I’m sure that some might argue there is a such thing as too many books–especially in house that hovers somewhere around 1500 square feet. Floor-to-ceiling shelves abound: four in the living room, three in our dining room, one in the hallway, one in the boys’ bedroom, and another one in the playroom in addition to assorted baskets and hiding places throughout. But tonight I was grateful to have at my disposal a collection I could turn to. After dinner the boys and I ventured out into the backyard to do a little post-storm cleanup. We had had significant rain, and things were messy and needing attention. Edgar hopped right into our to-do list and collected rainwater from barrels to water plants. Soaking wet, gritty and muddy from the occasional romp in the sandbox, and shoe-less, he could not have been happier. Oscar–diametrically opposed to his brother in all that relates to tidiness–was none too pleased. He wanted to come out into the yard, but his yard shoes had mulch in them. I rinsed them off, but the ensuing wetness and length of time they were taking to dry in the humidity were not to be tolerated. He looked at his brother skipping through the grass–dirty, damp, and delirous–and said with a sigh and a tone of longing that caught me off-guard, “I wish I could be more like Edgar.” A dramatic pause from a mother who is seldom at a loss for words, and I ushered the boys in. After a warm bath, it was time for stories and talks. And tonight’s stories shared a common theme: self-esteem. We read Giraffes Can’t Dance, a wonderful book about a giraffe who cannot dance like the other animals but realizes his own rhythm after a profound talk with a very philosophical insect. We then embarked on Little Elephant’s Clever Trick, the story of an elephant who wishes he looked like the other animals he meets but understands at the end that his physical gifts are just as remarkable. We closed with I Love You Because You’re You and The Mommy Book, which both celebrate chidlren’s (and their mommies’) myriad moods and attributes. I am grateful for the talks each book inspired. The night ended well–with ear-to-ear smiles and a comprehensive list of all the characteristics that make Oscar Oscar. Self-esteem seems to me to be at the crux of most of the choices we make–as children and as adults. And nurturing and occasionally protecting a child’s self-esteem seems to me to be one of the tallest orders a parent must fulfill. I will not always have the opportunity to hear the words that will reveal what my children are thinking, and they may soon not always tell me, but if I can help them to feel good about the people they are and are becoming, then I know I have done my job and that they will be able to negotiate their own way.