Should my 4 and a half year-old daughter be reading by now?  At least a little?  Cause she’s not.

My husband is a voracious reader and his mother has always touted the fact that he was reading by the time he was 4.  So I’ve always had that age in my head as a marker for my daughter.  I wasn’t expecting too much before her fourth birthday (what exactly does my mother-in-law mean when she said he was “reading” at age 4 anyways?) but I did expect that she’d be moving in that direction this year.

Kiki’s friend Mary was over the other day and she picked up a book and confidently read a couple of sentences out loud.  It was impressive.  I wasn’t really too surprised by Mary’s reading ability.  This is a girl who would come over to our house when she was 2 and bring her mother book after book after book to read.  She had little interest in toys.  She only wanted to read.  Mary is one month younger than Kiki and, even though I know I shouldn’t, I couldn’t help but automatically compare my daughter’s abilities to her friend’s.

Kiki knows all of her letters and the sounds they make.  She recognizes (and can write) her name and a bunch of family members’ names.  She knows how to spell and identify a handful of words (dog, cat, stop, go, etc).  But that’s about it.

I think I’m doing what I need to – I read to her every day.  We read tons of books and she loves them.  I pick out certain words in books and try to get her to sound them out.  But this is where we struggle.  She’ll do it, but it takes a lot of walking her through it.  What letter is that?  Yep.  An S.  Now what sound does an S make?  This whole “sounding out” thing hasn’t seemed to click for her yet.  And she gets sick of the task quickly.

I’ll get her to do a few words and then she inevitably sighs and says, “can you just read the story Mom?”  And so I do.  I don’t want to discourage her.  And I’m afraid of making reading a chore.  I want my daughter to continue to love to read.

When my daughter was 3 I had a conversation with a friend of mine who had a kindergartener.  Her daughter read very well and I asked her what kind of things she had done with her daughter to help her get to that point.  She told me a couple of things but then said, “honestly I wouldn’t worry about the reading.  That seems to be pretty much all they do in kindergarten.  They work on reading skills.  So my daughter is bored a lot of times in class.”

I hope this is true.  I want to give my daughter the tools she needs to be successful in school.  But she’s only 4 and I want to keep my expectations and pressures in check.  So I will continue to read to her and gently encourage her to test the waters of her own reading ability.  But I will not push.

Sigh.  I hope this doesn’t affect her chances of getting into Harvard.


Forced Apologies

Last week I backed myself into a corner with my daughter and I totally regretted it.  Have you been there before?  My daughter’s friend Amy was wearing Kiki’s bookbag and Kiki decided that she wanted it back.  Amy starting running off and my daughter basically tackled Amy onto the sidewalk to get her bookbag back.  She hadn’t intended to knock her friend down – she was just trying to grab her bag – but she did knock her over and Amy scratched her arm on the sidewalk and started crying.  Here’s the conversation that followed…

Me:  Kiki, why did you do that?

Kiki:  Amy took my bookbag and I wanted it back.

Me:  Did you ask her for it back?

Kiki:  Well she was running away and I didn’t want her to take it.  It’s mine.

Me:  I know it’s yours, but you can’t just grab things like that.  You knocked Amy over and hurt her.

Kiki:  But I wanted my bookbag back.

Me:  You hurt Amy.  Even if you didn’t mean to hurt her, you still did.  I think you need to apologize.

Kiki:  I don’t want to apologize.

Me:  But you hurt her, so you need to say you’re sorry.

I had taken a stand and said that she needed to apologize. But she dug in her heels, pouted, and refused.  My stubborn daughter was not going to do it.   And I was stuck.  I didn’t really have anything I could use to motivate her.  We were on our way to dinner and I wasn’t about to tell her she couldn’t eat until she apologized.  So Kiki just stood there to the side of the table pouting until she finally came over to eat.  I gave her space, but would occasionally ask her if she was ready to apologize yet (not with any consequence added to it, just a strong “you need to apologize” statement).  Every time I would do this, Kiki would get pouty again and would sulk off to the side by herself.  I had actually managed to make the situation worse.  Kiki wasn’t apologizing and Amy was in tears because Kiki wouldn’t talk to her (she didn’t care about the apology, she just wanted Kiki to talk to her).  And there I was wishing I had just told her that I thought she should apologize and crossed my fingers that she did the right thing.

This situation had me thinking, “should I try to force my child to apologize?”  I’ve read a few articles (like this one) about this topic and they all seem to say, no.  Apparently you should not force your kid to apologize because you humiliate them and the best thing you end up with is an insincere apology.

