I met up socially with my daughter’s old nursery teacher a couple of days ago. Whilst we didn’t speak much about the Monkeyface, one of the teacher’s first sentences to me was “I hear the Monkeyface is doing fantastically with her reading…” It’s true, she is.
Later that day, another friend came over to try figure something out on WordPress with me (I know, that’s funny, right… My blogging is now so intermittent I’m almost a born-again interweb-Virgin.) The two things happening on the same day made me realise, with a jolt, just how much the Monkeyface has achieved. When I think how hard it was to read to her as a baby, how difficult I found it. What a failure I felt. And then to get her to read.! Looking back, it just takes a heap of tenacity and time (which back then was In short supply!) look at her now! She’s a voracious reader, with a reading age almost double her age. Just yesterday, she read 8 books. 8! She’s 5!
Part of the difficulty with blogging is that, well we just aren’t able to read as many books with her these days – because she’s the one who wants to read! That’s insane. Well, actually, perhaps not.
I’m so jealous of her intake.
Later than I should have, but way earlier than I did last time, I’ve started reading to my baby son. Astonishingly, I’m finding it so much easier to cope with the silent witness, the book-eating, the snatching away of the book and the interest in just turning one page back and forth. I find it embarrassing really, how hard I found that with my daughter. Truly, what did I expect a baby or toddler to do? Sit in awe of my every word? Well, yes, I actually did. Ego, much?
I still can’t handle the 5 page cloth books with nothing but pictures on. Perhaps I lack imagination. But we’ve jumped straight in with Peepo, simply because Monkeyface and I had our first productive reads with Each Peach Pear Plum by the same authors. So, the books are special. I did want to keep some of my reading journey with Monkeyface special though, which is why I’ve tried to start with different books. Certainly, the fact that MF has come so far so successfully on her learning journey has filled me with confidence with the little man. He is his own person, however. It’s going to be exciting to see where this leads.
So much to say, but a picture says a thousand words. So proud of my readers.
I’m sorry for the smug parent post. I try not to behave as though she’s the smartest child on the planet because I know academic progress at this stage is so arbitrary: kids’ development turns on a sixpence. I just want to celebrate this enormous progress and Em’s achievement. This blog only exists because reading together was initially so hard. If you’re struggling with a child who can, but won’t, I hope this inspires you to keep going.
“Reading is everything. Reading makes me feel I’ve accomplished something, learned something, become a better person. Reading makes me smarter.” Nora Ephron – I Feel Bad About My Neck
Yes, I’m just going to slide in here at the back, like a latecomer at a wedding, and just pretend like I’ve been here this whole last 5 months. Just write up a post like I’ve never not been posting… Will probably say too much, at speed, in my haste to be totally normal and on top of things, only to think later on “why did I even say that!??” So. Nothing to see here.
Yesterday, probably day 147 of sitting on the sofa that is my maternity leave, I actually did something about my urge to read whilst fossilising there… Incredibly, I’ve been fighting it. “But I should just be DOING some housework. If I could only put Ben down.” Yeah yeah, I know, the only thing you should be doing is looking after the baby. So says everyone apart from my mother. And possibly my neighbours about whom I’m developing quite the complex. You see, they see me on the sofa when they go out, with my son in my arms, and they see me in the same spot when they return. Sometimes I have actually moved from that spot a little bit during the day. Not that they would know. But, trust me, nothing says you need to do some housework like going out for the day 100 miles away, accidentally leaving the front door open and triggering those same neighbours to do a recce around your house to ensure you weren’t dead in your beds. Kind of them, sure, but socially even more mortifying for you.
But my new son doesn’t get this and now I have no choice but to accept that my neighbours are certainly convinced we are the family from hell next door, that I never move from my spot on the sofa and that I am definitely not currently on speaking terms with domesticity. Once you move past the unedifying shame of knowing they’ve seen the 2 weeks’ worth of ironing strewn about your bedroom, it’s quite liberating. I can finally stop the self-delusion and self-abuse that I even could be doing something else and instead just sit here holding my struggling boy who will not sleep anywhere but in my arms or in the pram. And enjoy it while I can. And I can give in to just sitting here and do some important things for my mental health, at the same time. Like watching entire seasons of House Of Cards. And reading.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the first person I’ve turned to to read since having Ben is Nora Ephron. Heartburn was a revelation, to me, a few years ago, probably because when I thought of Nora Ephron, I thought of all of the sentimental movies she was involved in that invariably starred Meg Ryan and which I have never seen nor probably ever will. So, I read it with low expectations. And it hit me between the eyes. When I read it, my friend’s mum was mortally ill. For some reason, I really wanted and intended to pass on the book. I feel I failed Lyn a little bit by not getting around to giving it to her. Which is ridiculous. She didn’t know I intended to let her have it and in any case she was probably too ill to read for herself. But to this day I think of Lyn when I think of the book and know she would have loved it.
I was genuinely upset when I heard of Nora Ephron’s death on my husband’s 40th birthday. And yesterday I read the last thing she ever wrote and published, which I found very poignant – as well as hilarious – in my sleepless, hormonal state. As Ben lay, heavy in my arms, I devoured her words and wit and wisdom and felt quite healed in the process. There’s something about reading the words of others that can help order those conflicted thoughts that go around your head when you’re sat with only them and a sleepy weight in your arms for company, day after day. It’s a beautiful, silent dialogue with no one to judge you. I was an only child, so this conversation has always been a lifeline for me. She sums it up here, perfectly. Thanks, Nora.
“Reading is escape, and the opposite of escape; it’s a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it’s a way of making contact with someone else’s imagination after a day that’s all too real.”
A few days ago, before I ended up languishing in an NHS hospital bed, the Monkey and I spent a lazy Saturday reading and having fun. The monkey’s fun of choice was me reading the Enchanted Wood to her and her reading assorted Biff, Chip and Kipper tales to me. There may have been a bit of snoozing, too…
The Monkey has it bad for The Magic Faraway Tree.
After a bumpy start in her Reception class, she’s settled back down and is adapting to the new school regime. Or maybe its the combination of threats/ bribery that are working. Who cares?
So I was a bit surprised when I collected her from my mother’s, last night, only to be told that she’d been grumpy again when her grandmother met her at the school gates. “I don’t want you to collect me, I want mummy to get me.”
I tried to have a firm but fair word with her about speaking like this to nanny – as well as trying to get to the bottom of what is wrong and why she doesn’t want nanny to get her.
“Because I wanted to come home and read The Faraway Tree with you, mummy.”
Be very, very careful what you set out to achieve and how you wish to measure success…