The Bite Point

If you’d have told me five years ago that I’d be telling Delph to stop reading so she could do her school work, I’d have laughed with joy. If you’d told me the same thing a year ago, I would have cried exhausted tears. Six months ago, I’d have smiled. Maybe. Today, it was a whole different bag of worms. 

There are changes afoot. I was driving up Penglais Hill today- the large hill leaving Aberystwyth – driving past the local hospital, the National Library of Wales and Aberystwyth University – see what I mean about a large hill – and I started to think about how we learn to drive.

For manual cars – the process of releasing one foot off the clutch while pressing the other foot down on the accelerator. The driving instructor called it ‘the bite point’. The bite point? Was there a shark by your feet? 

It refers, of course, to the point of change between the clutch and accelerator. If you release the clutch too early without engaging the accelerator, the car loses power and stalls. If you do it correctly, the accelerator foot growls, the car gets ready and you ease off the clutch while pressing down on the accelerator. Car keeps moving – congratulations – you’ve successfully changed gear! 

Back to Delph. We knew she’d only read when she wanted to. And for a long time, she really didn’t want to. In fact, if anyone could try and negotiate this world without reading, Delphine would have been a good candidate. She tried with the best of them. It had even got to the point where I was admiring her for it. Where I’d also began to think; well, who really needs to read? And this is coming from a writer. This shows how well Delph sold it. 

Delphine’s childhood activities so far have included drawing, listening to audiobooks, and playing Barbies. Oh, and watching TV. Reading was nowhere to be seen. I mean except when I drag her, threaten her, and bully her to read. Which has generally been the last four years of my life. Yep, it’s true. The good the bad and the ugly. 

Except for a chink in Delph’s armour. Her piece of kryptonite is an app called Episode. The girls discovered it on Quest, not long after we’d arrived in the Caribbean. Episode is an animated comic book of sorts. You tap the screen and captions come up with cartoons of your characters. They move, flick their hair, get on their phones and you change their outfits. There’s a narrative, a storyline to follow by reading each caption. It has to choose-your-own-adventure quality too – you decide which way the story will go.

Lulu used to read Episode to Delphine. Delphine used to beg Lulu to read it to her. I remember countless hours in the Tiki Bar in Grenada’s Prickly Bay. Their favourite storyline was also a TV show called Pretty Little Liars. A ‘marmite’ kind of show – you either love it or hate it. I’m not passing judgement, I think its premise is genius. The leader of a group of girls has disappeared, presumed dead. The rest of the gang are all secretly relieved since she was a bully – until they start receiving texts signed by their ‘dead’ friend’s initial: A. A knew all their secrets. It’s like teenage shame on steroids. 

Delph saw Pretty Little Liars advertised on Netflix recently. Her eyes lit up. And then, funnily enough, she opened Episode on her iPad. Without warning, she began to read the captions. Now, for the last two days I can’t get her out of that app. I can’t get her to stop reading. To the point where I had to tell her to stop. The bite point has arrived. The Barbies have languished in their Barbie houses. As an act of rebellion, I find them inching their way across the floor. ‘Why aren’t you playing with us Delphine?’ 

Now, I’m sure she’s not reading all of it. She pauses and comes and calls me to come and translate a word. It’s usually somewhere along the lines of disobedience, embarrassing diabolical, or disappointing. Teenage shame on steroids requires a certain sort of lingo. I’m not complaining. If shame on steroids is Delphine’s bite point, we’ll release the clutch and push the accelerator down. 

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