Saturday, March 5, 2011

A Delicate Subject

It's a delicate subject to talk about how smart your kid is.  There's a fine line between bragging and telling it like it is.  Between sounding proud and sounding obnoxious.  People wonder if you're exaggerating because it's your own kid or if your kid really is pretty smart.  No one ever completely believes you because all parents think their kid is the most perfect creation on the face of the planet.  All parents exaggerate.  All parents want others to think their kid is pretty great, too.

Well, there's my disclaimer.  I will not exaggerate.  And the purpose of this post is not to brag, I assure you.  It's about the self-inflicted pressure that faces the Stay-At-Home-Mom.  You're home with them all day, what else do you have to do besides craft and teach them to read and knit sweaters and sing Kumbaya?  Don't you just sit around and cook homemade organic meals and dream up ways to be better than you were the day before?  What do you mean you may not be perfect at absolutely everything?  What else do you have to do?

So that is my fear and here is my current challenge: Jax is an alphabet whore.  There, I said it.  There is nothing he would not do for the ABCs.  They are all we talk about all day long.  Letters (and numbers lately) consume our day.  He knows all the upper and lower case letters.  He wants to read the cereal box in the morning.  He watches Word World as often as I'll allow him.  He carries his ABC magnets around with him and is constantly trying to "build a word!"  The ABC flashcards are like crack to him.  He wants to read for ungodly lengths of time.  These are all great, wonderful things!  Except we've moved into a bit of a danger zone, an area where mom isn't as comfortable and where my footing isn't as sure.  He knows about 85% of his letter sounds and is starting to want to decode words.  He wants to break them down and sound them out for himself.  So now when he sees cat he doesn't say c-a-t anymore.  He says the sounds that those letters make and tries to blend them into a word.  The kid desperately wants to read.

This is the point of my story.  My son wants to read, all I have ever dreamed of.  All I want is to instill a love of reading in my children (I was an English teacher once upon a time, after all).  But I taught high school.  Those kids usually already knew how to read, or at least knew where to start.  People used to ask me, "Why don't you teach elementary school?" and I would wince in response.  "No way," I'd reply.  "Too much pressure.  Can you imagine the pressure of teaching thirty kids to read?  What if you do a bad job?  You screw them up for life."  I would rather teach 150 puberty-laden teenagers Beowulf than face the daunting task of helping six-year-olds understand consonant blends.

I am so anxious about failing.  People tell me all the time how smart Jax is, how ahead of the curve with his letters and numbers.  I am so unbelievably proud of him.  But what if I fail him?  What if I do him a disservice?  Isn't this whole Stay-At-Home-Mom bit about being my son's first teacher?  I'm not sure I should be his teacher.  And I used to be a teacher.  Ten years from now, sure.  I'll help him conjugate Spanish verbs and brush up on my algebra.  I'm help him understand poetry and edit his essays.  But right now?  I have to teach him to read?  I thought that's what his preschool and elementary school teachers would do.  I didn't know that I was going to have to sign up for this.  I'll decorate the gym for school dances, I'll drive him to soccer practice.  Those I can do.  What if I won't be able to teach him to read, and then he'll get bored and start to lose interest, and then when he hates reading and all things school-related, we can all look back and point the finger squarely at me.  (Over-analyze much?)

It seems silly to have anxiety about having a smart kid.  But I think there's quite a bit of pressure to be the mom that our kids need to be, whatever their strengths and weaknesses.  What if Em is a little behind?  I'll have to step up to the plate and be her tutor.  I can do that.  What if one of them is an athletic superstar, or a budding musician, or really shy?  I'll have to address those needs then, too.  I never wanted other people to raise my kids for me--their teachers, their coaches, their friends--and yet here I am, wishing I could hire someone to do this reading thing for me.  I feel like an ass because there are so many people who are facing critical things outside their comfort zones, like illnesses or disabilities, and they just attack them head-on with no hesitation.  Because they have to; that's their lives.  So I have a kid who wants to read now, instead of three years from now.  No wonder this is a delicate topic.  Talk about complaining about nothing!  I'm sure there are lots of parents out there who would kill to have that problem instead of their own and want to tell me to get the hell over myself.  That I stay home with them and what else do I have to do?

