Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Book Report

The other night at about 7:15 p.m., 15 minutes from teeth brushing, book and song time in my house, Sicily announced excitedly, "Mom! I've got something we need to work on! A book report! Let's do it now."

She ran to her backpack and got the worksheet. I told her, "Sicily, I've already seen the note. We've got two weeks. You need to pick out a book, one over 32 pages, to read. That's what we will do tonight. Then you can write it, I will help, and we can practice the presentation and get the outfit so you can dress up like your favorite book character. It doesn't all have to happen tonight."

She grabbed a book I bought for her over a year ago - Hope For the Flowers. I read it to her a few months back. I bought it because I remember reading it when I was little and loving all of the pictures. It was well over the 32 page limit, and it had a nice moral, one that I probably failed to pick up on when I read it as a little girl. Get out of the rat race - it is pointless. Follow your heart and you will fly.

I told her, "You have plenty of time to read it on your own." She is reading chapter books well into the late evening now - lots of Amelia Bedelia and Junie B. Jones. Her reading level has shot up by leaps and bounds in first grade this year. While I was reading and singing to John, she had her own agenda. I entered her room after I settled him down.

"Mom, I've got the report almost done. Will you check the spelling?"

I noticed she had basically copied the first few sentences of the book in her summary. It was her first book report - and she clearly didn't have the rules down. I explained to her gently, "Sicily, you can only write a book report about a book you have read yourself. Remember, the characters had names? Stripe and Yellow, I think? You have plenty of time to re-read it, and I'll teach you how to summarize it in your own words. I know a little about writing, so I can help you."

She barely contained a total melt-down, but she contained it well. "What do you know about writing, mom?"

"Well, I write a little on the computer. That is what I do at night, while you are getting to sleep. Lots of people read what I write, and I get a lot out of it. A sense of community."

"Is that what all that clicking on the computer is?"


She went to the task of picking out her own book, even though we were well past bedtime, now. I told her she only had to pick her book tonight, and the rest had time. She entertained and rejected a few Amelia Bedelias. At about 10:30 at night, while I was on the couch reading, she sneaked in the living room. Kept her distance, and quietly announced, "Mom. I found the perfect book. Hello Kitty. It is 42 pages. I read it and I wrote a report. Please read it for me?"

"I'll read it tomorrow, Sicily, and we'll talk about it then. You really need to get to bed. It is a school night."

Ever since she started reading well, she stays up way too late. She is like a teenager in the morning, grumping around and wallowing in the covers until I lose my temper and start ordering her around like a prison warden. We both hate it. I have a hard time outlasting her stamina - she is like the Energizer bunny at night. On Easter eve, I accidentally fell asleep on the couch reading. When I woke up, I worried that I had missed my charge, and frantically looked at my watch for the time (midnight, thank goodness - still time to head to the attic and get the baskets - fill them with the goodies I had stashed in the basement). When I was supposed to be the Tooth Fairy a couple of months ago, and forgot, I had to frantically put some $$ under John's pillow and make up a story that the Tooth Fairy got confused.

When she is not reading at night, she is performing elaborate art projects on her bathroom counter. One morning last week she had nothing short of a sheer masterpiece - a beautifully decorated jewelry box full of original art (glue, colored stones, glittery tiles, etc.) for her first grade teacher.

My heart goes out to her, because I remember reading with a flashlight under the covers on the top bunk of my sister's and my bunk bed, long after lights out. She is very different from me - way more extroverted and spunky, but once again, the apple does not fall far from the tree.

My question to any readers is, what do I do? How do I draw boundaries, here? Do I draw boundaries? Mornings are so rough - I feel like I need to try, but I don't want to stifle her creativity and thirst for knowledge. Anyone have similar experiences with a 7 year old in their house - present or past?

In the carpool line the next morning, after she and her brother fought the whole way there (some mornings are more difficult than others), she got out of the car, and I told her I loved her. To have a great day. I promised her I would read the report, and we would work on it. I told her I would search for a good Hello Kitty costume, for her presentation on April 15th.

"Mom, I don't want to be Hello Kitty. I want to be the puppy. Look for a puppy costume, OK?"

I told her I would try.


  1. Draw the boundaries. Involve her in the drawing of those boundaries so she gets why they are there and feels like she has some role in how her life is playing out.

