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It's a delicate subject to talk about how smart your kid is. There's a fine line between bragging and telling it like it is. Between sounding proud and sounding obnoxious. People wonder if you're exaggerating because it's your own kid or if your kid really is pretty smart. No one ever completely believes you because all parents think their kid is the most perfect creation on the face of the planet. All parents exaggerate. All parents want others to think their kid is pretty great, too.
Well, there's my disclaimer. I will not exaggerate. And the purpose of this post is not to brag, I assure you. It's about the self-inflicted pressure that faces the Stay-At-Home-Mom. You're home with them all day, what else do you have to do besides craft and teach them to read and knit sweaters and sing Kumbaya? Don't you just sit around and cook homemade organic meals and dream up ways to be better than you were the day before? What do you mean you may not be perfect at absolutely everything? What else do you have to do?
So that is my fear and here is my current challenge: Jax is an alphabet whore. There, I said it. There is nothing he would not do for the ABCs. They are all we talk about all day long. Letters (and numbers lately) consume our day. He knows all the upper and lower case letters. He wants to read the cereal box in the morning. He watches Word World as often as I'll allow him. He carries his ABC magnets around with him and is constantly trying to "build a word!" The ABC flashcards are like crack to him. He wants to read for ungodly lengths of time. These are all great, wonderful things! Except we've moved into a bit of a danger zone, an area where mom isn't as comfortable and where my footing isn't as sure. He knows about 85% of his letter sounds and is starting to want to decode words. He wants to break them down and sound them out for himself. So now when he sees cat he doesn't say c-a-t anymore. He says the sounds that those letters make and tries to blend them into a word. The kid desperately wants to read.
This is the point of my story. My son wants to read, all I have ever dreamed of. All I want is to instill a love of reading in my children (I was an English teacher once upon a time, after all). But I taught high school. Those kids usually already knew how to read, or at least knew where to start. People used to ask me, "Why don't you teach elementary school?" and I would wince in response. "No way," I'd reply. "Too much pressure. Can you imagine the pressure of teaching thirty kids to read? What if you do a bad job? You screw them up for life." I would rather teach 150 puberty-laden teenagers Beowulf than face the daunting task of helping six-year-olds understand consonant blends.
I am so anxious about failing. People tell me all the time how smart Jax is, how ahead of the curve with his letters and numbers. I am so unbelievably proud of him. But what if I fail him? What if I do him a disservice? Isn't this whole Stay-At-Home-Mom bit about being my son's first teacher? I'm not sure I should be his teacher. Ten years from now, sure. I'll help him conjugate Spanish verbs and brush up on my algebra. I'm help him understand poetry and edit his essays. But right now? I have to teach him to read? I thought that's what his preschool and elementary school teachers would do. I didn't know that I was going to have to sign up for this. I'll decorate the gym for school dances, I'll drive him to soccer practice. Those I can do. What if I won't be able to teach him to read, and then he'll get bored and start to lose interest, and then when he hates reading and all things school-related, we can all look back and point the finger squarely at me. (Over-analyze much?)
It seems silly to have anxiety about having a smart kid. But I think there's quite a bit of pressure to be the mom that our kids need to be, whatever their strengths and weaknesses. What if Em is a little behind? I'll have to step up to the plate and be her tutor. I can do that. What if one of them is an athletic superstar, or a budding musician, or really shy? I'll have to address those needs then, too. I never wanted other people to raise my kids for me--their teachers, their coaches, their friends--and yet here I am, wishing I could hire someone to do this reading thing for me. I feel like an ass because there are so many people who are facing critical things outside their comfort zones, like illnesses or disabilities, and they just attack them head-on with no hesitation. Because they have to; that's their lives. So I have a kid who wants to read now, instead of three years from now. No wonder this is a delicate topic. Talk about complaining about nothing! I'm sure there are lots of parents out there who would kill to have that problem instead of their own and want to tell me to get the hell over myself. That I stay home with them and what else do I have to do?
So that's my confessional. Jax is smart. I am anxious. I know there are way worse things that I could be dealing with, but the honest truth is that I feel more pressure about this than I have felt with any other aspect of parenting thus far. I can't imagine failing my children in any facet of our lives, and yet here is my first real opportunity. Compound that with the fact that I stay at home with them and the pressure to be perfect is very real...I can't imagine a bigger failure than to mess up an already pretty rockstar kid. And I can't believe I'm voicing that anxiety out loud, opening myself up to judgment. But there it is, and here I am. Judge away. I'm a Stay-At-Home-Mom and I may not be perfect. I just hope that my kids still think I am.