A few weeks ago, he brought home his first reading book and the Duchess and I went into ‘this is where it starts’ overdrive. Previously, we’d held off, purporting to follow the Scandinavian laissez faire, ‘just let them play until they’re seven’ philosophy. Secretly, we didn’t want to be pushy parents, accused of ‘hothousing’ our poor son and pushing him towards therapy and heroin before his ninth birthday.
However, the moment his teacher handed us the book bag – a bloody book bag! – containing letter tiles and a book – can you believe it! – we went into full-on surrogate teacher mode.
Of course, the Duchess proved far better at it all. She put appropriate words on the stairs, filled in notes in his little school-book to let his proper teachers know how he was getting on. Remembered to ask him to read to her each evening.
Meanwhile, when it was left to me while she was working her evening shifts, I did my best but perhaps got a little carried away. The first time I drilled him for 20 minutes until he knew the word ‘volcano’. The next evening, I opened his notes expecting to learn the teachers thought he’d probably be off to university aged 12. Instead, they asked me to help him learn the word ‘is’.
The accompanying book, about a woolly mammoth in a pit, playfully repeated and varied the words ‘is’, ‘it’, did’, ‘in’ and ‘into’. There were about 10 pages. By page three or four, I realised I was nurturing a goldfish. Come on, Son, we’ve just done that word on the previous page. You shouldn’t even need to spell it out, you should just remember that one.
‘I-t, i-t, i-t, i-t…’ he gainfully chanted. I nodded, pinched my fingers, like Lionel Blair on Give Us A Clue, to denote he was practically saying the word. Just shorten the pause there son, you’ll have it and we can pretend this is all going well.
‘I-t, i-t, i-t, i-t…’ Yes, go on Son, close the deal, land the big fish. ‘I-t, i-t, i-t, i-t, i-t, i-t… DID!’
DID! Did you say DID? That’s DID, over there on that page? Does this word look like that one?
Thankfully, a few weeks later, thanks to Boy Wonder’s eagerness to learn and the patient support of his Mum and teachers, he’s racing through the books, correcting his mistakes almost overnight and demanding new words on the stairs.
Meanwhile, I’ve scratched ‘teacher’ from my fantasy career change list. I’ve got a lot to learn.