The Perils of having an Early Reader

A child will only ask the questions that she is ready to hear the answers to.

This little pearl of wisdom has been an invaluable component of my mommy toolkit over the last five years.  It's been a steady and comforting rule for me, as my daughter has raised questions about death and war, injustice and sacrifice.

Yet when I placed my mommy trust in this golden snippet of clarity, I forgot to take into account one tiny factor:  The Perils of having an Early Reader.

My daughter has been reading chapter books since she was three.  Yes, she has always loved books.  No, I have never formally "taught" her how to read.  It's just one of those things...much like potty learning and Sleeping Through The comes when it comes and there's jack shit we can do to hurry it along.

So my kid is a reader.  An early reader.  And with that fact, I am able to lazily ignore strange things such as phonics and can avoid spending hours on those slow and boring 'beginning to read' stories, which cut half the story out in favour of words that create patterns...yay me.

Yet alongside the ease of natural parenting laziness, comes a side-helping that's far less pleasant.  And to be frank, not at all appreciated.


Exposure to terror.  Literally, terror.  The shops are full of newspapers and every headline shouts about death threats and terrorism.  About bombs and guns and war.

"Mummy, what is war?"  Asked the tiny human who had only just learnt to use the big slide at the park. 

Heartbreak, right there in the check-out queue.

And exposure to mummy's potty mouth.  Ok, this one is really on me and not the reading, but when I hand her my phone, like a true Mombie at 5.30am, so that she can wish her travelling daddy good morning via text...she inevitably reads higher up the text trail to see a few, shall we say, choice words being sent from yours truly.

"Mummy, why didn't you give a fuck?"  Asked the little girl with the beaming smile.

Shame, right there in the morning light amid the birdsong.

The most notable one to date, though, has been exposure to chlamydia.

Yup, chlamydia.

Picture the scene.  I had a dodgy-looking mole on my chest that needed a glance-over by my GP.  So we're sitting together, myself and my three year old, for all of eternity in the doctor's waiting room.  We've already made it through the entire backpack of books I brought along for the ride, and the little one is fidgeting.  She's bored.  Her eyes start to wander.

In hindsight, perhaps I should have chosen a different seat.  Maybe one in a less crowded area, or one near the 'ultrasound' posters or 'healthy eating' leaflets.  But no, I was sitting directly opposite the sexual health board.

A whole freaking board.

"Mummy, what's chlamydia?"

She even got the pronunciation right...I have no idea how.

Her eyes, sweet innocent three year old eyes, were like expectant saucers.  The little old lady sitting beside me visibly flinched.  The elderly man opposite couldn't hide his laughter.  I froze, in a sort of 'what the fuck?' kind of way.  So again, patiently and calmly, albeit a little louder this time...

"Mummy, chlamydia.  What is chlamydia?"

Oh man, did I falter.  Did I waver.  How I said TOO MUCH and simultaneously not enough...

Moms, the perils of early reading are real.  But in truth, I think I've learnt more than my daughter through all of these early reading mishaps:

Mommy Lessons, via Early Reading:
  1. Headlines and propaganda are scary, even for adults.
  2. Stop using the word 'fuck' in text messages.  Or delete the evidence.
  3. It's never too early to start learning about sexual health.

And through it all, through every peril and new puzzle piece to add to life's mosaic, my daughter still shines.  Her innocence hasn't been lost to propaganda or profanities.  Her understanding, albeit incredibly articulate, is still that of a child.

So I guess the real lesson here, is to add a little extra to my essential mommy toolkit go-to message:

A child will only ask the questions that she is ready to hear the answers to...and will only hear the answers that she is ready to understand.

Peace be with you, fellow Early Reader warriors.

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