So that's my confessional.  Jax is smart.  I am anxious.  I know there are way worse things that I could be dealing with, but the honest truth is that I feel more pressure about this than I have felt with any other aspect of parenting thus far.  I can't imagine failing my children in any facet of our lives, and yet here is my first real opportunity.  Compound that with the fact that I stay at home with them and the pressure to be perfect is very real...I can't imagine a bigger failure than to mess up an already pretty rockstar kid.  And I can't believe I'm voicing that anxiety out loud, opening myself up to judgment.  But there it is, and here I am.  Judge away.  I'm a Stay-At-Home-Mom and I may not be perfect.  I just hope that my kids still think I am.


Di said...

love it.. and perfectly, totally normal and you will be able to do it :)

Becky said...

Thank you, Di! That's really helpful coming from you!

Amie said...

My son is the same way. He loves to read and now sounds out words but he just can't figure out how to sound it into a word. He's not yet 3 but we'll work on it at his own pace as I want him to always love reading. I'm sure you are doing a great job. My son also LOVES word world.

Alana said...

While I am no expert, I am pretty sure you are rockin' the whole mom thing. Just remember, as long as you are trying your best, you are doing what is best for your kids. Miss you...wish you were closer so we could talk about our parenting anxieties over a glass of wine.

Dawn said...

I think your post is so sweet! You wouldn't worry about things like that, if your kids weren't your whole world! So I'm sure once you dive in, you will realize everything will be great! =)

Beth said...

I totally wish I could get my 3 (almost 4) year old interested in her letters and numbers. She doesn't show any interest other than "reading" her books (a.k.a. telling the story according to the pictures on the pages). I honestly don't think you would ever fail at teaching Jax to read! Look how far you've helped him develop already! Sounds to me like he has a fabulous teacher!

Ashley said...

Hey! I'm here today from FTLOB and I'm so glad your blog comment was before mine! I always love finding fellow Moms - especially SAHMs to whom I can relate!

I read your post and I can understand your anxiety. I am constantly over analyzing everything about raising my son and worried I won't do the best job or help him find his full potential or whatever else. I don't think staying home is as easy as people who don't stay home think it is! You do everything and you constantly are putting pressure on yourself to do it well because you are shaping and molding your children and that's just so much pressure!

That being said, I think Jax will never look back and think that you didn't do enough for him. Just you analyzing it so much and being so anxious about it proves that you care a lot and work hard - and kids remember that! When I think back, I really just remember my Mom when her and I "broke new ground" in my education and when she was so proud of me for other achievements.

...And congrats on having a smart kid! ;)

Beth said...

I honestly don't think you could ever do Jax a "disservice"! Just look how far you've gotten him already! I am sure he will excel at reading, because YOU are his first teacher.

I wish my 3 (almost 4) year old daughter would take interest in learning the alphabet and numbers. She loves "reading" her books (a.k.a. telling the story according to the pictures), but just doesn't show much interest otherwise. I'd love some pointers on what I can do to grab her interest.

Take care and don't fret, it'll all turn out just perfect for both of you!

Heavenly Savings said...

Good for you! I know exactly how you feel! My daughter is 5 years old and at a 5th grade reading level. Not many people believe me other than her teachers who are struggling to know what to teach her next. She knows the bones in her body and the chambers and such in her heart, She learned about all the Presidents and how to count money and tell time, She even knows all 50 States in Alphabetical order! She is my pride and joy but sometimes it is hard for others to fathom. But when you are a stay at home Mom who only lets your child play with educational toys or watch educational cartoons it is amazing how fast their little minds will soak it up! I’m a new follower Happy Sunday!! I would love for you to stop and take a look at my blog as well! Thanks!

ixy said...

I really enjoyed your post - gave me a lot to think about. My daughter's 8 months old and I've been worried about how I'm going to handle homework in the future, since I do think it's her teacher's job to teach her, not mine. I shouldn't have to spend 3 hours a night on her too-difficult homework (talk about borrowing a problem that isn't here yet! :))

Your son's doing awesome, but I totally get the anxiety. I agree with pp though - the fact you think about this and are looking for ways to help him learn means you're doing a great job already! Also, if he wants to read this badly, he'll make it happen no matter what. He sounds like a pretty determined kid :)

ixy said...

Forgot (again!) to say I'm visiting from FTLOB - happy comment love Sunday!!

Rancher Mom said...

I home school my sons and would definitely rather teach Beowulf over consonant blends any day of the week!! I honestly think that the younger level stuff is way harder to teach!!

-Spreading the love from FTLOB-

Lucy The Valiant said...

I just hopped over here from FTLOB, and I totally get what you mean here. I'm an English teacher, and I have always hated the thought of teaching someone to read. You're exactly right - it's a lot of pressure! I don't even like doing reading remediation! That said, it sounds like you're doing an amazing job with your kiddo! He wouldn't be so advanced if it wasn't for you, after all!!

