January 10 12

It’s amazing to me that my two oldest children are so different.

I know.


It has been just over 9 years since I have been mama to both of them, born just 20-months apart, and yet I am still continuously baffled by their differences. I mean, these two. They were born to the same parents, who were probably too young to be mama and daddy. I assumed they’d be exactly the same. Then again, I assumed by my identical pregnancies that my Joshua was going to be an Abby, so I guess I am often proved wrong.

I should have known from November 2, 2002 just how different these two were going to be. Emily came into the world NEEDY. An attention-seeker to the core, Emily wailed her tiny little head off the entire ride home from the hospital. “Just you wait, Ali. The car is going to be your best friend! Babies always fall asleep in the car.” Those were words I would like all of those experts to eat. She wailed on the way home and never stopped; my baby hated the car. Until November 3rd, 2002, when I plopped baby Joshua in the carseat and he slept the entire ride home. Imagine! I didn’t know it was possible. Whatever Emily needed from me, Joshua did not. He was the world’s easiest baby—no attention-seeking behavior from him.

At 20-months old, my needy child decided that her mama was paying too much attention to her baby brother. So, she decided she was done wearing diapers. Ripped ‘em off. “DONE!” she exclaimed with delicious glee. I could see her rubbing her hands together, plotting. “Now I’ve got my mama right where I want her. My bum is too small to get on the toilet alone and the last thing she wants is to discourage me from this whole potty training business. Whee! Attention for me!” And her brother had to wait to be fed until I was done hoisting his sister onto the toilet, encouraging her business, and wiping her tiny tush.

Let’s fast-forward to today. The 5th grader and the 4th grader haven’t changed much. One still craves and seeks attention. One is as low-maintenance as can be.

And then there’s school.

Emily approaches school the way I did. An eager beaver, she is. She jump-starts on assignments before they are even officially assigned. She needs trips to the dollar store for supplies and she needs constant affirmation that YES, HER PROJECT IS AMAZING. She needs to rehearse her speeches in front of an audience, she needs to email her papers to me for a quick once-over, she needs. She needs. But, to her credit, she performs. Hoo boy does she perform. 98% is not sufficient in her eyes. Where are the other two marks??! She stresses, she worries, she performs. She struggles sometimes in the subjects she can’t perfect. Math, for example. She’s not the best mathematician in her class. Because she’s not the best, she’s obviously the worst.

I don’t worry about Emily. “I wish I had 24 other Emilys in my class.” 

Joshua approaches school the way..well, I don’t even know. He is a mess. He loses everything. I can’t tell you how many pencil cases I have bought this year alone. And how many times I have had to replenish missing pencils, pens, markers, glue sticks and the like. He doesn’t write down his assignments. According to him, he doesn’t need to. “I finished my homework at school.” He finished, that is, until I find out that he hasn’t finished. He has done the minimum. This week, he brought home a book that his teacher compiled featuring the words of each 4th grader; fictional words about fictional pets. The students wrote pages and pages about mythical dogs and cats and hamsters. Joshua, on the other hand, wrote FOUR sentences. But these sentences? They were beautiful. They described the dawn and the dew on the grass and the dog’s panting as he runs through the morning mist. I KNOW. But he wrote four sentences. Not sufficient, if you ask his teacher. He reads at a college level, plowing through series after series nightly. He performs math at a high-school level, when he decides he wants to perform.

This morning I kept him home after receiving an alarming email from his teacher. I won’t get into specifics, but I will say this. When you tell your parents that you delivered an assignment that is a HUGE percentage of your grade 4 grade, and you actually didn’t even do the assignment, we’ve got problems.

Brilliant mind.

Brilliantly bad at delivery.

I’m sure he’s not unique.

But he is unique to me.

I’m used to his older sister.

I’m not used to non-performance. I’m not used to apathy when it comes to assignments. I’m not used to delivering just enough to scrape by.

So I kept him home so he could sit down and deliver a two-page book report. He was finished by 9:00am. When he actually sat down and did it, the words just poured out of him. He read the book. He understood the book. He even liked the book. He just decided not to do the assignment. WHY?

I don’t know how to do this. I cannot wrap my head around it. HOW do I get him to be more organized, to complete assignments, to WANT to complete assignments?

He is such an awesome kid, with so much greatness bottled inside.