    Explain to her that by staying up past the time you've asked her to go to bed, she's being disrespectful to you. She's in effect saying that you're opinion isn't as important as hers.
    She is being disrespectful to herself .. lack of sleep makes mornings harder and isn't healthy and makes school more difficult than it needs to be.

    let her know that you understand her thirst for knowledge and passion for life ...her drive, creativity and intelligence. But that to be able to experience fully, one needs to be A) able to function within socities rules (within in reason ;o) .. if we all did that to the line, we, as women wouldn't be where we are)
    and B) be as healthy as she can be and not getting enough sleep prevents that.

    Not only will it make life easier for you in the mornings (and in the evenings as well, would be my guess) but it will make things easier for you in the long run. She'll learn some negotiating skills and responsibility.

    Drawing the line also gives kids a security in knowning that their parents love them and are there to take care of them.

    Just my opinion ...
    Out of curiosity, what time is her bedtime?

  2. This helps. How? Ideas? Examples?

    On good nights, we start at 7:00 (toothbrushing, individual book and song - Sicily gets a chapter) - and are done by eight. Sometimes the process drags until 8:30. With John still napping at school for a couple more months - he is up until 9 or 10 on school nights coming out - but he is pretty quiet and unobtrusive, and happy most mornings. Sicily's nighttime antics are over the top and stressing her out, I can tell.

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  4. This may or may not help. I was that 7 year old. I hid a flashlight in my room and read long into the night. When my parents took the flashlight away, I crawled under my desk and read by the light of the nightlight that was there to keep me from running into things on my way to the bathroom. It was my "happy place". When my parents finally just "let it go" I would sleep when I needed to and the bad times stopped. My son is the same but with computer games. When I stopped and let him "self regulate" it took a little time, but everything evened out. The therapist said, "it is his "happy place", don't try to take it away" (um, we were concerned about depression)...and when I didn't try to exert my authority over that one thing, (There were many others where I could and did - just not his "happy place") everything got better.
    I sure hope that things even out for you and that you find that puppy costume!

  5. My child psych text book says that a 7 year old needs 10 to 11 hours of sleep.
    Maybe you could start the bedtime routine at 7:30 ..and say that the earlier she gets ready, the more time she has to do what she wants (read, be creative) as a quiet activity until 8:30 This allows her to help in the negotiations and feel like she has a role in it.

    (I had to look up the sleep times ...ugh, it's going to be on the test next week, guess I better study some more!)

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  7. It's me again. Thinking about your situation while on the treadmill (it is where I do some of my best thinking), I remembered sending Stubble to bed (years ago) only to find him awake hours later lying in the dark.....when he would fall asleep for me the best was in the living room, lights full on, tv on, with his feet in my lap and his cat curled up at his side. He'd be out in about 3 minutes. Then at about 11 I could get him to go to the bathroom one last time and move him to his room. In his room: awake for hours. Out with me: asleep in no time. He was about 4 at the time and that routine lasted until he was about 8.

  8. I'm only 24 and I don't have kids yet, but when I was in grade school, I too was an avid reader. My parents were also concerned about my staying up to late and set limits on bedtime- it didn't work; I'd fake sleep til after they checked on me, then get a flashlight and read under my covers until I got tired... so if she loves reading enough rules may not work.
    To this day I still love reading and try to read a book every 2 weeks despite being in med school.
    Good luck!

  9. My seven year old is the same way. We were having a lot of grumpy mornings from my previously happy early bird. We talked it over and decided that she would read out loud the book to me. This is predicated on the rest of the bedtime routine being done by 8PM. She has a limit of 3 chapters. Usually by 2 chapters, she is tired of reading out loud. I finish the last chapter and she goes to bed with a smile. The joy of this year is seeing her reasoning skills and making her part of the decision has made her really responsible and a good example to her 5 year old sister.

  10. When I was a kid I was bullied a lot in school and my escape was books. Well into my 'tween years I was reading under the covers with a flashlight or by the light of the streetlight outside my window. It kept the worry away in the night and made sleeping easier when I did. There are times when boundaries and rules are good and times when clipping wings just leads to more secretive reading. I'm not a parent and I don't have advice - I just wanted to share my own experience.

  11. I was that kid! The thing was, I had really bad insomnia, so if I weren't reading, then I was lying in bed stewing and being frustrated.

    I finally learned (as an adult) that I could listen to a book on tape, and it helped me relax, and since I didn't actually have to have the light on or focus on reading, I could fall asleep. And since you can replay the tape if you fall asleep, it's not like you're missing lots.

