Pin It Matthew does not like to read books in front of people. He’s done it before, but on rare occasion. It never bothered me before because I figured that when he got more comfortable with it, he would. So we’d practice a little bit a few times a week and for a while, he got better and better. Until eventually, he stopped wanting to altogether.
I don’t know what changed. He’ll blast through his Reading Eggs levels, which obviously require reading throughout and on the sparing occasion that we pull out the flashcards for a game like “parking garage”, he’ll rattle off each one like he’s reading his own name. He’s even raced Mary in a game of good ol’ fashioned flashcard quizzing and really held his own. But if you ask him if he knows how to read a book, he’ll tell you no. He’ll tell you no, because he’s afraid you’ll make him do it.
So I’ve stopped making him.
I hate it. I really do. It’s been about two or three months since he’s willingly read a book without being bribed even a little. But I had to take him saying that as a sign that we were moving too fast. Teaching him to love reading is obviously the bigger priority. It wasn’t something I was willing to compromise for the sake of getting in a little practice.
The other day Mary and I got into a conversation about how inappropriate it is for her to go around exaggerating all the time. (She told a neighbor that she didn’t want to have a sleepover at our house because we’re too “poor” to have any good food in the house. Good food being popcorn and potato chips - which I’m always telling her it isn’t logical to blow our food budget on. I think I’m teaching her a practical life skill. She tells our neighbors that we’re poor.) She comes back at me by saying that I exaggerate all the time.
Me: Mary, I don’t think that I do. I’ve very conscientious about the example I lead for you guys. I wouldn’t knowingly do something right in front of you that I’m always trying to teach you not to.
Mary: Well, you do! I can’t think of anything right now, but I know that you do!
This went on for about a day and a half. Every time she’d drastically exaggerate something, I’d try to remind her that she was doing it again and to work on keeping things realistic. She’d insist that I have no room to talk. Finally, the next day, she comes out of the kitchen.
Mary: I thought of something! It always drives me CRAZY that you do this! Yes! This is something you exaggerate about!…
Me: Okay. What?
Mary: Matthew reading. He can’t read. He even says that he can’t read books. He can read words because you just show him the same words all the time. Like a list or something. And then he remembers it and then you tell people he can read.
This was incredibly frustrating to me because it’s true that Matthew tells people that he doesn’t know how to read books and it’s also true that he doesn’t like to show other people that he can. There’s nothing I can do about this, and explaining it makes me feel like an asshat. Especially explaining it to a twelve year old who relishes the opportunity to make her mom feel like an asshat. I remember that feeling. It feels good. Although, if I ever thought I had my mom proven wrong somewhere at that age, I was way smarter than to forthrightly gloat about it. That would have only gotten me grounded for all of junior high. I AM NOT EXAGGERATING. You don’t know my mom.
Everything I said after this was true. But it didn’t make me feel any better. You know how when you walk into a store and the theft detector thing goes off cause you’re carrying some kind of magnet in your pocket or something, even though you’re not? And people look at you, and you feel uncomfortable even though you couldn’t have possibly stolen anything because you just walked INTO the store? And you know this. You know that you’re not guilty of doing anything wrong. But you can’t help feeling like everything you do after that only makes you look even more guilty -- when you weren’t even guilty in the first place!
That’s basically where I was. Knowing, all the while that if I were my own mom and Mary were me at that age, she would have never even been humored with a response. I don’t know if there’s a female -- or some kind of mom-version of the word emasculating, but if there is, that would be how I felt. Totally e-mom-ulated. Like she was the mom and I was the crumb-faced kid with guilt written all over her face.
Me: Mary I have videos I can show you where he’s reading books from start to finish. And he’s struggling to sound out the words, so you can clearly tell he hasn’t just memorized the story. And I don’t just show him a list of words. I haven’t done that since he was two and I first learned that he could recognize them. Other people have seen him do it. You’ve even seen him read a thousand different sight words before. I can’t help that he doesn’t like reading entire books in front of other people. I can’t force him to read in front of an audience on command. He’s four. But I have never exaggerated about anything Matthew could do. Ever. He’s not a circus animal. He’s my child. That would be like saying the way he really is, isn’t good enough for me.
Like I said, I’m pretty sure if I were having a conversation like this with my mom at that age, my mom wouldn’t have dignified my attempt to call her out with a response. She would have told me I was out of line, that she doesn’t have to defend herself to me, put me on some kind of punishment for being disrespectful and then been done with it. On the one hand, this made me a very respectful child who grew into a very respectful adult and I like that about myself because I’ve always earned respect from others very easily in return. On the other hand, to this day I don’t always pipe up about things when even my parents try to convince me that I should.
I have to tell Mary she’s out of line for being disrespectful so often that I’ve chosen to pick my battles. If there is any room to give her the benefit of the doubt so that I can hear her side of things, I will. And this was more like a friendly debate than a heated argument. Although I was starting to feel a little heated now. I’m already afraid of people thinking this; here she is, trying to call me out on it; and other than pulling up some videos - which, again, I can do but I feel small for resorting to - there’s nothing I can do.
Just then, Matthew and his friend come into the room.
Matthew’s friend: What are you guys talking about? Matthew reading?
Mary and I: Yeah.
Matthew’s friend: Matthew reads to me all the time. Matthew loves to read at my house. He reads in front of everybody. Sometimes we read books together. I like Chicka Chicka Boom Boom! He helps me with the words sometimes.
It felt good. I really wish I didn’t care, but I do. I’m conflicted with myself sometimes because I don’t know if I should be, but I am so proud of him for being smart. In much the same way, I don’t know if I should be - but I am proud of Mary for being unafraid to speak her mind, especially because at her age, I never was. Maybe that’s why, on some level, I don’t immediately ‘shut her up’ when I have the chance to call an authoritative shot and end the conversation.
That must be it. Because on a conscious level, all I want to do sometimes is sew her lips shut and say I AM MOM: I WIN BY DEFAULT!