It’s amazing to me that my two oldest children are so different.
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 babyâ€”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.”Â
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 hisÂ 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.
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?