I know I’ve written about this before, but after Scarlett arrived last fall, Matthew pulled out all the stops to vie for my attention. I mean ALL OF THEM. Scarlett came out of the gate with a short-tempered need for constant attention and even though I know it takes some level of adjustment for any toddler to become an older sibling, I think Matthew really kind of drew the short straw there. It threw us all for a loop, but especially him; especially after he’d spent so much time seeming to look SO forward to welcoming his sweet, new baby sister into the family.
No matter how hard I tried to stay one step ahead of every need with all three kids, meltdowns just became a daily part of our adjustment period. Even though it seemed a little counter-productive at the time (a time when everything about our life was in disorder and time was not in large supply), deciding to home pre-school Matthew when I did became, hands down, the best thing I’ve probably every done for my relationship with my son. I told myself I wouldn’t overdo it, but I probably did only because it became such a much needed outlet for the both of us to get time - real, honest-to-goodness quality time - together. I could go on for days about what a difference it made in his adjustment in particular, as well as about how it ended up impacting our entire family too. The goal was not to pump him full of knowledge so much as it was to just distract him a little from the stresses of becoming a big brother, and to allow me the recourse I needed to put 110% into the time I gave him. It became the one part of our day that just made sense, and the first step toward getting into a routine that actually had some order to it.
Matthew became so engulfed in our schooling that in a matter of months, he had almost taught himself to read. Spencer in particular always says he will never forget leaving the K-mart at Governor’s Square shopping center and hearing our two year old point out the word BUG! with his finger pointed directly at the bold, red sign above the Fashion Bug entrance. We would have passed it off as just an odd coincidence if he hadn’t gone on to make a habit of pointing out words wherever we went.
But, like all storms, the adjustment one passed. We adapted to a new routine and Matthew adjusted to the role of Big Brother like he was born ready. On the flip side, the better everyone adjusted, the less attention we put into the effort of scheduled learning time. We started spending more time together as a family and not needing (or wanting) to be distracted from that. After a little bit of a cooling off period, Matthew started to actually rebel a little bit when I tried to reintroduce him to some of our reading concepts; pretending he didn’t know words or even letters he could have recited in his sleep a number of months ago. I didn’t fight him on it. I just took it as a sign that he was ready to cool it for a while longer, and we gave ourselves a break.
Recently, though, he’s started showing a renewed interest again. Saturday night we took the kids to Delaware City Day for the fireworks display. We met Mary at the dock, who had just gotten off the boat with mom-mom and pop-pop for a day of fishing and was really hungry. I wanted to tell her that there was a granola bar in the diaper bag without Matthew hearing and wanting it for himself. I pulled her to the side and told her: “In the diaper bag there is a B. A. R. --” I got no further than that when Matthew shot up and interjected, “Momma! I want a bar, too!!” The funny thing is that it took him no time at all to do the letter math in his head. He knew what I’d spelled instantly, no differently than if I’d said the word itself instead of spelling it. In fact, he couldn’t understand for the life of him why he was even being showered with praise. He had literally no clue what he’d just done.
He’s also pointing to individual words in our storybooks, asking what they say specifically, and pointing to letter combinations he recognizes like ING! And EE! And CH!
Back when Matthew made all of that initial progress, our pediatrician said that if he continued at the rate he was learning, he wouldn’t be surprised if Matthew skipped kindergarten altogether. I wasn’t at all disappointed when Matthew lost interest in learning to read, because I was confident that once he picked it back up again -- even if it wasn’t until 1st grade, he’d catch on quicker than normal. It’s never been my goal to push him into anything he wasn’t ready for -- but I can’t deny that I am pretty freaking stoked about me and the Little Dork picking back up where we left off.