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Emma Donoghue’s “Room”.  I won’t give too much away here–because Room’s page-turning quality is due mostly to its suspense–but the gist is that 5 year old Jack narrates the story of he and his mother’s life in one room: a 12×12 space where Jack’s mother has been hostage for seven years.  This is a fictional story, but clearly inspired by the Jaycee Dugard or the Josef Fritzl true crime cases.  So yes, it’s not a book for the faint of heart, and when you tell your friends what you’re reading you might get “ugh”s and “ew”s, but as a Criminal Minds fan, this was up my alley.

But what I’m inspired to write about is actually Ma’s day with Jack.  Since I stay at home with my sons, I know the restlessness that can settle in when we’re home for one day, let alone any extended period of time.  On any given day we go on playdates, visit friends, meet people for lunch dates, etc.  We watch our fair share of Thomas the Tank Engine,Curious George, play some one on one games, read books, etc. but what would our day be like stripped down to almost nothing?

Jack does get to watch some tv, but his mom is a firm believer that too much tv will turn a brain to mush, so she actually limits him to two shows a day.  I kept questioning whether I would find myself doing the same if I were in that horrible condition.  Would I come up with all sorts of creative activities for my 3yr old or would I rely on the television even as much as I do now, with all the resources I have?  I would like to hope that I would do as good of a job as Jack’s Ma.  She goes to great lengths to keep Jack active: she puts up the limited furniture to allow them to run “track”, they play other physical games, do crafts, read books–and for a bit of the eerie–play “Scream” where everyday while the captor is at work, Ma & Jack yell through their skylight.  All of these activities are in hope for an eventual escape or just for Jack’s overall well-being.

One of my personal convictions lately has been to limit my on-computer time and raise thr kids & my one-one-one face time.  I can’t say that “Room” prompted this as I’ve been feeling this way for a while now, but it did put in perspective how easy it is to sow that personal time into a little one.  You don’t need store bought flashcards, mommy & me Gymboree classes, or anything more than you already have in your home.  I know it’s the stay at home mom’s struggle of the ages to be “present” with your children not just “in the room while they’re doing things.”  So lately my sons and I are taking more time to be together, not just during playdates or the routine things, but just because.  We started with certain “games” like a play dough set that we play with together at the kitchen table, for example, and work those little activities in whenever we can.  And you know what? I’m just as (un?)productive as usual, and there’s less stress and much more memories and love. 


Born in Dublin in 1969, Emma Donoghue is a writer of contemporary and historical fiction whose novels include the bestselling Slammerkin, The Sealed Letter, Landing, Life Mask, Hood, and Stirfry. Her story collections are The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits, Kissing the Witch, and Touchy Subjects. She also writes literary history, and plays for stage and radio. She lives in London, Ontario, with her partner and their two small children. For more information, go to http://www.emmadonoghue.com.