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Sunday Salon: Will my child read books as a teenager?

January 10, 2010

The Sunday

The more important question is: Should I care if my child reads books as a teen?

My husband and I laugh at them.

You know the ones.

The parents who sign their children up for Mensa entry at 18 months.

The parents who will drone on, endlessly, about how their child is the next Picasso, Mozart, Joyce or Einstein.

The sad (or happy) truth is that every two year old is, in fact, a freakin’ genius. I think the phenomenon comes from several factors, mainly the volume of words emminating from something so lacking in bodily mass. The absurdity of the tininess that is a toddler, the otherwise vulnerable being, picking up skills and words at a breakneck speed, is often too much for most parents to handle.

Even though we know this (we own a preschool, we see it every day, both the parental claim to brilliance and to commonplace occurrence of the “advanced” baby) we have, at times, this past year, fallen victim to such thoughts. We are careful to remain calm, say “every child says ‘goal’ and ‘hockey game’ or ‘touchdown’ and ‘football’ . Every kid can spell his name or point out letters in his mom’s book. And surely, every kid says ‘guitar’ (and plays subsequent air guitar) when Peace Frogs starts and then says ‘singing’ when ol’ Jim starts belting out his melodies. Every kid wakes up asking ‘see art?’ and continues to bring up the topic until we visit a museum or at least a gallery.”

Of course, looking at the list, it really does just sound like a toddler, but when it comes out of your very own tiny person, it always knocks you off your feet. We realized the other day, that our children are simply reflections of us, at this point. He knows sports, music, dogs, books and art because we take him to games, concerts, museums, libraries and the dog park.

I guess, this is the same problem that arises when our children turn 14 and everyone swears that their child is the scum of the earth. Lazy, uninterested, tuned out and turned off. Human nature is to learn by experience and experimentation. Two year olds test limits but we dictate their interests, intentional or not. young adults experiment not in action but in affinity. Your Beethoven loving, violin playing, soccer star who used to have her nose to the grindstone in the engineering lab is suddenly spending her days getting more exercise from covering the X games for her school paper than running balls to the goal. She’s traded Debussy for Deathcab, her Stravivari for a Stratocaster, physics for photography.

This also applies to the kid who was raised vegan, with the Doors and the Stones, a born communist with flowers in her hair, never apart from her guitar and shunning competitive play, who hits college eating burgers with the football team she cheers for, chugging beer with her sorority sisters in Abercrombie jeans, listening to techno and majoring in business.

You think all of your hard work has gone to the dogs but has it? Is your child still your child? Your pride and joy? Your genius is still your genius even when he or she has broken off from the mothership.

These are, of course, easy lessons to spout when my own, of course, above average kid is asking to go to the art museum. Of course, sweetie, as long as you’ll never vote Republican…

4 Comments leave one →
  1. January 10, 2010 12:04 pm

    Not sure if my own bambinos read much as teens (we didn’t even talk much…too scary…) but they are slowly returning to book world as Big Grownups. Happy day.

  2. January 11, 2010 4:32 pm

    I completely and utterly relate to this post! I have a three year old and I also sixteen year old bonus boys (triplets). Right now, my daughter pretty much regurgitates everything I say (pure genius). Then there are the boy who are pure geniuses when they read and then not so much when they are playing PS2. Ah…the conflicts.

  3. January 12, 2010 9:53 pm

    I just today discovered your blog. This had me chuckling something fierce.

    My daughters are getting to that adolescent stage, where they start to go off on their own. When they were 2, they learned from us; now, we’re learning from them them. But occasionally, they still do something special that lets us know that they’re still—and will always be—our little girls.


  4. January 22, 2010 4:21 pm

    I have to say that I was a ferocious reader from a very wee age, but there have been a few years of my life – most pointedly the last couple of years of high school – when I only read a handful of books in any 12 month period. This is because I was pursuing other less solitary (but in the end, no less important) goals – like the establishment of close social bonds with fascinating friends, experimentation with academic fields (like calculus – yeesh) that didn’t come as easily to me as literary ones, writing my own poetry (I remember, in this very unreaderly period, whiling away the long physics classes by composing sonnets in the margins of my notebook), reading things that aren’t as easily categorized or counted as books (like poetry, or – nowadays – blogs), falling in love, staging plays, etc. And I always came back to reading long works eventually, when I was less busy and tired. In fact, I am a professor of literature now.

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