Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Parenting and Summer Reading

So, I've got two kids in high school and one to go. Oliver will be entering the seventh grade after Labor Day, and he's the one who despises school, mainly because he has some learning disabilities and up until very recently, we didn't really have a handle on those. Conversations this summer around summer reading requirements have generally been the type where if you suggested that someone should perhaps start reading their required book and if you happened to be lighting a candle at the same time to mask the smell of another child's diaper, the whole house would have gone up in flames.


Last night I made a gentle suggestion that perhaps it was time for someone to start reading their required book (and to be fair, the first was actually finally finished three weeks ago!). The suggestion hung there in the dry and combustible air. Mom, I really hate basketball, and it's a book about basketball, he said fairly rationally from his perch on a stool in the kitchen. I confidently spooned beans into a bowl  for Sophie's dinner. I love basketball, actually, (because I went to the world's greatest basketball university which is another topic altogether) which is saying a lot given that I am utterly not into sports, completely nonathletic and verge on the irrational in my hatred of football. Well, it's not really about the sport, I said, it's about a boy who plays basketball, but it's really more about him. Someone frowned and squirmed on his chair. I scattered chicken on top of the beans and sprinkled cheese on top of that. Hey, I've got an idea, I said, as I put the bean concoction in the microwave. If you finish this book without grumping around and resisting it, I'll buy us two tickets to a Lakers or Clippers game. Someone stopped squirming and looked interested. How about the Dodgers instead? he asked.

Reader, if you're a young parent, don't let anyone tell you that bribes shouldn't be used in parenting. Consider yourself skilled if you get your obstreperous, extremely volatile offspring to agree to read about basketball (your favorite sport) in return for you having to sit through baseball (a sport that bores you to tears). Consider yourself a good enough mother.

Plus, your house doesn't go up in flames.


  1. I really do think Ayla and a certain someone are cut from the same spirit cloth. Obstreperous and volatile are exactly the words to describe her. Maybe one of them will go on to create a haven in the woods for other children like them. Who knows. Good lord.

    I hope it was ok to laugh at the flames, because I did.

    I'd bribed my kids with scones just before reading this

  2. I bribe my kids everyday. I figure it is like how my employer gets me to go to work. Go to work and I get paid.

    It is too bad that Oliver can't choose a book. It is really hard to get kids to read books that they have no interest in.

  3. If it makes you feel any better, this is exactly what I said to a young tired student in class today: If you finish this math test, I will give you a cupcake.

    He finished.

    And I gave him the cupcake.

  4. That is not a bribe, that is an incentive. Totally different.

  5. You have managed to remind me of the greatest pro of our kids growing up.. no more summmer reading!!!!! Woo hoo!!!!!!! (I was known to get the book on tape for my reluctant reader. He'd read along with the tape at a very satisfying clip!)

  6. it wasn't a bribe... but an incentive! (that what I tell myself anyway...)

  7. Perfect. That's what we call around here " the happy medium "

    Bribes are a part if life I think :)

  8. Love the picture that accompanies this...and I love your writing even more. Daily reality plus ingenuity, creativity, gentleness, black humor, love, compassion, fatigue, honesty and a little bit of combustible energy. Sounds like a perfect dish, to me.

  9. Ha! I firmly believe there is a place for bribery. My dad used to give us money when we got good grades -- not much, just a few dollars, but hey, it was something. He rationalized it by saying that school was our job, and we should be compensated. :)

    Basketball, though -- ugh. I'm with Oliver on that one. (And I'm with you on baseball and football.)

  10. By that definition, I bribe myself constantly (I can pour myself a glass of wine as soon as I finish writing that book review). I feel for Oliver and you, given that Lola has the same stubborn streak that can turn on a dime to anger or tears. I hope the two of you enjoy an evening at the ballpark with hot dogs and ice cream and you can ignore the game and revel in the company of your boy.



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