It all started fairly innocently. When my son was about eighteen months old, he taught himself to read. By the time he was two, he could read baby books; by three, he was reading, “The Magic School Bus.” His Dad and I were pretty excited, we gave each other sly hi-fives; we patted ourselves on the back for producing such a smart boy. Okay, so far so good. Then we made a colossal mistake…we tried to show off. Grandma and Grandpa came to visit. Of course we had to brag about how well Dylan could read; so naturally they wanted an exhibition. I primed Dylan for the upcoming event (not realizing I would need the skills of a SWAT team negotiator.) “Guess what? Grandma and Grandpa are really excited about your reading! Wouldn’t you like to read for them?” “No.” I was in denial. “But Honey, they only see us once in a while and it would be really special if you read to them. So will you please?” “No.” I was reduced to bargaining. “If you read to Grandma and Grandpa I’ll let you pick out a new book to buy.” “No.” I moved reluctantly to acceptance and decided to try convincing him later. I didn’t notify the Grandparents that the performance was off, in a vain hope that my powers of persuasion would entice him to change his mind. Later that day, to my surprise, he simply announced that after dinner he will read to us. Hoorah, patience prevailed! Finally, we were all seated for our post-dinner show, faces beaming with anticipation. Out walks the star of the show…stark naked. Now, my husband and I would normally not bat an eye, our son likes to be naked; but Grandma and Grandpa are not as liberal on the clothes optional issue. “Dylan, wouldn’t you like to get dressed before you read?” I asked hopefully. “No thanks Mom,” he gaily replied. I gritted my teeth, “No really Dylan, I want you to get dressed before you read.” Dylan whined, “I don’t like clothes, they are too scratchy.” More negotiations ensued. End result was a boy dressed in his most comfy pajamas and a dangerously unpredictable attitude. Despite his grumpy reluctance, the Grandparents were hanging in there. Finally situated, Dylan opened his book and begins to read, “zzzzizzfyxx pattrequorp.” “Dylan, what are you doing?” “I’m reading Mom.” “But those aren’t the words in the book.” “Yes they are, I’m translating them into Quandesayca.” “There is no such language as Quandesayca.” “Yes there is, I made it up.” Grandparent smiles were beginning to look strained. “Could you read in English please?” I begged. “Okay, okay, okay. Staob taolf esuaceb fo rieht…” “Dylan, that is not right, read it right.” “You didn’t say I couldn’t read it backwards,” he sullenly replied. “Dylan! Could. You. Please. Just. Read. It. Properly!” I hissed through clenched teeth. In response, Dylan jumped off the chair and began rolling on the floor barking like a dog. Grandparents were no longer even trying to put on a polite face; in fact, Grandpa looked downright alarmed. “That’s it Dylan,” I yelled, “go to bed!” Grandpa leapt at the opportunity, “I think we’ll turn in too, it’s been ah, um, a long day.” Grandma and Grandpa nearly sprinted for their room and firmly shut the door. Despite the fact that I brought the whole problem on myself, I was fuming and embarrassed. I hoped I could face my parents in the morning. I stomped off to make sure the reluctant reader was in bed. As I reached for his bedroom door handle I heard him reading in a clear perfectly enunciated voice, “Air is a mixture of invisible gases…” Lesson learned: Never assume your little genius will do anything to back your claims, nor should you ask them to!
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