  12. This is so hard, because reading is such a great thing, and, I, too, would read by the light under the crack of my bedroom door (I totally blame my myopia on this practice, BTW). However, as a parent, I firmly believe that boundaries are needed and wanted by our kids. I understand that there is some upheaval going on in your personal life, and so, I am sure that it isn't easy on any of you right now.

    I really like the ideas above of setting time limits on her nightime activity, starting the bed time routines a little earlier, and encouraging "lights out no later than..."(and then, gently enforcing that) and, as a fellow insomniac, I also really like the idea of incorporating a "book on tape" or even certain music after "lights out," sometimes having something on which to concentrate helps the round-y round-y thoughts. I will be paying special attention to all the advice you recieve, and the paths you take, as I have a feeling we will soon be fighting this battle with my 5(almost 6!) year-old little girl.

    Best of luck with the Hello Kitty dog (?) costume, I would definitely go to the internets for this one! :)

  13. I am overwhelmed and grateful for each and every comment - they all added a lot in helping me figure out this puzzle.

    Sicily's dad and I have been separated for two months, and the nighttime behavior has escalated, since then. I like the idea of it being her "happy place" - don't want to "clip wings" too much. It only happens 2-3 times/week, in retrospect.

    I also love the idea of drawing some boundaries - with her involvement, of course. She is a big kid, and she needs a clock. I need to talk to her about the morning repercussion of her late nights on both of us - at a time when I am not being reactive to her morning moods and worried about being late to work. Point out the connection between her late night behavior and our rough mornings, and let her in on the solution.

    She desperately needs white noise at night - usually I turn on a space heater fan and it helps her fall asleep. I think books on tape are a great idea, and can't wait to try that with her to help calm her anxiety and have an outlet for her trouble falling asleep that is easily accessible if she needs it. I like the idea of her lying in bed listening to books better than doing elaborate art projects on her bathroom counter - a little too industrious after lights out.

    Will definitely head to the internet for the dog costume - I need to read the book first and figure out what she wants.

    Thanks again!! I am so lucky (thanks KC, Ramona for the connection, every member and reader of this wonderful community) to have this forum to problem solve. The more personal comments gave me goose bumps - not only out of concern for my daughter but from my own memories of being "that girl," too.

  14. I used to do the same thing, too -- hide a flashlight and read until I got tired, even though I was always wiped in the morning.

    I think the suggestions you already got were great, and I have another possibility. I hated school (boring!!!) when I was younger, and I really loved reading, so I was loathe to stop doing what I loved to go to bed, when all that would happen in the morning was I'd wake up and have to drag myself to boring school. Maybe you could make a deal with her that if she goes to bed by x hour, she's allowed to wake up earlier and read before school. 80% of the time she might end up sleeping til her normal hour, but it will give her a sense of control over the situation. And she'll have something fun to look forward to in the morning.

  15. Same problem here with my 9 year old. He was a zombie this morning when I made him get out of bed at 7:25. I send him to bed at 8:30, but have a lights out rule of 9. Periodically I'll hear him still shuffling around in there and he'll claim that he "forgot what time it was" or that he couldn't sleep so he just kept reading...he's my mini-me, because I often get sucked into a good book and am astonished to discover that it's 1 a.m. When I can tell that he's really in to a book and I think he's not likely to go to bed on time, I'll actually set a timer for him to remind him when lights out needs to be.

  16. I love that idea, married with puppies. I'll put that one high up in the queue.

    Thanks Nurse Heidi - I really do need to get a clock. She needs a sense of control, desperately right now, for obvious reasons. She is managing really well though - socially very intact and academics have not suffered - she is still right where she needs to be. She's such a happy kid.

  17. For what it's worth ... the clocks that I bought for my kids never seemed to work right. Silly manufacturers seem to only make a clock that works when the child picks it out ...such an odd thing. But that seems to be the way it goes. ;o)

  18. My son is 9 and we have the same problem. He wants to stay up late reading, I make him go to his room at 8:00 now to read and tell him to go to bed at 9. Last night he still came out to "talk" to me at 10:30. At least it's reading and not video games or pointless shows on television...that is what I tell myself.

  19. I am on my second set of kid clocks, and am having the EXACT same problem. They are ending up on the kitchen counter, unused, next to the honey, salt, and crushed peppers.

    Forever Rhonda - I agree. It is hard to turn away a kid reaching out late at night from a place of need - even when you are trying to wind down, yourself. I have to force myself to set limits and make her save it until the morning - sometimes I give in and just let her talk, depending on my mood (and my gauge of hers).


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