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From Now Until It Isn’t

Is it a prerogative of youth that allows children to think that they can change the laws of the universe?
Or are my children particularly stubborn?
We all know that children don’t believe in physics. Each and every time they land on the ground, having fallen out of a tree or off a swingset, they look surprised. Why didn’t gravity suspend itself for my convenience?
My son, despite all evidence to the contrary, has decided that musical notes move. Not the ones you hear — sound actually does move. He has been learning to read music, and he is still convinced that that note at the bottom of the treble staff may or may not be D. Each time he looks at it, he has to stop and ponder. What note is it now? And what note is it now, ten seconds later?
I guess this is a form of optimism. Perhaps my son hopes that at some point, the notes will be whatever he wants them to be; perhaps the notes will always happen to be what he has just played, and in that way, he will be playing what’s written on the page.
What do they say about insanity? It’s when you keep doing the same thing but expect something different to happen. In that case, my kids are certifiably insane, and perhaps I should give up. But here’s another theory of mine (one I’ve spouted before): kids need to go through stages of everything we call a mental disorder in adults, as if they need to work through them to get past them and become functioning adults. So my son keeps seeing that note clinging to the bottom of the staff and he keeps wondering, Will that still be D now? I realize that it was D three seconds ago, but I’d better stop and think about it.
On the other hand, perhaps he’s just trying to drive me insane.
This is not a new phenomenon with him. Long ago when I was the mother of one preschooler and he seemed very bright, I thought that it would only be fitting for a mother such as I to have a son who could read unnaturally early, say at three years old. I gave up that idea when he was four, but the idea that he could read at four seemed to be a reasonable compromise. Again, I had to relinquish that vision a year later, when he crept past five and then six, still not getting the idea of sounding things out. Each time he saw T-H-E, he would laboriously pronounce, “tuh-HUH.” “No, buddy,” I’d say calmly and gently, “that’s ‘the’. It’s always been ‘the’. It will always be ‘the’. It’s OK — you can just LEARN THE DARN WORD and get on to CAT and DOG!!”
I gave up. Just like I gave up on his sleep: completely snapped and decided that REM sleep and I would never again be acquainted. I gave up on his reading. And just when I gave up on his sleeping, and gave in to the reality of my life without REM sleep, he slept. And just when he entered first grade saying he’d never, ever learn to read and why did I even try to teach him, one day he started reading. He didn’t just read THE and CAT and DOG; he read everything. One day “tuh-HUH.” The next day Dostoyevsky. Or, OK, more like Amelia Bedelia, but you get the picture.
I know I shouldn’t be so impatient. I know that my kids learn the way they do: they don’t seem to be learning anything, and it’s very frustrating, and then they take this great leap! It’s like they keep falling out of the same tree, and gravity keeps slamming them into the hard ground, then one day it occurs to them that their knees are a sort of spring, and they land on their feet and finally trick gravity. One day those notes are going to sing out at him and he will be reading, just as the letters in a book one day rearranged themselves into words in his brain.
I’m trying to think of an analogy that will calm my annoyance that my son can’t remember that the sweet little note clinging to the bottom of the staff will always be D. But I can’t. I just have to take a deep breath, and remember REM sleep. I get a lot of it these days. And it is good.
And so it will be, from now until it isn’t.

Posted in Parenting.


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