While I do see the point they are making, I also think that Kiki needs to learn that there are times that you just need to say you’re sorry.  It’s a social expectation.  It’s like saying “please” and “thank you”.  In certain situations, it’s just common courtesy to apologize.

What do you think?  Should you make your child apologize?

Dream Vacation

Last week we took a dream family vacation with some friends of ours to this place….

Six days at a beautiful all-inclusive resort.  Getting a tan on beautiful sunshine-filled days.  Hubby and I sitting by the pool, sipping cocktails with two of our best friends while our daughter spends the day having a ball in Kids’ Club with one of her best friends.  Bellying up to an all-you-can-eat buffet for every meal and then just walking away from the table when we’re done without having to worry about the dishes.  Letting Kiki stay up late so we can all go see the entertaining show in the theater after dinner.  Then returning to our room to turned down beds with chocolates on our pillows.  Then everyone sleeping in til 9:30 every morning and starting the cycle over again.

That was the dream.

Here was the reality.

I started with a little cough the day before we left for our trip that quickly turned into the worst cough I’ve ever had in my entire life.  I spent the first two days of our vacation coughing so hard that I felt like I was literally tearing the inside of my throat out.  I couldn’t talk to Hubby or my friends because every single ounce of effort had to be put into concentrating on breathing in and out of my nose or I would start hacking again.  At night I didn’t sleep for more than an hour at a time because I was either coughing or having to pee from all the water I was drinking.  On our second night at the resort I left from dinner with our friends at 8 o’clock to go back to our room because I was having sweats and chills. After I took my temperature and discovered that I had a fever of 101, I called my mom and cried like a baby because I was feeling so bad.

On day 3 of our vacation I made a breakthrough.  My cough magically let up and I just felt crappy instead of feeling like death.  Ah yes!  We still had over half of our vacation left, so all was not lost.

Then on night 3, Hubby woke me up from a zombie-like sleep at 10:30 and said, “do you hear Kiki?”  I sat up and heard the familiar barking cough followed by scary gasping for air.  She had croup.   Kiki, unfortunately, has a bad history of croup.  She got it probably 5 times in the first two years of her life with her worst case resulting in her being hospitalized for 4 days, 2 of which were spent in the Pediatric ICU of a major New England hospital with talk of intubating her because she was struggling to breathe so much.  It was a truly awful experience.  But since then she’s done quite well.  She got croup a couple more times, but each time we took her immediately to the doctor as soon as we heard that first sealy-sounding bark and they started her on a regimen of steroids and the croup passed rather easily.  And it’s actually been probably a year since she’s had croup (they said most kids outgrow it by about age 3 and she’s 4 now).  So I was quite surprised that the seal had returned with such a vengeance.

As Hubby held Kiki and I listened to her bark and cry and wheeze and gasp, I was right back in that ICU again.  We realized that she was burning up and took her temperature to find that it was 103.8.  Yikes!  Luckily it was a chilly night, so we were able to help her breathe by bundling her up in blankets and sitting outside on the patio with her – cold air does wonders for croup.  Also fortunately, her fever responded very quickly to ibuprofen.  Once her breathing regulated (and Hubby and I had looked online to find the closest ER) my two days of insomnia caught up with me, so I went to bed.  Hubby, the good man that he is, sat in the lounge chair on the patio reading his Kindle with Kiki sleeping and coughing (but breathing well) in his lap until 4:30 in the morning.

After such a scary night and with the fact that her fever was back up above 103 in the morning, I called her pediatrician as soon as they opened in the morning.  I was hoping they could call in a prescription for the steroids she needs for croup to the pharmacy a few miles away from the resort.  But no luck.  They said that with her fever as high as it was and with her history, we really needed to find a pediatric doctor to see as soon as possible.  So while some people at our resort were taking airboat excursions to see the local wildlife, we took a taxi excursion to see the local pediatrician.

The pediatrician gave Kiki a big dose of steroids and a diagnosis of a bad virus.  We left with instructions to stop by the pharmacy for more steroids and assurances that her fever should go away within a day or so.

Kiki improved over the next day or so, but none of us got much sleep because she was still coughing all night.  And she couldn’t go to Kids’ Club since she was sick.

This was our vacation – illness, doctors, and sleeplessness.  And just as a cherry on top, it was a bit chilly or rainy for most of our trip.

So it wasn’t a “dream” vacation.  But it was still a vacation.  I didn’t have to cook or clean anything for a whole week.  It was warm enough to wear shorts.  Kiki got to go swimming and the resort was beautiful.  🙂  And on the last day Kiki, who was feeling much better, came running up to me with excitement in her eyes and said, “Mom, did you know they let 4 year-olds do the high trapeze?  I’m gonna do it!”


And seriously, how can you beat that?