Monday, December 5, 2011

And I Dreamed Of Chickens...

Owen threw no hissy fits when he got to the house this morning although he did assure me that he did not want a nap. I agreed that it was a bit early for a nap.

We did our regular things and he is starting to use short sentences. He is a busy child. He loves to play with my mixing bowl and the three different beaters. He hangs the whip from the dough hook, he tries to figure them all out. He is a thoughtful child, Owen is. And sometimes, when you ask him something, he will literally put his hand up to his face and say, "Mmmm. Think."

He has no interest in the alphabet or numbers and will sometimes even put his finger up if I am trying to "teach" him something in those departments and say, "Stop." It is as if he knows he is not ready- let's not waste time on this shit. But I can watch his mind working, I can watch new concepts forming and taking hold. It is a glory.
Having raised four children of my own, I know how each child learns so differently. My first child wanted to read desperately and taught himself at age three. day the boy could read. Sesame Street and me reading him endless books. And the same ones, over and over again.
My second and third children learned to read right in late kindergarten, first grade. "Normal" kids.
And then came Jessie who didn't really seem to care about reading much. She liked it when I read to her but she, like Owen, wasn't interested in learning the alphabet herself and then (poor fourth child, as she was) she came home from kindergarten one day and said, "Mama. I can't learn my ABC's."
"I can't learn my ABC's."
Turns out the child had a reading disability of a fairly serious order. I was stunned. Reading for me has always been just opening my eyes and letting the words in. Simple as that. It all made so much sense.
But I had to pay attention, I had to realize that she really did have what we perceive as a problem. Since she was my fourth child I didn't freak out. I knew the child was smart as a whip and could memorize like no one else in the house. And also, I knew that her father probably would have been diagnosed with a reading disorder if they'd known what the hell reading disorders were when we were young. As it was, he was just made to feel stupid. And then went on to get a college education and lead a life where reading wasn't really that important to him. He can tear a contract apart but reading for pleasure is not something that came naturally to him. I can remember other kids when I was in elementary school who just could not "get" reading and even the best teachers had no idea what the problem was and those children too, were made to feel less intelligent than all of us little smarty-pants who could read anything. Remember when we all had to read out loud in class? Hell, I was so good that the teacher in the second grade let me read our after-lunch chapter books out loud to the entire class while she went and got another glass of tea while some of the children were still stumbling over the second-grade reader.
I wonder what all was set in motion there.
For one thing it made those stumbling children hate my guts. I do know that.

But back to Jessie- she was lucky in many ways. She was born in a time when it was recognized that not all brains process words and letters the same way. That there are different learning styles. And she was diagnosed and had a reading teacher who tucked that child under her wing and worked with her and loved her AND Jessie was born with a persistent spirit and a strong soul which served her well. And she, of course, graduated from nursing school with a BSN and a very, very high GPA. I even think that having to come up with strategies to learn to read has helped her in countless other ways in her life and so, in a way, she was doubly blessed.
She learned not to give up, for one thing, and I hope she knows how incredibly smart she is to have conquered that "disability."

So when Owen shows no interest in learning the alphabet song I don't freak out at all. So what? The child knows which animals live in the woods and which live in the jungle and which live on the farm. This is important to him so he knows. Reading, for now, is not and he is two years old and when he tells me to stop talking about it, I shut it right down. No problem. He knows how to hold a fishing rod properly, how to use tongs, where beans, tomatoes, greens, and eggs come from. He can get his desires, his jokes, and his meaning across. Knowing that he already understands humor makes me know how smart that little boy is.

And I get to watch this. I get to be a part of this.

He and I took a long, lovely nap today. We read a book and then he asked for Peep and turned his back to me which means he wants me to scratch his back and so I did and he fell asleep and then so did I and we slept for forever, or at least a few hours and when he woke up, he had the wildest bed-hair I've ever seen.

I gave him snacks and then took him to his mother. And he'll be back tomorrow at eight.
This is my life and if I am sure of one thing, it is that I can't do shit to save the world but I can sure as hell pay attention to my grandson and do whatever I can do to encourage his strengths and let him know that he is, in his own very Owen self way, perfect.

Nap hair and all.

