Should I Limit My Kid’s Reading?

My son was slow to learn to read. He left kindergarten with six-month delay in his reading abilities and this caused me to worry. Compared to all the other kids who were already speeding through Harry Potter, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and the Encyclopedia Britannica, my son was still struggling, even with that damned Cat in the Hat.

But, thanks to an IEP (Individual Education Program) and being placed in an inclusion class with a higher ratio of teachers to kids, he emerged from first grade a confident reader. Now, halfway through second grade, he’s become a ravenous reader. I can’t stop him! If he’s not stuffing his face, watching TV or playing with Legos, you’ll find him knee-deep in books. He devours them. It’s a beautiful thing.

Until it’s bedtime, that is.

It’s nice that his bedtime no longer involves hours of negotiation after tucking him in and reading together (“Yes, I’ll rub your back some. Yes, I’ll get you some water. No, I won’t read another book. Yes, I will put another light on. No, you can not still be hungry …!”) Now, all he needs is a quick hug, a kiss and a tussle of his hair and, quite frankly, he’d probably not even notice if I didn’t do that, because his nose is firmly stuck in a book. Either side of his pillow are books. At the last count, there were about 12 books around his bed.

But the “problem” is he’s staying awake longer and longer at night, sometimes not falling asleep until 9.30 or 10pm which, in my mind, is too late for an eight year-old. Especially one who, until this past month, was averaging 10 or 11 hours sleep a night. It makes for grumpy mornings, that’s for sure.

I realize that he is growing up and maybe that means his bedtime no longer needs to be the same as his five year-old sister. But at the same time, it’s ridiculous when he and I are going to sleep at the same hour!

After talking with friends with kids of the same age, I discovered that this “problem” seems to be happening across the board with our kids. Most advocated setting a 9pm “lights off” hour, something which I’m trying to now enforce.

But my son keeps asking, “Why are you trying to stop me reading, when all along, you’ve been trying to encourage me to read better and more?”

And, he has a point.

Parents versus Legos

I love Legos.

I love how they can hold my kids’ attention for 20+ minutes at a time, sometimes even longer. I love how my son intensely follows the directions to create fantastically-complicated Lego masterpieces, often within minutes of receiving them as a birthday or Christmas gift. I love how my daughter uses her imagination to create Lego dogs and cars and robots. I love how my son easily improvises, building complex, freeform Lego machinery, transportation and weaponry. I love how Legos engage both sides of their brains. I love the Lego store: not the prices, but rather the fun of the monthly Lego club, where kids work together to complete a Lego challenge. I love the monthly Lego magazine because my kids love reading it. I love how, when playing with Legos, my kids are not wrestling, squabbling over the iPad, whining for whatever, spilling milk, watching TV, writing on walls (OK, they don’t do that anymore), attempting to launch themselves off of furniture … and so on. You get the drift.

I hate Legos.

I hate that they are everywhere. Freaking everywhere! I hate that, as my kids get bigger, the Lego pieces get smaller and more numerous. I hate that Lego pieces have this way of breeding, like little horny plastic bunnies—and then liberally distributing their spawn over every surface of my home. Not to mention everyone’s “favorite”: unexpectedly treading bare-foot on a Lego piece. (I’ll bet many a child has learnt some colorful new vocabulary from their parents every time it happens.) I hate that a “quick” visit to the Lego store turns into a painful, drawn-out no-fest that disappoints and frustrates everyone. No, you can’t have that $700 Harry Potter Lego rocket launcher set. No, you can’t have that $70 Star Wars Naboo Lego set. No, your $5 won’t be able to buy you anything here. No, we can’t stay another three hours.

I’ve also discovered that there are two types of parents.

There are those organizationally-talented (OCD?) types that have the skills, equipment, time and patience to collect their kids’ gazillion Lego pieces and then  meticulously sort them by color, shape, theme, character, unit, dimension and purpose into designated, purpose-built storage units. And then keep them that way, no matter how often the kids remove said Lego pieces to build their next creation.

I wonder, do the parents themselves do all this sorting and organizing because they enjoy it? Because it fulfills some deep OCD need for order and control. Or is it because their kids won’t do it. Or maybe it’s because they have been pushed to the limits by all these blinking plastic pieces?!

So what about those other types of parents? Well, I fall into this latter category. Yes, I am organized, and sometimes a little OCD, about other certain aspects of domesticity, like the laundry and the dishwasher. But when it comes to the Lego litter, I am tortured, completely tortured and exasperated. Every which way I turn, there’s Lego!

Clean it up, you say. Not my job, I say.

I am NOT going to clean up my kids’ Lego chaos. After all, it’s their mess. (I often remind them about the time that Grandma actually vacuumed up our all Legos when we were kids and she had had it with the mess! Yes, it broke her vacuum but she said the satisfaction was worth it!) So either I take a chill pill and just accept it, or I get them to clean up their own Lego mess. I’m pulling for the latter.

But you’ll not find me maniacally sorting them, nor buying some expensive Lego storage unit. My kids can make do with our existing assortment of random plastic tubs. They can figure out their own system for sorting and organizing. I don’t care how as long as it’s all off the floor. And stays that way.

The only challenge now is to figure how to properly bribe—I mean motivate—them! We shall see.

I am NOT buying one of these

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