Monday, August 19, 2013

Mommy Mondays: My Baby Can't Read! (And I'm Okay With That)

Jack's never exactly been what you'd call an ambitious child. He crawled around 8 months, walked around 14 months, and as far as potty training goes...well, you know that story.

Fortunately, I'm not totally obsessed with numbers. Of course I would worry if Jack was seriously behind on things, but I was secretly grateful that he was on the slower end with crawling and walking. I never understood why some people get so competitive about that stuff. Frankly, I preferred it when my baby had the mobility of a butternut squash. It's when they start wandering that you're really in trouble.

On the speaking front, I always figured Jack was about average. Compared to a lot of Russian kids his age, he's positively verbose. But now I'm starting to think ahead to next year, when Jack will be in American preschool once again. And I have a feeling there's going to be a new milestone all the moms are buzzing about: reading.

When Jack was around a year old, my grandma and her boyfriend watched a Your Baby Can Read! infomercial and were immediately sold. Not much later we received the entire set, complete with flashcards, books, and DVDs. I didn't really care one way or the other if Jack could read at 18 months, but I knew my grandma had spent a lot of her meager income on the set, so nearly every day for six months or so, Jack and I "practiced" reading.

Okay, so what I really did was show Jack the flashcards occasionally (he spent most of his time chewing on them) and turn on the DVD player in the afternoon. I figured it was a good excuse to let Jack watch a little TV and get some me-time in while I was at it. Jack enjoyed the obnoxious kids singing Old McDonald, and for what its worth, he did actually learn to wave when the word came up on screen. But was he reading War and Peace at age two? Not exactly.

Lately, Jack is really interested in letters and phonics. He's known his letters for a while now (although that was mostly thanks to an iPhone app, and he only knew capital letters; whoops) and we read several stories at bedtime every day, but reading wasn't even close to being on my radar. Then he discovered the Leap Frog videos on Netflix, and before I knew it, he was telling me that "M" makes the "mmm" sound. (Thank you Scout and your annoying animal friends!). He broke out his old baby words book the other night and spent ages going through it, word by word.

"What word starts with cat?" he asks, clearly a little confused by my "What word begins with C?" type questions. But in just the past few days, he's learned all of his lower case letters and seems almost as interested in the words as the stories themselves. Yesterday we were in a parking lot and he began "reading" a sign: "What's this letter? I. What's this letter? K. What's this letter? E. What's this letter? A." (I guess I need to teach him that he doesn't need to ask himself which letter it is out loud every time).

What's the upshot of all this? My kid can't even come close to reading. But he's trying, and that's what I love. As we watch him struggle to equate a capital G with a lower case g, John and I stare at each other with something like awe. It's amazing to me that a kid (ANY kid) can not only grasp such a concept, but that he even wants to. Having made a half-assed attempt to learn another language in the past year (one with a really wonky alphabet), I know how daunting it can be. I tend to think of English as being "easy," but then I wonder how the hell I'm supposed to explain that cat and celery both begin with C and sound completely different. Thank goodness for actual teachers.

My mom likes to tell me how my brother started reading before Kindergarten; apparently I was the slowest to learn (I was also the last one to be potty trained and tie my shoe laces; being a triplet was not always good for my self-esteem). But guess what? I read the most of all three of us now, by far. And I'm also perfectly capable of tying my shoes and using a toilet. So there! In the end, there's only one thing that matters to me: that Jack enjoys reading. I don't have a timeline, just a goal.

Potty training, on the other hand, is an entirely different story.

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