MamaTales said...

I think you are being way too hard on yourself. A 2 Jax is way ahead of other kids. He's just lucky to have a SAHM to give him the individual attention for him to excel. What I'd like to know is how you did it? Izzy is 18 months and she understands quite a bit of things I tell her but not there yet. I think a great follow up is your how to. :) I found your blog on Bloggy Moms SAHM group. Great post, my blog is at

Debbie said...

Hi - I'm stopping by from FTLOB.
Great post about the uncertainty of parenting. I think we all feel that way at times. Best wishes!

Anonymous said...

I know how you feel! Although teaching my 5 year old to read I can cope with, there's a few things I don't feel I can do; and yet, to the casual observer, it might seem like I have the perfect qualifications for the job.

My 5 year old is extremely artistic and is constantly drawing, cutting, pasting, colouring and demanding to paint. As an artistic type I'm constantly doing these things myself. So why am I so reluctant to encourage my daughter to do the same?? The only thing I can put it down to is that I dont' like mess. Even as a creative type I keep the mess to a minimum when I'm painting, scrapbooking, sewing etc. But how do I control the mess that my over-excitable 5 year old is bound to make with all that paint she wants to slosh around??! I'm not sure that I have the answer to that, so now I'm just trying to grin and bear it. I'm going to have to really cause the last thing I want to hear from my grown-up child is "My mother never let me paint, and it screwed me up in all sorts of ways"!

So, take a deep breath and sit down for a bit of cuddle time. Start with c-a-t and see how you go from there!! You won't screw it up just by trying.... and if you have doubts, why not go to your local school and ask for some tips. I'm sure they'd be more than happy to help!

Anonymous said...

Not sure if my other comment posted... but if it didn't... I'm just spreading the love from FTLOB! I seriously hope it did though cause it was like 'War & Peace' and I can't do it again! LOL.

shirrae1212 said...

Becky, all works out how it's suppose to be.
You're a great mom and that's all that matters.

They're getting so big and I love seeing them on your blog.

Love you,
Aunt Rae

Tids said...

You are so FAR from failing it's not even funny (does that make sense?). You have a bright, articulate son who wants to learn! That's just too awesome. Give yourself a pat on the back and have a big hug from me too x

Liz said...

I think kids get interested in the weirdest things at the weirdest times. Right now I am feeling the "judging" because my boyz (5 and 3) canNOT seem to get the words: fart, poop, but, and pee out of their daily (minutely?) vocabulary.

I think my 5 year old is the smartest thing on the planet! And then dumber then snot about other comes in waves I guess.

Hope to read more about your "journey"!

Jess said...

What a cute lil space you have here!
I'm stoppin by from For the Love of Blogs link-up!

I too am doing a photography project! But, I am only doing the weekly photo!

Soooo interested in this Cocktails and Crafts idea!

Gloria Benalcazar Plawner said...

Awww, soo much PRESSURE!!! I'm NO expert by any means. I know these are all things that I will worry about as a mom in a few months. I can't imagine having to teach a baby and child to live and survive in this world!! So much pressure. I can even imagine how much more pressure you have as a stay at home mom. You are suppose to have all the answers to everything. But are you really? Don't put all that on your shoulders!

And by the way, I had the best mom in the world and she NEVER spent as much time with me during my formative years as you do with your kids because she had to work! So she did what she could and loved me and I turned out ok! You do SO MUCH for your children on a daily basis and they learn so much from you that they are already at a super advantage! If you are able to teach them to read, then fantastic! But no pressure!

If you are able to teach Beowulf to high schoolers , you can DEFINITELY teach your little one how to read. It just might take a little learning on your part. I've seen my friends (kindergarten & 1st grade teachers) use their arms to sound out words. They point to their shoulder and say the "c" sound. Then point to their elbow and say the "a" sound. Then point to their hand and say the "t" sound. Then start at their shoulder again to sound out the word a little faster "c-a-t" as they move their hand down their arm, to show that the entire word is made up of three separate sounds. You can do that with any three letter word. It's tough to explain in writing but I'm sure you get it. If you want any extra tips, I can always ask them what at-home sources they recommend for parents. However, I'm sure you must have connections to all those mommy resources, especially being a teacher yourself. But to make a long story short, you are such an amazing mom and although moms are SUPPOSE to” know everything,” we are only human. Don't put that pressure on yourself. You have much more interesting things to do with your time and energy than worry! Good luck and I'm sure you will figure it out and do it with flying colors!

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