I don’t know whether the Big Breakthrough is a week, a month, or a year away, but 3-year-old F is on the verge of reading. After his bedtime story tonight, he “read” out loud a stack of booklets cut out from old issues of Your Big Backyard, meaning that he flipped through the pages of each and recalled the text from memory as best he could.
For one page of a booklet about rabbits, F recollected the text as “Baby bunnies are born nakedy,” and I thought I was going to snort up a bit of my sweetly broken heart. The thought occurred to me that I didn’t want him to truly learn how to read if it meant me no longer getting to hear words like “nakedy.”
Then the thought occurred to me that the previous thought was completely stupid. Of course I want him to truly learn to read — the gifts that reading will bring into his life will far outweigh the loss of any cutesy perceptions of lost innocence that his dad may have. For that matter, being able to read will far outweigh any semi-serious drawbacks to literacy that you or I could think of — the hassle of getting books back to the library on time, or the burden of deciding what to read next, or the anguish of figuring how to organize one’s bookshelves.
And the same goes for me with regard to the curious bit of self-pity I’ve experienced recently as I mull the work ahead of me in the next year or so as I research, write, revise, secure photo permissions for, and prepare to promote the various projects I’ve got under contract.
The key words there are “under contract,” as I’ve been plenty busy in some fashion during each of the seven years that I’ve been pursuing children’s writing — just not busy, for the most part, with work that I’m obligated to perform within a certain span of time in order to meet deadlines or publication dates. But having spent much of those seven years being willing to stop just short of killing in order to have the “problems” of (soon-to-be-)published authors, I know better than to complain about that work.
It’s what I signed up for and worked toward. It’s what those years of somewhat-off literary efforts — akin to F’s not-quite-right syntax — were leading up to. I cherish those stories that never sold, just like I cherish “nakedy.” (That’s the fourth time I’ve written it in this post, if you’re counting.) I’m so glad I had the freedom to try out those paths and learn how to get things right.
But just like I’m never going to hear F fretting about the downside of his being literate, I simply can’t indulge myself in the ridiculous and ungrateful practice of wishing I didn’t have so much on my plate. If nothing else, it seems like a surefire way to guarantee that the portions will get smaller in the years ahead.
This reminds me that I could not bear to correct my son a couple of years ago when he talked about “Dark Vader” and his “light saver”.
Audio recordings!! Now’s the time to make a tape…er, CD…of your son saying stuff like “nakedy.” My mother made a tape of me reading really early on, and I’m so grateful she did that, not just for nostalgic reasons but also because I can now prove to people that I used to have functioning brain cells…