Wednesday, October 27, 2010

On not reading and pumpkins with three noses

Monday night I attended the "parent education night" for Henry's preschool. One of the teachers brought out a box of multi-hued composition books. She explained that the box was available at the writing table each day because "I know a lot of your children are already reading and writing." Many parents nodded and smiled beatifically.

My stomach turned over. The reading and writing skills of Henry's classmates are not news to me. I have watched the progression of birthday-party thank-you cards over the last few months--first kids signed their own names, then some were writing "thank you," then a few were including messages and addressing the envelopes. For his birthday in June, Henry signed each card with a large "H," sometimes an "E" with up to eight cross-bars, and some stickers.

I raised my hand. "I know a lot of kids are already reading," I said, flushing with embarrassment, "but Henry has only just learned to write his name." It felt like a confession--Hi, my name is Meghan, and I have failed my child.

And then this other mom, the one who is so pretty and so nice with her hot husband and beautiful children, the one I have envied because her children will likely require far less therapy than mine, raised her hand. "My son comes home talking about how other kids can read and write, and he can't do those things yet. What can I say to him?" She had tears in her eyes.

See, here's the thing about parents. Almost everyone will tell you--if not to your face, then in their Facebook updates--what their child is doing well. My daughter's reading! My three-year-old solved for "x" in this equation! My first grader won first prize in the science fair for inventing a car that gets 100 miles to the gallon! They don't say that their kid threw sand in another kid's face or that they're having trouble expunging the word "idiot" from their 4-year-old's vocabulary.

So those of us whose kid is not reading and has not yet solved for "x" watch our beloved offspring pretend to shoot the cat with his tinker toy blaster and think that we are perhaps failing at this most important of jobs. Worse, we think we're alone.

After the meeting, which I left with a list of 14 things I could to do to become a better parent, a few of the parents stayed around, turning over art projects to see whose kid had made what. (Henry's jack-o-lantern was the one with three noses and the eyes on its chin. For the record, he knows where eyes and noses go. He just thinks it's scarier with them all mixed up.) One woman told me her daughter thought Henry was hilarious because he said he was making a pizza with penises and poop on top, which is yet another thing I won't be posting on Facebook. This other mom, whose son is a certified genius--the kid who made his phone number out of Legos when we had a playdate two years ago--said, "I am so glad to hear that Harper's not the only one who's making fart and poop jokes."

At least Henry is in distinguished company.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Love and marriage

Lately Henry wants to marry Amelia.

"That's sweet," I told him when he first brought it up last week, "but you're not really supposed to marry your sister."

Henry glared at me and crossed his arms. "I don't care, I'm going to marry her anyway."

So, you know, fine with me. I'm certainly not going to argue the point with him. By the time he's old enough to marry, the thought of marrying his sister will make his skin crawl. In fact, after watching Simon and I snipe at each other for a few more years, the thought of marrying ANYONE will make his skin crawl. As well it should.

Unfortunately for poor Henry, Amelia does not share his ardor.

"Amelia," Henry said to her yesterday, taking her little face in his hands, "do you want to marry me?"

Amelia pursed her tiny mouth, looked him in the eyes, and gently replied, "No, Haya."

And Henry began to bawl. Just really bawl as though his heart had been shattered.

I held him and stroked his hair and tried to think of something to say to ease the sting of rejection. "You can marry me!" I offered. That's weird, right? But he's a 4-year-old asking his 2-year-old sister to marry him, so we've already veered off the beaten path here.

"I don't want to marry you," Henry growled. "I want to marry Amelia." And the tears began anew.

For the record, that officially makes no one in our family who wants to be married to me.