But how do we get it out…

…before he fails 4th grade?


  1. Yikes! I think I have one JUST. LIKE. HIM :) With a smidge of Emily’s dramaticness :)


    Comment by Jana A (@jana0926) on January 10, 2012
  2. Oh boy. That sweet boy sounds JUST LIKE ME. That was the story of my life in school. When I was made to do something…or when I enjoyed a subject….I excelled. I attribute it to lazy and crazy ADD. I just got bored in school. Drove my mom crazy. It wasn’t until I was older, in college, that I began to appreciate how amazing the gift of learning is…GOOD LUCK with that sweet boy, lady. xoxo

    P.S. My sister was the polar opposite of me also!


    Comment by Allison Zapata on January 10, 2012
  3. I think because he’s so stinking smart and academics come so easily to him, he gets bored and apathetic. Brilliant Mind meets Surfer boy. 4th grade is really when they are having to learn to get their biz together. he has some time before it goes on this permanent record.:)


    Comment by gorillabuns on January 10, 2012
  4. Definitely sounds like boredom or bad presentation of the goal.

    It’s likely little solace to hear, but I was a bit like that too. Just didn’t feel any sense of need to please or rush. To get the paper grades (since we know he already has the smarts) sounds like you have to be a more persistent usher. Gah.

    I love the oppositeness of them.


    Comment by Amanda on January 10, 2012
  5. I can hear my teachers to my parents right now “if only Amy would apply herself, she could get straight A’s”
    Blah blah blah was what I heard.
    I know now how frustrating I must have been to my parents and teachers.
    I have no advice. Hope Joshua learns before I did… like when I got to college.


    Comment by Amy on January 10, 2012
  6. This is so me and my younger sister. I was the Emily, and she was the Josh. I excelled and stressed and performed. She wanted to go and play and had to be coerced and forced and bribed.

    We are both blessed with smarts, we just tap into them differently. Rewards/reactions/everything had to be unique to what motivates us.

    And I’m sure that being a parent, and being used to a particular type of behavior, means that shifting between the two is a challenge on it’s own.

    What kind of learner was the hubby in school? Maybe he can better relate to Josh and find out what will light a fire under him?


    Comment by Darcey on January 10, 2012
  7. This sounds exactly how my husband describes himself all the way through elementary school & middle school. When I ask him WHY (I mean, he is a lawyer now, so obviously he was smart enough….) he just shrugs and says it wasn’t hard enough so he quit caring. If it wasn’t hard enough it was dumb, and dumb things were not worth it. Not sure if that helps, but perhaps it might help with some insight?


    Comment by Daisy on January 10, 2012
  8. Oh, Joshie.

    I echo everyone’s statements that he is so smart, it’s boring to him. He doesn’t see the need because he knows it and gets it. Why do the work?

    Is there a way the teacher can start emailing you assignments? I mean, I know this doesn’t help with the organizational skills, but at least would help him not fail?

    Is there any kind of gifted program he can get in?

    Overall in life, he’s going to be fine. At some point, he’ll find something that challenges him. Unfortunately, that probably won’t be until high school or college.

    (This was not helpful at all.)


    ali replied on

    Don’t worry..I’m not really looking for help…just someone to listen to my frustrations.

    We are switching schools next year. I think he needs a new and different environment. We are trying desperately to encourage him to work on things he loves…math, harry potter, baseball, drama…and trying to encourage him that he needs to DELIVER work or he can’t move on in school. His teachers are scaring me.


    Comment by Kristabella on January 10, 2012
  9. Gosh… I can’t imagine where he gets that from…. *GULP*


    Comment by Gav on January 10, 2012
  10. Josh is me starting in Sixth Grade all the way through the end of technical school (when I was 23, btw); at least academically, I was a very high performer, I loved reports and pretending to be part of a Colonial classroom for a day (fifth).

    But homework?


    If I can illustrate I know a concept through a test and it is clear I have listened enough in class to excel – why homework? I still have that view because while it was not my favorite subject, math I usually got.

    Science was a different story, but… math I got.

    I could write pages and pages (I wrote a 32 page epic my sophomore ear instead fo the um, required five pages..), but I HATED homework. Ask me to read twelve books before the end of the summer? Write reports on them?

