I have a confession to make. I'm a writer and live in a home filled with books, yet the Boy hates to read. I mean really hates to read. It's always been this way. His daily assigned 20 minutes of reading is only achieved through the extraction of blood, sweat, and tears. By the end, I wonder if I've really won. Is it worth it I'm starting to ask?
He never picked up reading quickly like kids are made to feel like they're supposed to. By the tender age of 2nd grade he was already being trotted off to the 'Reading Center' in school with the other 'slow' readers, where I think more of what went on was the slow inculcation of not being good enough, rather than fostering any love of reading.
If you're a parent with a kid who doesn't particularly like to read, you're probably familiar with the following oft spoken words:
It's just a matter of him finding the right book, and he'll take off!
He'll come to it in his own time.
And maybe even:
Reading is the gateway to all knowledge.
Is it really? Don't get me wrong. I'm about as voracious a reader as you'll find. I often have two or three books going at the same time, a mix of fiction and non-fiction. I've always been this way and I read from an early age. And the Boy has been read to since he was in the womb (maybe too much of a good thing?) So it is not for lack of exposure in his life, that he hasn't particularly taken to books. Of course, it is also well known that boys often don't like to read nearly as much as girls and come to an appreciation of it later – if ever.
I am happy to finally report that I just published my Down and Dirty Survival Guide for Newly Single Parents on Amazon Kindle (Kobo coming soon!). I decided to cull what I consider to be the most succinct and most needed advice into 21 easy to reference tips into a short guide.
The first phases of single parenting can be a mixture of feeling completely overwhelmed by the tasks that lie before you, and the being(s) so dependent on you. Sometimes you may actually feel relieved that you don't have to consult anyone else in your day to day decision making process as a parent. It depends on your situation of course. This guide is meant to help people - both women and men - navigate these first phases.
I entitled it the 'Down and Dirty Guide' mostly because it's short and gets to the point (sorry, fairly G-rated, except for a brief section on online dating). Who has time to read War and Peace when you just want some quick tips and inspiration for getting through the early days of flying solo in the parenting seat? I cover a range of topics from building a tribe, automating your financial life, questioning conventional wisdom, and getting a dating life, to name a few.
I'd be grateful to hear any feedback, or any topics you think I might have left out. I will upload a revised edition to incorporate future suggestions in the not too distance future. Please feel free the first few pages of it here….
Welcome back to Have Son, Will Travel – Phase 2! I guess I have some explaining to do. I still have a son and we have still been traveling. Though life has presented some unexpected detours. The past eight months have seen us in New York, Ohio, Nashville, Los Angeles, and now London. I left off with our story in Italy almost a year ago exactly.
The boy and I stayed on in Vicenza through the end of 2012, but writing about it at the time seemed like a needless bummer. I didn't really want to put anyone else through that. I'll just say it: living in Italy was hard. Really hard. I know it's not supposed to be that way. La Dolce Vita, yadda yadda. I'm here to tell you sometimes paradise has its dark side. Or if it doesn't, leave it to me to find it.
Schooling for the boy proved nearly impossible. He didn't have enough Italian under his belt, and so couldn't keep up, and felt isolated and bullied the month of middle school he endured there. Starting middle school can be tough anywhere, but in a foreign language, with no friends? It didn't seem fair to put him through that unless we were really going to be there long term. If I could have afforded a bilingual school it might have been another story.
My son, as I may have mentioned before, is I’m sure a lot like other boys his age (nearly 12) in that he likes to spend as much time as possible doing two things: playing soccer (insert sport of choice) and playing with his PS3 or computer games. Often trying to get him to do anything other than these things involves a form of very slow Chinese water torture (to be endured by me, not him). So it is with some degree of delight that this week I observed that Luc likes to get into the weightiest of topics at the strangest of times – always when we are biking in city streets, usually through challenging traffic, on the way to his soccer practice, which is at least 20 minutes each way.
On the way to practice the other day he posed the question: “Mom, what’s it like to be a woman?” which he has admittedly asked before. But after my initial glib response of “I don’t know because I’ve never been anything else,” he kept pressing for details. Now I know a window when I see one! I will certainly not ever miss the chance to help him grow into the progressive, aware, strong, and good man that I know he will become. So, this led to a discussion of what women’s place has historically been in the world and is today, in some places still.
I have to say it all came as quite a shock to him and in his lovely innocence he couldn’t begin to understand why a woman wouldn’t always have the same rights as a man, why they might get paid less for the same job, or why I have to be more careful going home at night by myself than he will ever have to as a grown man.
On the way back from practice the question was “Mom, what happens when we die?” which sparked a discussion on religion, what some people believe happens when you die, with each of us pitching our own pet theories on what awaits us all eventually, all the while dodging Italian drivers and navigating roundabouts.
I can’t quite figure out this predilection of his for heavy-duty conversations while in motion. It has happened before, sometimes in cars too, anything involving wheels apparently. But all I know is that his curiosity is alive and well and I’ll go with the probably still contrarian theory that gaming makes you smarter!
Check out these great TED talks on gaming:
Gabe Zichermann – How Games Make Kids Smarter
Jane McGonigal: Gaming Can Make a Better World
I have a son for whom the order of the day, if it were left entirely to him, would go something like this: 1) get up, eat, and play hours of soccer; 2) play hours of PS3 games or have other such electronic experiences; and 3) eat, sleep, get up and do it all over again. I’m not meaning to suggest that he doesn’t have other interests, but these are just the overriding ones. He does actually have a vibrant curiousity about the world around him, he loves animals and nature, he is social and makes friends easily. And he is quite a conversationalist – he can hold his own well with adults.
However, when it comes to academics and sitting down at a desk to do school work, the neighbors would think I’m administering slow Chinese water torture, to hear him tell about it. I am really not the strictest parent in the world, nor am I, hopefully, the most lax either. The same can be said about our homeschooling style which is probably somewhere between formal and Unschooling. I am using the Core Knowledge series (What Your Fifth Grader Needs to Know) as a touchstone. It is a great series and I particularly like this book. It’s laid out well, easy to read without being pandering (to parent or child) and I’m fairly sure it includes more information and knowledge than your average fifth grader in public school covers in one year. No doubt more than we’ll actually cover. There are comprehensive sections on language, literature (excerpts from classics like Huckleberry Finn, Little Women and the Secret Garden), geography, European and American history, grammar, visual arts, music, math and science.
actor-writer-director, improviser, mother, traveler, life renegade