books · reading · slice of life

Parenting Fail (or maybe it’s a win)

I knocked on Isabelle’s door. Rather than saying come in, Isabelle said, “Why do you have to keep bothering me?!!?”

I hadn’t even spoken to Isabelle since she went to her room at 10:07 AM to read for an hour. It was 11:20 AM. (For the record, my mother-in-law, Linda, knocked on Isabelle’s door around 11:10 AM to find out what kind of sandwich Isabelle wanted for lunch. I asked Linda to do this so I guess Isabelle viewed this as me intruding on her.)

“We have to leave for your swim lesson in 20 minutes.”

“Ugh, why are you bothering me? I’m trying to read!”

I looked at the timer on Isabelle’s iPad which she fiddled with after she paused her audiobook. I noticed it said 46 minutes were left.

“Did you just start reading? What we’re you doing this whole time? I left you well over an hour ago. I need you to help me pack towels, get on your sunblock…”

She growled at me and turned back to the Libby app. She looked back down at the printed copy of The Witches and proceeded to ignore me. “I started reading at 10:07, Mah-mee! I just messed up the timer when it went off.”

That pretty much checked out. Isabelle must’ve accidentally reset the time for an hour when it went off at 11:07 AM.

“Why are you acting this way?” I asked. “You could just ask me for another minute to finish the page. You have a swim lesson at noon and you aren’t even close to being ready.”

This went on for another 30 seconds at which point I told her I’d be back in five minutes and — at that point — she’d have to go downstairs to get ready.

Five minutes later, Isabelle didn’t get up from her book. By this point, I raised my voice and implored her to get ready.

By 11:33 AM, Isabelle still hadn’t left her room. At that point, I went in, took away the iPad and said, “I am thrilled you’re reading longer than an hour because your book so is good, but you need to get ready NOW. Sunblock. Shoes. Ugggggh!”

Isabelle stomped out of her room and walked downstairs to finish getting ready.

After watching her move at a snail’s pace downstairs, I said, “Meet me in the car or else I’m going to be taking myself for a swim lesson.”

I needed to cool down because I knew I wasn’t going to do that. I let out some frustration in the garage and then took some deep breaths in the driver’s seat while I waited for Isabelle to come out of the house. While breathing deeply, I realized Isabelle wasn’t being non-compliant just to stick it to me because she is 11 and a half (and that’s what kids this age do). No, no… she wasn’t moving from her reading perch because she didn’t care about reading for a certain amount of time just to say she’d read. Nope. She was ENJOYING her book so much that she didn’t care about the time!

Well, crap. I’m the jerk, aren’t I, I thought. Now she’s going to associate her first time reading longer with an argument… what have I done?!!?

This evening, I discovered Isabelle has 37 minutes left in her book. I’m assuming she would’ve finished it if time had permitted.

Isabelle finally got into the car at 11:46 AM. (Good thing I always set our roll time earlier than it needs to be.) As I backed out of the driveway, I said, “I realize now that you were lost in your book. I’m thrilled for you. Are you enjoying this book?”

“Mmm-hmmm,” Isabelle replied cooly.

“Wonderful! But listen, the way you yelled at me as soon as I knocked on your door made me feel bad. I know you were being bothered again, but you could’ve said, ‘I just want to finish this page or chapter and then I’ll come down.’ You didn’t do that. I yelled back at you and then you yelled at me some more. Both of us did a lot of shouting and that’s not cool. We can both do better.”

“Okay, I know,” she replied.

“So, reading the paper copy of the book along with the audiobook is really helping you enjoy the books you’re reading more, isn’t it?” I asked.

“It is,” she said.

I have begged her to listen and follow along with her eyes since November when Colleen Cruz suggested this at the TC Dyslexia Institute. As much as I wanted to do an I-told-you-so, I resisted.

I didn’t need an apology for her giving me an agonizing 25 minutes. All I needed was the knowledge that she was finally able to get lost in a book. (Maybe she needs to start reading a wee bit earlier now that she’s fancying reading because it’s a bit easier.)


This evening, just before shutting Isabelle’s bedroom door, I said, “I love you. Let’s aim for being better versions of ourselves this week. I think we can both do better. Sleep well and sweet dreams.”

To that, I got a “Good night, Mommy. I love you too.” I guess all had been forgiven on both ends.

9 thoughts on “Parenting Fail (or maybe it’s a win)

  1. I think you may now always recall the moment your daughter started to enjoy reading (print+audio) was also the time she began acting like a pre-teen! Be prepared for more similar exchanges in the years to come because as you mention, that’s what kids this age do. I recently had a success with audio. I had never read The Outsiders and our 7th grade teachers have their students read it. I had tried several times to read this classic but just couldn’t get passed the first chapter. But when I read it as an audio, I finally could finish it. I’m glad your daughter has found this strategy to help her enjoy reading! And just know, you both will be practicing patience for years to come because that’s how kids are! Hang in there.

    1. How wonderful that you conquered the Outsiders with an audiobook.

      I’ve had a hard time getting into audiobooks so, I realized, I had to push myself a bit if I wanted to model it for Isabelle. She started to see me cooking and folding laundry with AirPods listening to my audiobook. I kept saying, “Hold on, I’m listening to a book.” Maybe that’s what made her give it a try.

      Why do I mention this? Now you can share your audiobook experience with your students and it’s possible some of them will be willing to try reading like that themselves.

  2. I always enjoy real posts about real life. These interactions remind me of many that happen in our house lately…it’s nice to know it’s not just us! I love all the ways you highlight ways that learning works best for Isabelle. Hooray for finding joy in reading…it doesn’t matter how you got there. That kind of joy will stick!

    1. We’ve been in a good place with her willingness to read for over a year. However, as her teacher last year, I worried about her comprehension. We listened to SAVE ME A SEAT as an audiobook on the way home from North Carolina. She read the text with her eyes and listened. Her ability to comprehend the book was grand. That’s when I think she realized that this could be a game changer for her. But the struggle to get there… if I had chronicled that I’m sure you would’ve seen a LOT more real!

  3. We’ll, of course- it was “The Witches” after all! I do love that book, I have a favorite memory of reading it aloud to my kids on a long road trip, before audiobooks and kindles and tvs in cars, ha ha. Seriously, I also get from your piece the real heartfelt struggle of a reading teacher with a beloved child who is dyslexic. I’m so glad the audio/ visual is making a real difference. Feelings run strong during pivotal moments.

  4. You captured that wonderfully exasperating moment between mother and daughter so well! I could see it and feel it and empathize with both sides. I just read The Summer of June by Jamie Sumner. Maybe Isabella would like it. It’s about a feisty girl overcoming anxiety. Very uplifting.

  5. thank you for being a role model for cooler heads, reconsidering, and starting fresh. Even though I don’t have those pre-teens to wrestle with anymore, I think the tenets apply to any situation of conflict. So much to celebrate here.

  6. Not. A. Fail. At. All.

    Of course there will be moments you kind of lose it, where your best self takes a back seat to the emotions of the situation. And if Isabelle never saw you being human in that way, she wouldn’t know and understand that moments like that are survivable. And if she never saw the way you recovered, the way you came back to yourself to work out a something better, she wouldn’t understand how important it is to fix mistakes.

    And, like some of the other commenters, I’m thinking how apt it was that the source of this mischief was a Roald Dahl book. Of COURSE.

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