Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Dirty Little Secret #83

It makes me crazy that Lizzy can't read yet.

It's difficult to keep typing after committing that sentence to paper...or, um, my computer screen. That sentence is loaded with equal parts guilt, frustration, and bewilderment.

I have mostly avoided the process of teaching her outright. If you know Lizzy and you know me, then you know that THAT would be a mistake. Lizzy generally refuses to partake in an activity that she can't do perfectly. This is, after all, the child who didn't walk until she was 18 months old. Can you guess that she got up one day and ran across the room? This is also the child who didn't speak until she was two and a half. But, you guessed it, she launched into telling stories, reciting nursery rhymes by heart, and singing the alphabet.

She hasn't stopped talking since.

I know that she will read. I know that, like me, she will learn to read sometime in the year that she is six and that two months later she will have finished reading all seven volumes of The Chronicles of Narnia by herself. The she will steal her big sister's Illustrated Junior Library edition of Little Women and read it with a flashlight under the covers. This will make her big sister very angry.

Oh. Wait. She doesn't have a big sister.

Anyway, she came home today wanting to play Go Fish with the sight word cards sent home by her kindergarten teacher. SHE wanted to play. This was not my idea. But asking her to remember that T-H-E spells the and that M-Y spells my seemed to send her off the deep end. She tearfully placed her cards on the table and told me that she didn't want to play anymore.

Which made me crazy.

Which is the part that makes me crazy. I know what she feels and why she feels it - I know that she cried out of frustration with herself. I know that even though I hold back from saying much of all about reading that she feels a subtle pressure from me to make that magic happen: to make those letters and sounds that she knows so well magically blend into words.

I didn't know what to do with her when she started to cry. Picking up and telling her that we could stop playing seemed as if I was telling her that it's okay to quit whenever something is hard. Agreeing to read the words her cards held without having to try to remember them seemed the equivalent.

But any other course of action seemed like punishing her for not remembering.

I told her that it was okay that it was hard. I told her that I was having fun playing and that I would love to play some more. Then I gently sent her to room to have some quiet time. I told her that her tears were showing me that maybe she felt very tired and needed to rest.

So I gave her an out and punished her at the same time.

I am frustrated that she puts forth little effort and gives up easily. I am frustrated that it matters so much to me. I am bewildered by her behavior and by my own.

I feel guilty.

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