I have made a lot of mistakes in my life. More than most, quite likely, on account of my inability to learn a lesson the easy way and my extreme stubbornness. Being the first-born perfectionist that I am, each mistake is cataloged, filed, and stored away for later use when I need it least.
These mistakes range from the innocuous:
- Building a fort on an army ant trail.
- Refusing to say the word “when” when my dad was dishing up my food and told me to tell him “when” it was enough.
- Choosing Jane Austen as the author for my senior Literature project.
To the ill-advised:
- Thinking it was cool to shout “damn” on the soccer field in front of my dad in the third grade.
- Trying to beat the pedestrian light in downtown Chicago, in the rain, in the middle of the night.
To the insane:
- Spending a large portion of my junior high years bullying other kids.
- Telling a bold-faced lie to someone who had hurt me too many years earlier for me to still remember, let alone try to pathetically avenge.
- Not thinking before I spoke during the last face to face conversation I ever had with my dad and saying something I have remembered and regretted every day since.
My mistake making skills have multiplied by thousands since becoming a parent. And I have now entered the phase where every one of my four children is old enough to remember said mistakes. Somehow it has turned out that the majority of my parental errors center around my third born daughter.
As an hours-old newborn in the hospital, she was already crying giant tears every time I picked her up. Yet it took me five more days to realize that she had broken her collarbone during delivery. As a preschooler, I used to tell my husband that she had literally tuned out the sound of my voice and would only respond to me with “WHAT?”. It was not until she failed her Kindergarten hearing screening that I realized she had a hearing problem (which has since been resolved with the help of ear tubes). As a Kindergartener, I thought she was just disinterested in reading when she would put off doing it. She was learning her sight words (or so I thought) and I was, quite frankly, too lazy and distracted to push her further along. It was not until right before she was about to start first grade that I realized how far behind in her reading she was.
I panicked. I spent a few weeks making more mistakes than I care to list trying to force her to read more. Every “do not do” in the book was attempted. And I knew better. Each session was filled with tears, frustration, shouting, and her telling me over and over how she “hates reading.”
After too long, I finally realized my “approach” was not working and was actually making the situation much worse. It was time to start over. Clearly, the way I had tried to teach her to read the first time was not helping her.
And so we did just that. We started over using a completely different tactic this time. We started using some kinesthetic learning techniques. I took out all the books I thought she should be reading and brought back all the beginning readers hoping to build her confidence back up. We started a notebook filled with tricky letter combinations (like “igh”) and add a few to the list each week.
At the same time we were doing these things at home, she started first grade with a teacher who has a Master’s degree in teaching reading. She gave my daughter the tools and confidence to be willing to sound out words, rather than guessing what they are.
Then yesterday, after a particularly good after school reading routine time together, she came up to me and said, “Mommy, can I read more?”. I almost started crying right then and there. This is the same girl who mere weeks ago would start sobbing at the mention of it being time to read. She proceeded to read, out loud, for forty-five minutes! She started using inflection in her voice. She even read in front of her siblings, something she had never been willing to do until yesterday. At one point she said, “This book is just so interesting, I have to keep reading.” Johnny Lion’s Book will forever be one of my favorite books in memory of this moment.
I cannot describe in words what I felt listening to her read with such confidence and joy. To hear my struggling reader tell me that she “loves reading” was truly fantastic.
Now if only the other eight thousand and seventy-five parental errors I have made this month could be resolved with “Mommy, can I ready more?” I might actually have a chance. As it stands, I will be satisfied with the one.