Word Power

Xander, our five-year-old, is learning to read and write. He can read me a picture book cover-to-cover now. I’ve always been an avid word guy (which is probably obvious if you’ve read this blog more than once), so it’s extra thrilling to watch him master the language. He’s quite good at sounding things out and figuring out what words mean.

I’ve been impressed by his tenacity too. A lot of times when things are hard he gives up quickly, but he’ll stick with a book or something he’s trying to write and work at it until he gets it. It seems like he’s going to be a reader, and that makes me very happy.

But you know what nobody tells you before you become a parent? Once your kids can read, they become a whole lot trickier. It’s one more advantage in the parenting arsenal that’s no longer at your disposal. We’re already at the point where the old “spelling out the words so the kids don’t know what you’re talking about” trick is out the window. And Xander, being extra crafty, has found ways to put his newfound abilities to good use.

Twice this week I’ve gone into his bedroom half an hour after I put him to bed and found him hidden under the covers with the cordless phone. We have call display, so he’s flipped back through the directory to find the names of people he wants to call. The other night he called my brother’s house and talked to my sister-in-law, his aunt, for a while. Then he called my parents and left a message. Finally he spent 15 minutes on the phone with his maternal grandmother, who lives two hours away by plane. I caught him on the phone with her again tonight. All while he’s supposed to be asleep.

He pulled another brilliant trick just half an hour ago. He and Oscar share a room, but some nights they get each other so wound up that we have to put one of them in our bed until somebody falls asleep. It was Xander’s turn to be exiled tonight (especially after the phone stunt), but 15 minutes after I put him to bed – again – I heard him coming up the stairs.

“Why are you up again?” I asked.

“I’m going back to bed,” he said. “But there’s a note for you on the third stair from the top. You should probably read it.”

He scurried back to our room. On the stairs I found a piece of paper, with the following written in five-year-old’s capital letters:

DADY BUY UXUDINT I BROEK MOMYS LUMP

KUDD U HLP ME FIX IT

It only took me a moment to figure out that he’d broken the lamp on Shawna’s bedside table. By “uxudint,” of course.

Sometimes the kid is a tactical genius. If he’d come upstairs and told me he’d busted the lamp while he was supposed to be sleeping, I probably would have snapped at him. Instead I could only admire the fact that he’d found a piece of paper and a pen, painstakingly figured out every word and left me a handwritten note. (And headed straight back to bed before I could read it.) How could I get mad at something so adorable? I’m going to keep that note for ages.

I’m glad to see he’s already figured out the power of the written word. Even if he’s using it against me.

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