky nail are too slippery to sit in the scalloped pink bowl my 4-year-old Alice insists on, and if she asks me to put the tiny tuxedo kitten into the green romper again — despite the fact that it will not fit because it was made for the tiny bunny forever in a crawling position — I will actually scream.

Sometimes letting her "work" on my computer sounds like a good idea, until I'm trying to load the dishwasher and shouting "P-U-P-P-Y" over the sound of running water as she painstakingly types with one finger into Google Docs, stopping every letter to yell back, "MOMMY, WHAT COMES AFTER THE P." And sometimes playing LEGOs is so fraught with "Actually, Mommy, *I* need that piece you're using" that I just want to lie down for a while. (Which I do. And then she sits on me.)

This 'I Am Lucille Ball' book takes literally seven years to read and I think she actually fell asleep here *while* I was reading it. Worth it.

But no matter what I'm doing — whether I'm folding a neglected pile of laundry on the couch or rewatching The Office "Dinner Party" episode or drinking an actual hot cup of coffee — I can read to my girl.

It's a way for me to check off 'good, pure wholesome parenting moment' from my list without wanting to scream.

Actually, I can do more than read: I can create an entire world for her using nothing but inflection and voices and the most basic of reading skills.

Sometimes she reads to me, but then she keeps asking, "What's this word? Oh, okay. Wait, what's this word? And this one? Mommy, can you just read this?"

"Mommy, let's get in bed and read this pile of books." OK. "Mommy, I picked Green Eggs and Ham for you to read tonight." Jesus, that book is like 60 pages and it's already 8:45. OK. "Mommy, will you read Olivia to me?" Sure, just back up a little bit so I can wipe, OK?

(P.s., If you've never read Olivia and felt yourself so viscerally represented by Olivia's mother, I don't know what kind of robot you are.)

'Fancy Nancy' is one of those children's books with 8,000 words if you read all the extra things like notes on the refrigerator. Which of course I do.

It's almost always inconvenient for me to sit down and really read my kid a book. (You know the difference between reading and reading to your kids.) It's late, I'm exhausted, the sink has disappeared under a mountain of dishes, I have emails to return, I'm literally in the middle of a poop and trying to keep an eye on the baby who's determined to throw herself off the edge of the bed with a flourish — but reading is the perfect activity. It's my chance to delve into the creative urges of my past acting life. It's my chance to open a world of Paris and little girls in straight lines and crayons coming to life and all the rhymes for my daughters. It's my chance to unwind and connect with her in a way that playing doesn't always do. (Also babies are kind of boring and reading keeps her 7-month-old sister engaged, too.)

"Are you going to read these to me or am I just going to gum them and hit them?"

And it's a way for me to check off "good, pure wholesome parenting moment" from my list without wanting to scream. Scavenger hunts and Pinterest crafts and an afternoon in the swimming pool are all pure and good and wholesome, too.

Don't let this soft board book fool you. It's got like 100 words per page. Even the baby loves it.

But nothing wiles the *enjoyable* hours away like a pile of children's books, and I promise to forever pull out my best Harry Potter voice and my best Red Crayon voice and my best goldfish from The Cat in the Hat voice with every story. Even when my throat is dry and my arms ache from holding them up ("MOMMY, I CAN'T SEE THE PICTURES") and I'm begging her to swap Dr. Seuss for Sandra Boynton just this once.

Even then.

For more pieces like this, visit Shiny Happies, our collection of the best parts of raising those little people you love.