I found myself in a school cafeteria, with over an hour to wait, and nothing in particular to do. I could simply have passed my hour playing Candy Crush (if I played it) or poring over old emails (which I do far too often). But before I knew it, I found myself reading my son's English class assigned book, a small volume presenting The Iliad on a middle grade level.
I'll admit, it wasn't exactly my cup of tea. I'm not so much into
battle, and my life tends to be fairly grounded in the language of
today. Yet, as I read, I began to feel (as if sitting in the school
cafeteria hadn't done this already) a little bit of what my son goes
through every day. For, while I might eagerly ask about his day, and
genuinely be interested in the details of his daily adventures, I do so
largely as an outsider--one who makes sure the books are in the
backpack, but doesn't know what they're about. One who comments on the
grades, but doesn't sit through the trauma of taking the tests.
In my hour and a half, I learned (relearned, I suppose, as I read about
it in multiple forms as a kid) a little bit about the Trojan War. But
more important, in my hour and a half, I learned a little bit about my
son, or at least a little bit about his daily life. It's an exercise we
all should probably do more often. Because sometimes, you can learn a
lot about the reader of the book by going beyond the book's cover.