Teaching My Boy to Read

I’m teaching my boy to read these days.  Reading is a passion of mine.  If I was not so responsible I’d be up late with the light on to finish a book.  Who am I kidding? I’m not very responsible.

Luxury these days would be reading as long as I wanted rather than only as long as I could manage to put off other things.  I dream of the day when I will be the one at the pool with a book instead of the one with the bag of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

But my boy, he seems oblivious to reading. He’s compliant so he sits and participates in the lessons and he’s learning.  He’s also the one who told me quite clearly from the beginning that “some people read and some people build things.  I am the kind that builds things.” He thought that would get me off his back.  It did not though I’m pretty sure he will pursue a Bachelor of Science degree if he goes to college.

So, I sit five mornings a week and wait patiently for him to remember the sounds, figure out ways to help him blend sounds together, offer encouragement and correction, flash through cards.  It’s exhausting!  He even tells me to back off and not say “good!” after every successfully sounded out word.  Fair enough.  A guy’s got to maintain his dignity. I get it.

Recently, I noticed my son looking at some words and then trying to sound them out in his spare time. Up until that point, he’d been content to just see a jumble of words and let it be. Why try when Legos beckoned? Now, he looks, he assumes meaning can be found and he tries to unlock the code. I smile. It’s clicking. I’ve been waiting for it to click all year.

Perseverance.  That’s what it is my son does with such constancy in his learning that speaks to my spiritual life. Persevere. Keep sounding out what needs sounding out.  Keep reading the next word on the page even if I read it poorly and someone corrects me.  Even if I read it well and someone says “good!” in a way that makes me feel like a child.  Keep going until something about God, grace, and life clicks. Celebrate.  Then, move on to the next word and keep going.


Eliminating Pain

The fear of pain leads to a joyless existence.  Hmmm.  I recently read a little literature named The Giver by Lois Lowry.  If I attended a class on literature and needed to state one theme, well, there one is.  Fear of pain leads to a joyless existence.

To eliminate pain the community in The Giver lives by loads of rules in a very controlled and contrived life.  Love causes pain so families come together by committee instead of birth or romantic love.  Death causes pain so the old do not die but instead get secretly killed off.  Accidents cause pain so a multitude of rules govern every aspect of life.  In the absence of love, death, and pain life is grey, false, cold, and deceptively harmonious.

As one who struggles with fear, seeing such a bleak portrayal of fear’s destination shook me.  Things like escalators+children+crocs+developing nations=raw fear.  Pools+polished granite+kids=terror.  I see my daughter catching my fear like the contagious disease that it is and wonder if she will ever have much fun on an escalator again!  I name myself “Joy Stealer!”

Be safe!  As if I could do much to control most dangers.  Be safe is the popular replacement for goodbye in America these days.  My brother observed this for me.  Be safe!  Safety means avoiding pain.  Avoiding pain means making rules.  Making rules does take away some of the pain but it takes a free side of joy along with it.  Good and bad go together on the path to eliminate pain.  Grey is the color of safe.

Polished granite and water present real risks in this country I live in so I’m struggling through the difference between fear and appropriate caution.  What does it look like to nurture a child well in a world of unavoidable pain?  To raise a child and raise myself to take appropriate risks instead of play it grey?  To not be controlled by my fear or control others with my fear?  Fear and faith are incompatible.

The next theme I’m intrigued by in The Giver is sharing pain in community.  Bearing the weight of the wait means bearing the pain too.  And, the theme after that is the role of music and art in life.  Bearing the weight of the wait means a strangely joyful existence is promised us Followers.

So, I’m being bossy now, read The Giver!