Friday, August 31, 2012

A Lesson from my Son

             My boys climb into the car after a busy day at camp. They answer my questions of, “How was your day?” and “Did you do something fun?” with dull, short answers. They’re tired—all talked out from nine hours with their friends. A few seconds later a song or something a commentator says on the radio inspires Owen to speak. Something other than my boring question gets him started and he doesn’t stop. He tells me he hopes I’m voting for Obama and why. He tells me why Green Day is his favorite band. He tells me in great detail why he lost the last dodge ball game he played. He tells me why he no longer wants Fluff on his peanut butter sandwich. He talks until we arrive home and something else grabs his attention.
            When Owen was about sixteen months old, I was beginning to worry about his very limited vocabulary. Cookie and Daddy were the only recognizable words to come out of his mouth. If he was feeling particularly cheeky, he’d call me Vickie. But he never said “Mama”. I had done everything the books told me to do. I read to him, sang to him, babbled back at him when he was an infant, but he just didn’t talk much. At a party one day I mentioned my concerns to a friend who was a pediatric speech pathologist. He watched us interact and told me I had nothing to worry about. “He doesn’t talk because he doesn’t need to,” he told me. “You anticipate all of Owen’s needs. Stop doing it and he’ll start talking.”
            He was right. A few days later Owen leaned on the refrigerator door and whined. Normally I would ask him if he’d like some cheese. Instead, I said, “Tell me what you want.” He whined again. “Sorry, you need to tell Mama what you want.” He looked at me like I was crazy and said with utter exasperation, “Cheese!”
            He hasn’t stopped talking since that day.
            When the time came to learn to read, Owen struggled. He was bright. Anyone could see that. He picked up complicated concepts easily. But learning to read took effort he wasn’t willing to make. He had the tools to read, but he wasn’t ready to use them. Then he discovered the graphic novel section at our local library. I told him it was too awkward to read a graphic novel out loud and he’d have to read it himself. By the next morning he had finished “Missile Mouse”. It was the turning point for Owen. It sounds like a cliche, but overnight he became a voracious reader.
            Owen taught me that kids learn at their own pace. You can’t force them. Whether it’s reading or talking or even toilet training (especially toilet training?) a person has to be motivated to learn. All the incentives and lectures in the world won’t get a person to learn something they aren’t ready to learn. Now I wonder when he’ll be ready to learn to put his dirty clothes in the hamper.
Mama’s Losin’ It
I'm linking up with Mama Kat. This week we were asked to share a lesson we learned from one of our children.