How the book with no pictures led to a duel to the death (metaphorically speaking, of course)…
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She stood there standing as tall as she could. Hands on her hips as her eyes seemed to turn black in anger. She furrowed her brows and she stepped a foot forward. A small movement towards me, but to her it indicated power. She stood up to me and she puffed her chest out.
This is a duel that I know all too well. This is a dueling partner I know all too well. My mind raced back to the situation that ignited this conflict.
She sat there with the present teetering in her hands. A thin rectangle loosely wrapped in festive Christmas paper. It looked rather big in her tiny hands. She could hardly utter the words, “Thank you, Ms. Jenny,” as her fingers clumsily fidgeted the tape that was holding her back from the contents of her present. She could barely contain her excitement. Rrrrip! She tears into it. Pieces of paper flying everywhere as everyone watched eagerly for her reaction.
“It’s a book! I love books!” She squeals.
*“The Book With No Pictures.” I said, as excited as her.
“Oh…then I’m not interested in it” Charlie put it down immediately and pushed it aside.
I was mortified.
“It has no pictures, mama. I don’t like those kinds of books!” She stated. Jenny, who just happens to be a librarian, assured me that it was fine, “Most children react exactly the same way in the library. Trust me. She’ll come around.”
This did not ease the mortification of being the person who brought the insolent child to the party.
Now we stand here almost identical—in our movements, our stance, and our furrowed brows. It was almost like looking in a mirror. Except my mirror reflected 100 cm of fierce self-advocacy that I raised (with my husband).
Stand up for yourself. Make your own decisions. Don’t do anything that you don’t feel comfortable with. Think for yourself.
These are all the values I have instilled in her through her five years of life and for the most part, it’s been wonderful. It almost makes me laugh at how independent, strong-willed, headstrong and confident she is. It almost makes me laugh…but not on days like this when she uses everything I’ve taught her to manipulate the situation to suit her wants.
I applaud your moxie, clever girl. I truly do.
But today, Wild One. Today, I lack the patience.
I sat down on her bed. I want to understand why you’re being so closed-minded. You love books! I know you will love this book if you just gave it a chance. It’s really important to have an open-mind and not judge things before getting to know what it’s about. This is what is what I should have said. This is what a level-headed mama would have said.
“Just give it a chance and read it!” I demanded instead.
“I said no! I don’t want to read it! You told me I could make my own decisions. I decided I don’t want to read it,” she yelled back at me. This is definitely my child. As you can tell, she lacks patience too.
This lack of patience will be our downfall.
Two day later…the duel continues.
The Book With No Pictures sat on her bookshelf. Pangs of guilt washed over me. I could see the large, black font out of the corner of my eye. It was staring at me like the eye in the Tell Tale Heart. If it could talk it would be asking me, “How could you let your child LITERALLY judge a book by it’s cover?”
Sigh. Damn you, book. When did you become my Jiminy?
I shouldn’t have walked out of her room that day. I should have been stronger and convinced her to read the book with me. But what was I supposed to do? I can’t force her to read it.
Clearly. I tried, and failed.
(The list of Not-So-Fine Parenting Moments is growing by the day.)
But how do I end this duel?
You’re an adult. Be the role model. I reminded myself as I took a deep breath—a meta moment as her teachers call it…
What would Maria Montessori do?
She would probably tell me, “There is always a reason for a child’s behaviour. Find this reason.”
It has no pictures, mama. I don’t like those kinds of books. I think back.
She thinks it will be boring. Okay, reason identified.
Now, I have three paths to choose.
Redirect her focus beyond the preconceived notions of this book, and cater to her developmental needs.
Provide her a choice of two different pages to read to see what it’s all about. Just two.
Make a game: “I bet you can come up with more silly words!”
I decided to go with the path of giving her a choice, because I fully expect her to want to read the first two pages that contain the coloured fonts. And, in time, this will guide the other two paths.
She is reluctant. She proceeds to flip the pages. Groaning loudly, readying herself to prove that I will not change her mind.
She’s definitely my kid.
She continues to flip and then she stops. The large coloured fonts catch her eye, “Ohhh that’s red. And that’s blue. I choose these two!” She’s ever so predictable.
“Okay, I promise if you don’t want to read it after these two pages. I won’t ask anymore. Deal?”
She looked at me. WIll she trust that I am not leading her astray, and say yes, and possibly admit that she judged too quickly? Or will she say no, because she doesn’t trust that I am telling the truth about this book?
All of a sudden I realised the enormity of this decision. Years of trust fostered between us hanging in the balance. The pause felt like an eternity.
“Okay,” she finally answers quietly.
She puts her fingers to the red word and she begins to sound out the letters, “B-L-O-R-K”.
“BLORK?! Huh? That’s not a real word, is it? She asks, thoroughly amused.
“Does it sound like a real word? Say it again.” I reply.
“BLORK! It’s not a real word. It’s a silly word!” She laughs out loud wholeheartedly.
“Is this a book about silly words?” She asks. I could feel her excitement.
“Shall we read the rest and find out?” I asked, knowing the answer already.
Now each night when I put *The Book With No Pictures back on the shelf. In front of the rest of the books, because I know I will have to read it again tomorrow. It’s now her favorite book. Wild One, you are always a worthy opponent, and this duel was long, and hard fought but in the end…
…it was a duel to the death of preconceived notions.
A quick P.S
This is my attempted at Day 3 of Shut Up and Write February “Tropes” Challenge. And in true, Bec fashion, I am waaaay late! Oops.
The prompt was Duel to the death
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2 thoughts on “How the book with no pictures led to a duel to the death (metaphorically speaking, of course)…”
What a fun read! Bec, you are such a great writer. This was a nail biter to the end. Keep writing!!
Thank you so much! I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I had a lot of fun writing it. And thanks always for the continued support x