By CL Bledsoe

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My mother was a school teacher. When I was little, my sister taught me to read. I did everything my big sister told me to do. She would read to me and make me copy what she read. We used our mom’s school book. We would play school all the time. It worked because we were playing. It was fun to explore the world in this new way.

Of course, that meant when I got to school and everyone else was learning to read, I was bored and became a trouble maker. I pin all my future failings in life on learning to read.

When my daughter was five, she saw writing as a laborious process with little benefit. She could read, and she could write, she just didn’t want to. She preferred to have me read to her. Or, better yet, watch My Little Pony.

I had this idea about parenting before I became one. It involved a lot more sleeping. It also involved the idea that my child and I would have an instant accord. Everything would be easy, because my child would understand that, if I were pushing this agenda, it must be important. We’d spend our time skipping through the daisies, hand in hand, not a care in the world.

The reality is that parenting is nothing like that. Okay, sometimes it is. But I’m allergic to daisies. Mostly, it’s about butting heads. It seems like a lot of parenting is being challenged and questioned by your child, over and over, as your child makes space for her/himself. They argue and grumble and sometimes blow up, and you deal with it and help them deal with it and move on. You forgive them. They forgive you. You forgive the daisies.

I feel like my mother had a lot more resources than I do, since she taught little kids. I’m saying that she knew what she was doing. I’ve taught high school and college for a decade, which is not the same. But really, it was my sister who taught me, so I have nothing to complain about.

Reading is hard. So is writing.

Before bed, every night, I read to my daughter. Usually, she asked me to make up a story. It was usually about mermaids.

So, I had this idea. What I wanted my daughter to get out of reading is that sense of wonder and adventure as she explored the world. So I decided to start writing her letters from a mermaid pen pal. .

The idea was that she would read the letters and write her own back. The biggest obstacle I found with this was that I wanted to include a “self-portrait” of the mermaid friend, and I am a TERRIBLE artist. Seriously. I took a sketching class in college. The prof would have us hang our drawings up and then go around and critique them. When he got to mine, he went really quiet. Then he skipped them and went to the next person. Then, he came back, and started talking about instances of alien abduction. I wasn’t sure how to take that.

So I bought a BOOK:

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This is about as dumbed-down a book on drawing I could find. It has simple images and breaks them down into simpler shapes. This is good, because I have no artistic skill. I’m not being falsely modest. I was never that kid who doodled in the back of class. I wrote poems, instead. Which, also, weren’t very good.

Another thing about this was I wanted it to look about on the level my daughter could do, so it would be a realistic representation. Yes, I was over-thinking it.

So there we go. Rainie is a lonely mermaid who lives in Black Pond — which is the name of a nearby pond.

If she ends up in therapy because of this, well, I’ll feel really bad I guess.

Stuff My Stupid Heart Likes by CL Bledsoe (co-author of and The Wild Word:

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