Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Expecting Too Much

My plastic sword-swinging eight year old, Merida, was always more advanced than the other kids in her class. From 18 months, I could see that she was going to be a lover of books.

She didn't care to play with other kids. She'd rather sit in her corner with her picture books and flip through them while chaos ensued all around her. I was concerned at first until I sent her off to preschool at three years old - mainly for the sake of socializing. I was surprised to find that she knew the alphabet, shapes, colors and she could count to ten while many others in her class could not. She was a smart cookie. Still is. She's had straight A's all year, every year since she started school. Her teacher's words were, "you've got an amazing daughter. She's the kind of student all of us teachers want. If we would have a class full of kids like her, there'd never be any problems."

I was proud. I still am proud. But this whole experience has caused some problems when it comes to her sister, my six year old.

I shall call her "Princess Unicorn Giggles" or Rapunzel, though the first is more fitting. Since she could sit on her own, life was all about butterfly-pooping unicorns and fuzzy rainbows. My little Rapunzel, with her super-long hair and big, round, blue eyes is - academically speaking - right where a six year old should be. Her mind is more concerned about her next game or adventure and she could really care less about math or reading. She can do it but she just doesn't care to. She's in first grade now and her grades are nothing near what her sister's were. Now, at first, I was very worried! I called in for a parent-teacher conference to see why my child was behind.(though, she really wasn't) 

"Why is she only reading small words?"
"Why can't she do subtraction?"
"Why isn't she reading chapter books like her sister was at this age?"

I was frustrated and Princess could tell...but that only made things worse. It stopped any possibility of her loving to learn. It was a job then. It was a job to try to read and it wasn't fun anymore. Numbers, letters and shapes weren't exciting like they were when she was a toddler.

Fast-forward a few months later when I went inside her class to explain to her teacher that an accident on the highway is the reason that there are only six kids in her class.
"I had to take a different road," I explained. "I'd have been in traffic for two hours if I didn't."
"Yeah," a sweet, high-pitched voice said behind me.
I turned and saw this little blonde girl only two desks away from Princess.
Her eyes widened in wonder as she went on saying, "but there was no slug in the woad so I don't know where the twaffic is coming fwom."

The teacher chuckled and looked at me with this, "oh, kids are silly" look and it hit me. I looked to Princess who was giggling away at a boy making funny faces and my stomach hit the floor. I'd been expecting way too much from my little girl. Her sister was more advanced and mature than the average kid at that age, but Princess? She was right where the rest of them were. She was where she's supposed to be and I was pushing her and stressing her out. I felt horrible. My heart broke for her and on my way home, I decided I'd chill out. Ever since then, I've been a lot more understanding of who she is and what she finds interesting. We've made math and reading fun and...at her own pace. She enjoys me "quizzing" her now and she just seems like a more relaxed kid.

I'm far from being the perfect mom and I'm learning about this parenthood thing on a daily basis. Yes, I have four kids, but not one will be the same, nor will the experiences be with each one of them. There is no limit to what can be learned as a parent and there is no level you can reach to be able to say, "hey, I'm a pro. I know exactly what I'm doing and I'm the best at it." We can do our best but by doing, we're still learning.

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