My little Gabriel learned to read this week and I had nothing to do with it.
Books are the sustenance of life in our household. My boys eat, drink and breathe the printed page. Erik always has a wish list on Amazon.com and we read, discuss and fight over copies of the latest and greatest. Despite all the library posters urging children to “JUST READ” our family obsession is not something I’m necessarily proud of. Stefan’s 6th grade teacher often challenged him to “reduce his book dependence” and Erik loves to chasten the boys to “stop reading and go watch TV like a normal kid.”
Still, it has been a point of shame for the older boys that Gabe hadn’t developed a passionate relationship with books. They are always worried that I’m slacking off with the two younger ones and that they will grow up spoiled, choreless and unschooled.
And to some extent their worries are valid. I’m just worn out in so many ways. Why put a little kid in music lessons when it’s so much easier to start later? Why fight a six year to wash the dishes when his four older siblings are perfectly capable? Why go through the tedium of flashcards when they’re going to learn to read anyway? Yeah, yeah. I’ll get around to that later.
Gabe’s progress has been my job and I’ve been a slacker. The deal: he reads to me and then I read to him. But I’m lazy and let him recite his little preschool readers before moving on to the joys of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Bedtime stories have been happy, snuggly, kissy, but not exactly academic.
But this week Erik took over.
After family prayers, Erik sent me off to tuck Mary in bed while he assumed the education of Gabriel. Gabe cried and clung to my leg while Mary complained that I don’t do the voices as well as daddy. And while I love Miss Mary, I get plenty of hours with her during the day. My heart ached at losing my time with Gabriel.
But within minutes I heard laughter from Gabe’s room. There they sat, happily reading books I would have never pulled off the shelf for little Gabe. Ironically, he read Are You My Mother? (Ben’s first book) just to make me cry. Erik waits patiently and makes Gabriel sound out every word without simply filling in the blanks for him (my bad habit).
“I can read Mom!” he cried, “I can really read.” And there I stood feeling completely useless.
I read a study years ago where they’d measured children every day for a year. And they found that kids did indeed grow overnight. Not in 1/16s or 1/8s of inches like you’d suspect but in 1/4 , 1/2 and quite often full inches. That seems so symbolic of parenthood and children in general– changes happen literally overnight and life is never quite the same again.
With 6 children I work to interact with them in little ways every day– driving to a lesson, practicing the violin, the 15 minutes before the elementary kids come home– but life is constantly changing and I have to find new ways to connect. They are each so incredibly important to me.
Gabe read Green Eggs and Ham next– easy as pie!– and Erik reached over to switch off the light.
“But I need Mom! I need Harry Potter!”
And although it was way too late, I snuggled in his bed, collected my hugs and kisses and read a full chapter of good old Harry. Because my days are numbered…..