Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Dark Side

Daughter: I was tired in the morning. But on the way back in the afternoon I decided to go to the dark side and then I felt much better.


I am currently trying to find anything and everything to do with pregnancy and babies in my home to give to a friend of mine who is incubating her second child as we speak. I'd started off by asking her periodically if she wanted certain stuff. But as the stuff I'd already given her was really good (car seat for a baby, pack and play) we stopped that arrangement and she's now happy to take anything without clearing it first. The worst that could happen is she didn't like it so could pass it on herself. All of which isn't very exciting except for the fact that my wife had collected two prenatal workout DVDs that I'd offered my friend who has happily agreed to take them off our hands. One is named Fit Mama and the other is Prenatal Gaiam Yoga. Which again isn't especially exciting except that I'd chucked them in the car for the next time I see my friend. And then today I took my son to the central library and was clearly struggling to hold on to him as he flopped around asleep on my shoulder, and carry the full book bag out of the passenger seat and to close the car door. I inadvertently tipped the bag and that saccharine Twinkle Toes dancing DVD my daughter had fell out onto the ground. Then a very nice young lady getting into her car next to me kindly came over to help pick it up. As she smilingly tried to push it back into my book bag I saw her glance down onto the passenger seat next to her and register that there were two prenatal workout DVDs sat on a nice bed of my son's used tissues. The judgment clearly crept across her face as she seemed to now understand that this nice man with a cute child was taking some sort of library-reprieve in between a hard-core wanking addiction to some weird pregnant yoga-based niche porn. That he apparently didn't even watch but just looked at the box while sat in the car. And then she handed me the Twinkle Toes DVD. Nice start to the day.

Yesterday my daughter had her special school trip with the other winners of a reading competition. One from each year of the school agreed upon by each teacher in their respective year along with the librarian of the school. So all in all quite a decent thing to be recognized for - especially when my daughter's teacher told us that there wasn't any thinking needed on the issue. She is just suddenly light year's ahead in reading comprehension, writing and - more importantly - interest in reading. It actually hurts my head when I consider that when her mother stayed home and I worked that they would sit and read for hours. My daughter monotonously fetching the same slew of her favorite books to have read to her. Books read so often that we would find her sat with or even without the books remembering the stories out loud. And not just short, pithy board books - but long, often-verbose things like Julia Donaldson's Room On The Broom (illustrated wonderfully by Axel Scheffler, by the way) that were intended for children between four and 8 years of age. Obviously each child is different and each individual person has their own innate abilities. But in really simple terms all that reading resulted in more comprehension and more interest in doing it.

The hurt part comes twofold. Firstly in that my son just isn't anywhere near as interested in it. We still sit down and read. But the huge enthusiasm his sister had for sitting with her mother and reading over and over just isn't there. In fact the well-repeated point that girls develop at a clearly quicker level than boys is really evident. Not just in my own son but in the other kids of his age that I'm aware of. And it's evidenced more than any other way than in what interests he had. My daughter wanted to read and draw. My son does far more infrequently. His interests are almost exclusively trains, nipples and asking for something else to eat because he's already bored of whatever he already has.

But secondly the head-hurt is that it suddenly does become really clear that doing something like reading to a child has such a massive impact on them. So while my son has a markedly smaller interest in reading than his sister did we still make the effort to do it. And he still - particularly at the end of each day - sits down for a nice block of time and we read. And his bedtime is marked by having books read before laying down. But I know of plenty of other kids who don't read at all. Part of the conversation I had with my daughter's teacher was that it makes her maddeningly sad that some parents simply don't read at all. It's just not something they do. And it's telling in two ways because firstly kids tell their teachers everything. But secondly was the simple reminder that the kids have in their folders that they bring home each day. All the teacher asks is that each night we mark down how much reading we did at home so she can have a better understanding of how much development is needed and being done out of school. But that even now in the last days of February there are kids who's reading charts remain completely empty - their parents completely uninterested whatever that slip of paper is to such degree that when it has been mentioned to them they have no idea that such a thing even exists.

Anyhoo - I took my son to the book store to meet his sister on her trip. And - to really top it off - their mother took 90 minutes off work to underline that this was a real achievement. Still - our daughter  still didn't quite grasp the point of the whole thing and just figured that she'd been picked out of her class of fifteen to go somewhere and buy a book. Part of that whole thing about 5/6 year old kids not harboring shame, or envy is that they also don't have a genuine competitive element to their character either. Their achievements are wholly there's and not really measured against others. You can see this when you flat-out ask my a 5 year old who is the best at something (dancing, using monkey bars, eating sandwiches - anything) and they'll tell you in all honesty. There's no trampling-the-weak-and-unworthy rat race at all with them. So while my daughter is aware that she won something and why she still felt innocent and sincere enough to make the point that there are some other kids in the class who are really good at reading and have really pretty handwriting.

When asked this morning what her favorite part of the outing was she said, "eating lunch at the book store." Embarrassing for me as I'd gone to pack her lunch only to find that two of things I was going to give her were pretty unpleasantly moldy or missing. I'd already started making her peanut butter and jelly sandwich before discovering that they'd eaten all the good jelly (if such a thing exists) and all that remained was a suspiciously old jar way in the back of the fridge. And that once opened (the fact that top was stuck on that tightly should have been a clue of it's nefarious contents) it was clear that my kids did not want to be eating hairy blue jelly. So they ended up with a peanut butter sandwich with a stripe of Nutella in it. I'd put two apples to one side as well. I'd kept reopening the frudge door hoping that doing so would make them magically appear only to then find both kids in the toy room eating an apple each. So her packed lunch was very bad (nutritionally) and very beige. And the school secretary (the chaperone for the day) felt she couldn't avoid teasing me about my blue, hairy jelly (snort) and the cracking lunch I'd put together.And then reminded me that children tell teachers and school staff everything you know. My daughter then quickly added that the bus ride home to the school was her second favorite thing because they all got to read their new books. And when the sunshine got to hot the school secretary even let them all go sit on the dark side so they didn't get too hot.

Still it reminded me of a simple truth - my daughter thought the day was great because she got to go somewhere fun and eat lunch there. That simple. Essentially I can take my kids anywhere and do that and they think it's amazing. So I did that with my son again today. After the library we went back to the indoor playground we went to last week and then he ate a sandwich and some crackers. Top day for him.


Now I have to scrub a toilet.

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