To my sweet little girl, who may not be so little anymore but still…
Two days ago I asked you to read with me. This week has been crazy with long hours at school for me and I have missed so much of our daily routine. No books, no hugs, just hurried bedtime kisses and promises for a weekend together. So you searched for a book and I watched you pick up, discard, pick up, discard, pick up, discard until you finally grabbed a book and sat in close. You opened the first page and then stopped….
Haltingly you forced out the first word, then went through the next and then you stopped once more. Guessed, moved on until you once again became stuck and the words did not come. I pointed at the words, waiting patiently but I felt it in every inch of you; the tension. The difficulty. The work…The exact opposite experience I wanted to have with you and then you said, “Mom…reading is really hard. I don’t think I like reading anymore…” And I had to look away because for a second my world stopped and I had to take a breath and find my smile and look at you. I said the only words I knew to say which were, “I know, I am sorry, but you are doing it, think of how far you have come…”
And yet…I cannot help but think of what we did wrong when we raised you to be a reader. Of how we must have screwed up somehow because it is not meant to be this hard. It is not meant to be such a struggle when you are eight. It is not meant to be this constant struggle, god I hate that word, and yet struggle is exactly what you do when you try to crack the code of the word on the page in front of you, a word I swear you just knew the night before. And so I blame myself, how can I not, because I am the one that should have done something, whatever IT was, that I obviously didn’t do and now here you sit telling me that reading is not something you like anymore. That reading may not be your thing because it is boring, and hard, and obviously not meant to be figured out by a kid like you. And it tears me apart because what is life without reading and how come mommy can’t fix this?
You go to bed and turn on the light. As I tuck you in you tell me one more book, mom, and you do your version of reading, and I know deep down that it wasn’t us, that it wasn’t something we did, but I still feel so darn responsible, like I somehow screwed up by not reading more books or pointing out more words. Like somehow I missed a step when they told me how to raise a reader, and I feel so lost in how to help you, and I am sorry.
But you, my little girl, are teaching me that sometimes things are outside of our control and even though we try so hard as parents it doesn’t always work. That even though we stuffed our house as full of books as we could. That even though we read to you every night. That even though we pointed at the words and tried to make reading fun, it still may be the hardest thing you have ever had to overcome. And that although I wish I could just flip a switch, or carry the burden for you, that all I can do is keep smiling and keep the focus on what really matters; the love of books.
So tomorrow we are home and I will ask you once again. “Come sit by me and find a book, let’s read it together…” and you will. And you will pick up, discard, pick up, discard, pick up, discard and together we will slowly piece the words together and hopefully, we will laugh. And hopefully, you will be proud, because I will be. Every day. Every book. Every word, even if we don’t get it right the first time.