Alex, meet Dr. Seuss

Lately, I’ve developed a new appreciation for “Green Eggs and Ham.”

Have you ever done something so many times that you end up having a physical reaction to it? As if somewhere deep in your chest, your body has actually dug its heels into the ground and said, “I will not read it, Sam I am, I do not read Green Eggs and Ham!!!”

Months ago, I reached the point where I used it as an opportunity for elocutionary practice. By that I mean that I go for a speed record. How fast can I read the endless repeating list and still have the words understood? Not-in-a-house-not-in-a-box-not-in-a-house-not-with-a-mouse-I-do-not-eat-them-here-or-there…

Thank Heaven, Alex forgot about it for a long while. But last week, he rediscovered it. And I’m finding that now I can use it to begin to teach him to read—which makes me much more tolerant of daily repetition…and much more appreciative of the thought that went into writing it.

The idea of sounding words out is one that I’ve been trying to teach him for several months already, but he wasn’t getting it until he rediscovered this book. “Not in a box, not with a…” I stop reading and point at the word. He puzzles for a minute, and may need a prompt: “Ff-ff-ff.” Then, “FOX!” he yells. By the end of the book, he has come to recognize both the lower case letter and the matching endings, and he can actually do it without prompting.

This, in combination with a Sesame Street game starring Super Grover, has taught him the concepts of rhyme and phonics, neither of which he got before. Now at odd times he’ll say things like, “Mommy, read and bead sound the same.” It’s kind of fun—and exciting for a parent who loves the written word.

Part of the reason I’m detailing such a commonplace thing is that my most recent posts concerning him have been full of “grr”’s, and I feel a need to illustrate another side of his character. The poor kid is really a good kid. So far, he’s bearing out the stereotypical role of the first child, although “protector” and “responsible” in his case often turn to “bossy” and “butt-into-my-sister’s-business.” Nonetheless, he adores his little siblings. The other day I was putting Julianna to bed when Alex came running halfway up the stairs and shouted (the only volume he knows) something I didn’t catch, but which sounded like “I want Nicholas to go to space.” On the third repetition I realized he was channeling another beloved book, saying, “I LOVE Nicholas all the way to space.” I hope he learns to say “L” soon.

I’ve had many Alex-sized insights in the last month or two. One of the most lasting reflects back to the idea of letting go of our children. I’ve been looking forward to school starting, because Alex is headed off to preschool two mornings a week this year. In some ways I feel bad that I’m so ready to kick him out of the house…but on the other hand, I believe that all parenthood is a long process of letting go. And I think that the battles of childhood (and probably the teen years, too) help prepare us for each stage in the process.

On the other hand, at this moment I have a very clingy four-month-old on my lap, refusing to let me go. He keeps pushing on my arm and the keyboard with his feet, trying to remind me that babyhood is fleeting and DARN IT PAY ATTENTION TO ME! So I will sign off for today.