When Carson was about two and a half she was already starting to read. I think she processed words easily for many reasons.
1. She was the only kid I had at the time. She was my whole world. I read her ten books a day. She liked to hear the same books over and over again. As I read, she did not just look at the pictures, she followed along as I pointed at the words.
2. I used to set up the lap top, open up Word, and let her pound away on the keys. She got bored with letters and moved onto words. “Spell Carson, Mommy.” I would slowly say each letter “C. A. R….” and she would find the key and watch the word appear on the screen.
3. My mom watched her everyday while I was at work. My mom loved playing games with her. She decided to teach her rhyming. She made flash cards that she printed related words: box, sox, fox or to, you, blue, for example. She would go through the cards with her periodically and they would say the rhyming words out loud.
I dropped Carson off at my parent’s house every morning on my way to work. Normally, we didn’t talk much in the mornings. She was barely awake, drinking milk, and listening to a Wiggles CD. I was usually buried in thought anticipating my day. However, on this particular November morning we were stopped at a light, and she pulled me back into the moment.
“Mommy, that sign says ‘Do Not Black Driveway.'” I looked out the passenger window and a street sign was directly next to the car that read “Do Not Block Driveway.” I was kind of shocked and elated by the fact that she tried to read the sign.
“That’s so good, Honey.” The light was still red, so I was able to turn around and pat her on the leg and show her my smile. I wanted her to know I was proud of her. “The word you read as black is actually block,” I corrected, “but you did a good job trying. You’re so smart.” I meant it. I really felt like I had a smart kid on my hands.
The light turned and we continued on our way to my mom’s. I was thinking about how I was going to be that mom and brag about this all day.
“Mommy,” Her tone intimated a question was coming.
“Yes, Honey?” I asked.
“Do you think I will go to jail someday?”
My mind reeled. I just told her she was smart. Is it because I corrected her? At two and a half years old did she already feel self-doubt because I made her feel insignificant? Why would she say something like this? I was failing as a mother, that had to be it.
“Carson,” I was speaking in my very serious mommy voice. “You never want to go to jail. Jail is a bad place for bad people.”
I looked in my rearview mirror. Her face was slightly contorted. She furrowed her eye brows and pouted her lips.
“But Mommy,” she pleaded. “You told me I should go to jail.”
What? I would never tell my child to go to jail! How could she think I would ever want her to turn out to be a criminal?
“Carson, Mommy has never told you to go to jail. Jail is bad.” We were getting close to my mom’s house and I needed for her to understand before I left for work. I was feeling anxious.
“Should I go to Herbert then?” she asked.
Harvard–Yale! Since birth, every time she had said something smart, I told her she was going to end up at Harvard or Yale. That had to be it!
“Do you mean Yale, Honey? Harvard and Yale?”
“Isn’t that what I said?” She looked exasperated. I couldn’t help but laugh.
“Yes, Honey,” I said through a smile. “Mommy will be very proud of you if you go to Yale.”
Satisfied, she relaxed back into her car seat and gulped down the rest of her morning milk.