Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Reading confidence

Eliza has been attending theater camp every morning for the past week.  She loves it - the people, the goofiness, the drama.  She was so excited for the auditions for the show they will put on, practicing the jokes she would tell over and over.  Then she came home on Thursday, with the wind knocked out of her sails: they had received their scripts that day and she had been given the role of a narrator, which was great, but it meant that she'd had to read her script. Aloud. Not so great. Eliza is still a fairly new reader who as yet lacks the confidence and patience to struggle through very much text, let alone in front of the whole camp.  She was mortified that she had to let the teacher read her lines, while she repeated after him.

I've talked about our road to reading a bit before, but in a nutshell, we are following her lead, giving her plenty of opportunities to read through games, love notes, and books like Mo Willems' Elephant and Piggie stories that are based on simple, funny dialogue, where we can each take a part.  It is low-pressure and intended to give her room to let her love of reading,  not mine,  grow.  I guess I could have anticipated this particular scenario, but she tends to deal with things like this with confidence and nonchalance, finding her own creative solution.  Not this time.  She was freaked out, dreading camp like I remember dreading going to third grade every day when my family moved mid-year.  I felt heartsick that she was experiencing this, and really over lack of confidence and practice.  She is a quick study and I knew she'd have her lines down the first day, if she could avoid letting her anxiety overwhelm her.  I internally beat myself up about it for a few days and then at bedtime on Sunday night she really let it all out, crying, anxious, nervous, wanting camp to be canceled  somehow, considering quitting... We talked about it for a long time, how she would quickly learn her lines by heart, how we would work on it with her, how her teachers were not expecting her to already know her part, how papa and I would support her with what she decided...I offered a possible solution, where she could tell them she was uncomfortable with the size of her role and ask for something with fewer lines.  She jumped at it, and practiced how she would say it over and over but just when I thought she was calmed, she would panic all over again.  

This was when I channeled a friend of ours from long ago who would call once in a while when he knew something big was looming over us, and tell us, "I got this.  You don't have to worry about this one, I've got it for a while."  It always made me laugh, and I could feel my heart soften and begin to breathe again.  I tried it with her - Honey, let me take this worry tonight.  You need a good night sleep without turning this over and over, and I'm feeling strong enough to carry this tonight.  She looked at me with big eyes and said, but mom, it isn't your problem.  I told her, no, but I love you and I care about you and I'd like to do this for you, and in the morning, we'll carry it together if you like.  She immediately let out all her breath and said, thank you mama, and within minutes was asleep.

The next day we followed our plan, the teachers were accommodating and encouraging and we managed to convince her to keep four chunks of lines.  She was a little apprehensive, but I asked her to just say "I can do it" for the morning, and if she still wanted an out, we'd figure it out. I probably don't need to tell you what happened, but I'm a really proud mama, so I will.  She came home with her page of script and proceeded to read the entire thing to me, then again with only her lines, then the whole thing again, then her lines memorized, then...over and over and over.  We finally glued the page to a piece of cardboard so she doesn't wear it out.  Her confidence soared, and I joked with her that I'm going to make her sign a piece of paper that says "I did it! I can do anything!!" so she doesn't put herself through this again.
The coda to this story is that Anika of course was on the periphery of all of this discussion and struggle.  At one point I mentioned (as she watched E demonstrate some cool tap move she learned) that next year she would be old enough to go to theater camp if she wanted.  Her response was to say, well, I'd better work on my reading! and lead me to the couch where she chose a book and started right on it...


Anonymous said...

Oh Eliza Jane! We all knew you could do it! You just needed to be able to say it to yourself! I can't tell you how proud I am of you and how anxious I am to see your production!! And I would love to help you in whatever way I can!! I love you so much!

alissa said...

just so beautiful. when i talked to her today she sounded so excited about camp! tell her that i'm expecting a performance when you guys come, ok? she could even bring a script and teach lucy some of it. dang it, our kids are so freaking great!!!!!

spurfer said...

I'm lying here weeping. The most lovingest, Mama-ist thing to offer is to shoulder your child's fear. That Eliza is a lucky, lucky girl.