    THAT I could do.

    I was even enthusiastic about my Economics class in high school.

    Ask me to read through three chapters of math or science and then do all of the even problems? Nothing doing.

    Ask me to read three chapters of religious textbook just because, don’t go over it in class and then expect me to do all the study guide questions? Absolutely not.


    Comment by Maribelle on January 10, 2012
  11. That was (before you freak out, notice the past tense) totally me in 4th grade…and high school…and college…and at jobs that I had to quit before they fired me.

    I was reading a blog post about two years ago (oh, I wish I could remember which one in order to thank this woman) and the author was describing her problems, MY problems. Her solution was to get medicated for ADD, no H. I went to my psychiatrist, started on Adderall and it was like a switch was flipped. It was very truly life changing.

    No one ever put the pieces together because I wasn’t the kid bouncing off the walls. I was verbally disruptive in grade school, which I grew out of, but as a child who was happy to get lost in books, I was absolutely not hyper. I still hear from my parents friends that I was a great kid to have around, that they could take me anywhere as long as I had a book with me.

    This may not be the case in your situation, but please have him evaluated. I feel like a lot of years of my life (I’m 38 now) were wasted because I didn’t know why I wasn’t able to just buckle down and finish things like everyone else.

    Once I started talking about what I had gone through, I seemed to find a large community of people who experienced the same thing. We were bright! We were capable! We were lazy? Crazy?

    What we all were was disappointed that it had taken so much frustration and failure to get to the point where we thought to seek help.


    Comment by Melissa on January 10, 2012
  12. Stay on his butt? I know it sounds bad, but it may be the only way. Some teachers will even tell you at the beginning of each week what the homework will be, so you know what it actually is.

    Maybe he’s bored? That’s just a guess. Work wise it’s so below what he is capable that he just doesn’t care if he does it? I wish you much luck though. Oh and maybe share when you figure it out because my seven year old is heading in this direction.

    ps. I swear sometimes reading here is almost spooky. Our kids are very alike in a lot of ways. My second? Man I thought there was something wrong with her for the first two years of her life. Because she was so un-needy. The exact oppisite of her sister. Randomly? Until delivery, we thought she was a boy. Delivery room surprise. No joke.


    ali replied on

    YOUR PS. It’s so so so true. We really are the same! It’s sooo eerie!


    Issa replied on

    Reading that you thought Josh was a girl literally gave me goose bumps. Was he a delivery room surprise too? I laughed my ass off for two hours when the doc goes…oh well um she is great. My mom was in the room and Bailey didn’t cry right away so she said, is he okay.


    Comment by Issa on January 10, 2012
  13. Does Emily sit down and do homework when she gets home from school? It sounds like she does. If you don’t already have that routine in place for Joshua, I’d start there. Everyone sits down with a snack and gets to work, then it’s time to play. If everyone is working on homework, he won’t be the only one and you’ll be there to make sure he completes quality work. Maybe he isn’t feeling challenged and homework is boring for him, but as a student, completing the work is his job. It’s never too early to learn how to jump through hoops! :)


    Comment by Alison on January 10, 2012
  14. I have one too. Since he was in 6th grade, everyone told me he was just a “typical gifted boy” and he would grow out of it…Wait-too late-he will be 18 in 10 days. After years of telling he has to follow through, do assignments, finish projects, get organized, stop losing things or you will never get into college…he has been accepted into 4 so far! I am afraid what will happen when he goes off and doesn’t have me to yell at him all day. It works out, I guess!
    An Aside…I am sorry, but I always get my hackles about “boredom”. This has nothing to do with being bored or not challenged and everything to do with follow through and commitment. Like Issa said, I told my son it is his job to go to school and do what is asked of him on a daily basis.


    Comment by LibraryGirl62 on January 10, 2012
  15. I have no idea what to do for Joshua, but I do know that you need to hear that you are a painfully wonderful mother in so many tiny intricate wonderful ways.

    Sorry that’s all I’ve got, but if you’re anything like me, it’s awful important to hear.


    Comment by moosh in indy. on January 10, 2012
  16. Your kids are so awesome. Each in their own, completely unique way.

    I love it.


    Comment by Meghan on January 10, 2012
  17. Oh Ali….we need to talk.


    Comment by Sharon on January 11, 2012

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