Friday, March 16, 2012

Nerding Out

This week I have been struck multiple times by the amount of unabashed nerdiness that goes on in our house. We are raising some kids with serious geek potential here. After much hemming and hawwing and hand wringing, I decided to sit down and teach Jack how to read. I dunno, somehow I was hoping that it would all sort of happen more... organically. (Do you hate it when people use that word to describe non-food items? I kind of do, too.) Like we would just read a bunch to him and one day he would just up and hop on pop and bad dog marley all to himself.

(OHMYDEARLORD PLEASE do not make me read either of those books EVER AGAIN! Kthx.)

But for all the reading we have done- hours a day, I tell you! hours!- no osmosis/divine intervention/organic learning was happening at all. And while some preschools emphasize early literacy and prereading skills, ours seems to be more of the macaroni necklace type and with kindergarten right around the corner (YIKES!!), I knew we'd have to take matters into our own hands.

I briefly masqueraded as a kindergarten teacher at a statewide reading conference and stocked up on some curriculum freebees and solicited advice from several elementary school teachers that I know, and then I sat there and wondered what the hell I was doing. My kid is barely five. He doesn't need to know how to read yet. He should be building forts and playing with matchbox cars and wrestling with his brother out in the mud or something.

But then I remembered Hop on Pop and Bad Dog Marley and I knew what had to be done.

We are using a book called "Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons" and despite its dry title, I really like the program. We are on lesson 20 and Jack is already reading short sentences. Now, I should point out that "reading" is a relative term- kind of like "sleeping through the night" with babies. I've found that some people consider a child to be reading if he or she has a few sight words, but those are the people who consider a six hour stretch to be sleeping through the night. So I will say that Jack is reading short sentences only. But still, reading is reading.

Despite our success in the reading department, we have faced some recent adversity at the swimming pool. I signed Jack up for the swim class that his instructor had recommended to us when we finished his lessons last summer. But it's been awhile since last summer and big things have happened! People have learned to read! People have forgotten how to swim! And it was clear to me on the first day of swim class that Jack was totally out of his league. These other kids were like, real swimmers, and Jack still clings to that kickboard as if his life depends on it (probably because it does...). Anyway, there were big tears after the first class and lots of subsequent begging and pleading "Please don't make me go back to swimming lessons! Please!" and threats and ultimatums (made by Jack, not us) and finally some bribery (ice cream) and a stern lecture got him back to the pool for that second class. He did much better the second day and a big mystery was solved when another pool mom informed me that this was a split level class and that the other kids were in the higher level. And Brent and I were feeling pretty darn good about our parenting as we watched our kid frantically dogpaddle while his peers perfected their backstrokes and we gave him the exaggerated thumbs up so many times that the other swim parents probably thought we were tweakers. Then we patted ourselves on the backs for laying down the law and giving Jack some life lesson about conquering your fears or some other parenting cliche and then we all went home and ate ice cream.

The thing about parenting is that just when you think you have the upper hand, your kids will sucker punch you. Fast forward to swim class this week. Brent decides to stay home and tackle some math homework while I take the kids to the pool. I had the towel, I had the snacks, I even remembered to pack along some books to read to Sawyer. And when we arrived at the pool, Jack calmly informed me that he was NOT going to get in the water and that NO promises of ice cream would change his mind. And then he sat and cried and shrieked every time I tried to nudge him toward the pool and everyone around us was all "Look at the tweaker mom and her bratty kid!" and then they all went back to playing with their iPhones. The teacher was sympathetic, but the show must go on and so he began the lesson and called over to Jack periodically as I sat there fuming. Which seems like a totally ridiculous response to me now that I'm sitting on my couch and typing this, but I am telling you, I was PISSED.

I tried to get him to at least go and sit by the pool, but NOOOOOOO! More shrieking and more heads bobbing up from iPhones and more of me feeling totally defeated. Sigh. And so we sat for a few minutes while I tried to decide if I should sit through the whole lesson with my kid crying on the bench or if I should just slink out the door with my tail between my legs.

Then another mom leaned over and said, "This happened to me once and the woman sitting next to me told me to go throw my son in the pool. So I did it and it totally worked."

And so I picked my screeching, red-faced five-year-old up by his armpits, marched to the edge, and dropped him into the pool. The iPhones nodded their approval. And then I walked away.

Not far, I mean, just to the other end of the pool with Sawyer so he couldn't see us right away and sure enough, he had joined the class just in time for the grand finale where they all act like trees and get chopped down and jump into the pool.

Jack was the last kid out of the water and as he began to climb out, his teacher gently pulled him back in for a man-to-man chat and then paddled him around on the noodle a couple of times while his next class lined up on the deck. And I wanted to stick around and thank him profusely for his patience and kindness and for recognizing that my kid needed to feel some success in the pool today. But I was all choked up and so I mouthed a big THANK YOU and made a mental note to find out if he's 21 yet because I think we'll be owing this guy a six pack by the time this is all over.

So I am thinking we are not raising an Olympic swimmer here, but the reading is going pretty darn well. And then the other night I caught Jack in bed way past lights out time with a headlamp and some paper and pencils. When I asked what he was doing he told me that he was copying his dad's math homework.

Hoo boy. TAG camp here we come!

(At least I won't have to sit through swimming meets.)

1 comment:

  1. Well, I've just now returned to normal after about 5 minutes of convulsive laughter after reading this post. Gawd, I love mothers. Having been one myself, we truly are the most amazing, befuddling and endearing creatures ever. What makes you special, Dear Cassadie, is that you are laughing about it all now and not 5 years from now.

    And, as you have a way of doing, after I've read through a second time, I'm now just a little teary-eyed. You are doing just an amazing job of living out a time of such enormity and importance in the way it is meant to be lived; with joy and good humor.