Thursday, April 18, 2013

Teach Her to Read

Teaching a child to read ranks in my top five most frustrating things I've ever done.  If there were a triathlon for parenting it would involve hanging laundry, picking up legos, and teaching a child to read. Even my kids who picked it up relatively easily still caused me more anguish than attempting to re-lace their shoes after they've torn the aglet off the end.

Currently, I'm attempting to teach two of our adopted daughters to read which is twice the fun (note heavy sarcasm).  They both have flashcards.  One is still on letters and sounds while the other is on sight words.  My favorite flashcards for the younger sister are... "Yy" which makes the "wuh" sound and "Hh" which makes the "ch" sound because every letter makes a sound in its name, right?  But do to her youth and naivety, I am able to show much grace because I know she's just getting started.  The older sister however can be as sharp as a tack... intuitive to a fault, but I am dying.  We are working through a list of about 25 sight words where each word no matter how many times we've reviewed it changes.  "Got" is "but", "what" is "they", and "said" is often "that".  Absolutely mind numbing!

At first, I would look into my daughters' souls attempting to stare literacy into their core as we recited these cards together.  I thought I was being something like Buddha putting them in touch with their former selves, but apparently their former selves couldn't read either nor did they understand the concept of reincarnation... nor do I for that matter.  Needless to say that quickly failed which only led me to one desperately misled conclusion... they're just not trying.  Tempers flared, tears rolled, wife stepped in, Duck Dynasty was turned on and peace re-entered our home.

In the midst of experiencing this repetitive, and often self-induced, frustration, the unholy thought crept up in my mind, "I did not ask for this.  I chose a bright, little, energetic girl who would call me 'Daddy', jump into my arms, embrace my instruction and discipline, graduate with honors, go to college and become a doctor."  This reading thing is just the tip of the iceberg in my children's lifelong journey of educational struggles... and it may be as both of them were exposed to heavy drug usage prior to birth.

But, so what!  I began to feel the Holy Spirit's indignation in response.  In my affluent, suburban upbringing, I am led to believe that if my child can't read they cannot succeed.  While, I'd agree that success, however it is defined, will be difficult without this skill, educational acumen will not be a determining factor for how I treasure my children.  This is not at all to say I will not hold them accountable or set high expectations according to their capacity.  It is simply to say my misguided expectations cannot hold me or my child hostage.  I have to be a better parent.

There are some unknowns that can come along with adoption.  When were her first steps?  What were her first words?  Where does she get her little quirks?  Some of these unknowns can be harmless little misfortunes for us and our sentiment, but some are not so harmless.  What drugs was she exposed to en utero?  How frequent and intense was the abuse or neglect she witnessed or suffered?  How will she respond to her identity as an adopted person and member of our family?

We are about two weeks into this routine with 15-20 sight words almost memorized, and each day that's gone by the need for Uncle Si to provide therapy following my reading lesson has diminished.  The girls still tear up not because I yell or stare at them in frustration, but because I won't let them quit.  Our mantra, "It's hard, but I can do it."  I suspect we will be chanting this for many months to come.  Ultimately, I teach my children to read to show them I'm willing to fight by their side when they succeed and when they struggle... although that whole literacy thing is important too.

PS: If you'd like to give me advice on how to teach my kids how to read... you can come over and share said advice while you hang up my laundry and pick up legos.

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