To my dearest Kaia,
I know you long for the letters to make sense, to unite themselves and speak to you. I know each syllable is a battle for you and I see you fighting.
By the time you are able to read this well, you will have won the battle.
You will have put in the hours of tracing your finger along the page and sounding out each painstaking phonics rule with your brows knit tight and the corner of your lower lip tucked between your teeth. You will have arranged letter tiles, your tiny fingers washing over their surfaces trying to make language. You will have flipped through the ring of sight words cards until their punched hole grows ragged and worn.
I know that Anne and Sara Crew and Laura have taken you on adventures, their stories trailing into your heart and mind through the soft drone of your cd’s. I know that those spinning disks have kept you company for long hours and your imagination overflows with familiar friends.
I know that each trip to the library leaves us like squealing schoolgirls as we pile books high and prepare to feast.
But I also know you are still a foreigner to the ways these letters move, the words as familiar as your own memories, but unrecognizable on the pages you have all but memorized.
And I know that as you look around, you are beginning to notice that for some the stringing of words and phrases comes swiftly and the syllables turn to pages and the pages to chapters.
And I worry as all mothers worry when I see the shadow cross your face and I see your eyes cast down and your tiny fingers clasped tight working themselves into a knot. I see you when the other children are chiming in with their answers and you look up and frown hard at the words and your head drops, your hair cascading like a curtain to cover your embarrassment and you take a step back.
I see you, sweet girl, and I know. When other girls are flying through the Box Car Children and American Girls on their own, and we are left picking Early Readers, I understand.
Because love, we all have things we want to do. And we all have people who do them better, faster, easier.
So the task at hand is to search for the treasure in where we find ourselves.
It may not always seem like traveling a harder road is fair or even a blessing.
But know this. Listen to these words and bury them deep.
You are as brilliant as the brightest star, your mind on fire. But baby girl, we all burn differently.
Some, like Judah, pick up that first spark of vowels and consonants and blaze through pages gobbling up words. Some, like your father, struggle to get the embers to flame. Like coals, under the surface, their molten centers don’t cast off flashes for all to see but oh, how they burn.
A smoldering warmth buried deep.
And that is what I thank the Lord for when I see you struggle.
You snuggled next to me with pillows piled high and mounds of white downy covers floating above us. Warmth. You tucked in the crook of my arm, the sweet honey of your hair filling my senses, and the delicious taste of these words in my mouth, spilling out for you.
The sparkle in your eye and the pleading for one more chapter, one more sentence or word to fill your mind. The soft rustle of the dog-eared pages, stories from my girlhood, and I have the pleasure of introducing you to my old friends.
That this prose, this narrative, this poetry is our communion. We share these words, you and I. And my love for literature and my love for you intertwine in these moments and I savor them in my soul as you wrap yourself into me and anticipate each line.
You struggle and I see you. But know that the struggle is building up stamina and endurance and flames are easy to douse but coals burn through the night and rise again to blaze on.
I love you Boo and I’m so very proud of all your hard work and determination, you make my mama heart swell.
Your reading buddy, mom
It’s been four years since I wrote this post. A few days ago I asked my FB friends for book suggestions for Kaia because she reads so much, I can barely keep up. I came back to this post today and re-read it and then I let Kaia read it. And she did. Every last word. I’m so proud of my girl, then and now. I’ve never seen a girl love the gift of books as much as Kaia and I believe it’s because she’s always had to fight for it.