That's me.
Night, y'all.

Love...Ms. Moon


  1. It almost looks like he went to the salon to have his hair styled that way. No? Okay, but he does look precious.

  2. He really looks like an angel, that Owen.

    This post gives me so much comfort. As you know my Oliver has pretty serious learning issues with reading and writing, and while I'm not one to freak out (given all that I know of neurology, etc.!), it's still comforting to read words like yours and to know of others' experiences. So thank you for reminding me of all of this. Have I ever told you that I wished you were MY mother -- or maybe my older sister?

  3. Very Important Post. At least we're learning about learning, these days. My smallest is starting to get interested, and recognising. I'm letting him lead, because he's not so into being Taught, about it. I think that's the answer. I also think Owen's too small yet - formal education (and reading) mess up the way we learn, apparently. For one thing, when you start to read you lose your ability to memorise so well.

    Bless Jessie for being able to articulate the problem so brilliantly.

  4. If paying attention to your grandson is not something that's saving the world, I don't know what is.

  5. Your post was so beautiful that I got tears. Your depiction of you reading young reminds me of same experiences. In first grade I used to pretend to not know words to be like the other kids and later in 1st grade in Naples, FL with a very mean teacher I read books aloud and the kids hated me more. So strange how I was just there visiting grandma.
    Your words about Owen and Jessie were just perfect. Hope you two have another great day of discoveries.

  6. I love your words Mama. Somehow, after all that struggle, I can read with the ability to not only understand, but to love. Isn't that amazing?
    You're right, it took a whole lot out of me to accomplish this, but I can only think about how much work you put into it too. I will never forget the nights and days you spent telling me that I could do it, even if somewhere in your mind you had doubts yourself.
    It's good to be reminded of how I came to this Jessie that I am today. Thank you for taking the time to pay attention to me. It's exactly what I needed. And Owen is a lucky little boy to be getting that too.
    I love you Mama.
    By the by, I so loved having Owen up here. It was brilliantly fun being with that little man. He is a life force and a very intelligent one, at that. Plus I had my Lily and my Jason, too. It was wonderful.

  7. Rubye Jack- It's that baby-blond hair some of us seek in our adulthood, I think. And we never, ever get it.

    Denise- My hair just looks BAD. But Owen's does look amazing, doesn't it?

    Elizabeth- Well, as I always say- I look better on paper than I do in real life. Or online, anyway. But I would be so proud to be any part of your family at all. And Oliver is blessed to have the mother he does. As are all of your children.

    Jo- Yep. Got to let the child tell you where to go. And I don't know about the memorization thing. Hank is a whiz at it, despite his early reading.

    Sabine- Right now I'm saving the world by letting him watch Sesame Street. Ten a.m. and I'm already worn out!

    Michele R- We have discovered this morning that ten-feet long alphabet puzzles can be pretty fun. So can throwing all the damn dominoes all over the library.
    Teachers have no idea what they're doing sometimes, do they? I still sort of feel like everyone hates my guts. Which is stupid, of course.

    Honeyluna- Jessie girl- you have no idea how those words make me feel. You NEVER gave up, and it was HARD and the fact that you can read for pleasure now makes me so very happy. I love you SO much. And am so proud of you, always.
    And Owen loves you too. He IS a force of nature, isn't he? And yes, he is smart. He outsmarts me all the time. Sigh...

  8. I think that so much damage is done to kids who have learning disorders, if those are not recognized. It is so valuable to not treat them as if they could learn in a linear fashion, but to provide them with help that matches their way of thinking. Not every kid is going to learn the same. Thanks for posting about this.

  9. Gosh he's cute. Loved this. Yay Jessie.

  10. I can almost smell him, sleep drunk and rosy cheeks. A beautiful boy. I missed your posts when I was in Belgium... I am back now and playing catchup...

  11. Syd- It came to me the other day about how parents always do this thing where they compare what their kids are doing to what other kids are doing at that age and it's always such rigid shit- not the ephemeral things that can indicate huge intelligence and curiosity and stuff that really matters.

    Bethany- Ain't he adorable? And YAY! Jessie is right.

    Photocat- "Hold me," he says. And you know I do.


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