Screen Shot 2014-01-06 at 5.17.24 AMWhoever’s teaching these kids to read–stop. I know, you’re amazing. You have a magic about you. One day, I put Declan on the bus. Seven hours later, he got off spelling. Mysterious!

I like that he’s lying on the floor reading books about bugs and dinosaurs. I have to pull out “Hooked on Phonics” to help.  Understand, though, having kids who read makes parenting a whole new game.

I can’t spell to get around him anymore. “Want to go to the z-o-o with us if we have time?”

“THE ZOO!” Now we have to go.

“Hey Mom? How do you spell ‘ass’?” Who around here was talking about Biblical donkeys?

We always read a story before bed. “Before bed” can be any time up to, or including, my own bedtime. I get no rest. He pops out for a variety of reasons. “I need water.” “My leg is itchy.” “The Red Sox should’ve lost.” “How ’bout that global warming?”

But still, I have to read to him. Reading together is good. They tell me to log the stories we read. This, I don’t like. First off, who believes a kid who read Dr. Seuss for six weeks in a row? Does it count for “twenty-five books?” And if he reads “The Hobbit,” do we need twenty-four more? I can’t help it if he fixates. Second, it’s my job to give homework not do it. I forget and fall asleep.

I tell him we’ll read a short story, since it’s late and he hasn’t gone to bed. He hands me a long one. “READ!” This wasn’t a problem in the past. I skipped pages and said “The end.” Now, he knows. He waves his little finger and says, “HEY! You missed a page!” He knows when I shorten pages, too. “It says, ‘he said,’ Mommy. You forgot to read that part. Do it again.” 

He can read captions on advertisements, like the number to call to order As Seen on TV toys. He keeps a logbook of words he needs to spell into Netflix search to get his favorite shows, sounding out the ones of which I do not approve, asking me word by word when I least suspect it. He writes them secretly on pieces of paper hidden throughout the house.

I check his shelf. No “Steal this Book.” No “Anarchists Cookbook.” Just a bunch of dinosaurs whose names I can’t read properly. I think we’re safe for now.

But it got me to thinking about this moment–the moment where a child learns and becomes more independent, less simple to control.

I’ve been teaching skills I call “Big Money Skills.” Things students can use in the real world–data analysis, public speaking, writing, a touch of entrepreneurial spirit. These are dangerous things. Public speaking may give them the confidence to mouth off, learning about the world could teach them to use a GPS and be out after curfew. Writing might make them use big words, then we’d all have to pull out our dictionaries while they run haywire doing whatever they want. The entrepreneurial spirit could give them big ideas. Soon they’ll be filling out tax forms at the Sunday dinner table.

Watching Declan learn to read made me realize I owe all my parents a big apology. I hope I haven’t given you too much homework or taught your kids things that annoy you. From now on, I’ll focus on skills that will get them to be independent and move out of the house, that’s all. Standards be damned. Then, you’ll have a moment of peace that I crave, and you’ll like me once again.