Frankie, at almost two, is rapidly becoming a voracious reader with a growing collection of ‘real’ storybooks (I differentiate here between ‘vapid shite with a narrative I can follow’ and ‘vapid shite that takes over five steps to teach me why that’s not my panda’). I should be overjoyed by this, fit to burst with motherly pride and possibly lining up some contracts to sell the evil boy genius to medical science.
In case you were wondering…I’m not.
You see, he’s 100% in it for the letters and not the imaginative content.
I could sit with him for hours helping him navigate his way through tales of bugs, beasties and bears who love their mummy – doing all the appropriate comedy voices and sounding suitably enthusiastic (whilst inside I’m weeping for the merciless slaying of my valiant neurons) but he wouldn’t be taking in one single word of it.
You see, my little weasel is at his happiest pointing out road signs, graffiti tags, supermarket discount notices or the text on other children’s t-shirts and is in the precarious position of possibly being able to read before he knows how to verbalise what he’s doing.
So, being that the best ideas are often born out of stress-induced necessity and I really would like him to talk rather than beat me about the knees with things and squeal, I’ve formulated a plan…
Stories sans books.
Let me explain – obviously he’s too young to sit through a rambling, Ava original so we’ve started with books he knows, the first of which happened to be The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle (in my opinion the literary equivalent of that morose looking can of emergency tomato soup at the back of the cupboard).
For the first few days I encouraged him to engage with it on the level he felt most comfortable, for this particular example it was with a focus on counting. Oh god, so much counting…
Slowly but surely we moved away from poking the pages and into the realms of awkward amdram with some pretty cringe-worthy accompanying actions.
As of last night, come that time in the day when I’ve managed to put him in the bed but am being quite forcefully informed there’s not a merry hope in hell of him actually sleeping, I went all in and ditched the book completely.
(As an aside, despite being in possession of an eidetic memory, I have as yet only found two uses for it: 1) cramming for exams when I’ve suddenly discovered drinking my way through a term wasn’t conducive to a passing grade and 2) memorising childrens books).
What happened next was either the biggest fluke of my parenting career so far or a divine omen that I’ve struck the only ‘non-morally-reprehensible parenting technique’ gold I may ever find.
He stopped wriggling, screaming and otherwise beating up on me before smiling and joining in with the actions – absolutely delighted when the binge eating, kleptomaniac caterpillar emerged as a beautiful butterfly.
A few runs through and a bit of singing later, he was asleep.
Only time will tell if this was the exception rather than the rule and to be brutally honest I really wouldn’t put money on it sticking but for now, just for now, I’m going to revel in my minor victory.