Monday, July 16, 2012

Drama, Drama, Drama

Henry and Elliot have their own little desks in their rooms now. They're cute little kid-sized deals with a cork tack board background and a little shelf and chair.  Elliot looks like he belongs in his. When Henry is seated at his desk, he looks like Elf on Bob Newhart's lap.   It seems hard to believe that the boys need desks for homework because they both still have mouths full of baby teeth.  It works fine on Elliot -- it even works fine on Henry's sweet little baby face. But on his 4'5" frame and tipping the scales at 68lbs., it's a little incongruous.

Henry works hard. He likes to sweep, mop, vacuum, dig holes in the yard, break or take apart everything he can get his hands on and eat a lot of weird food while hiding behind the couch.  I'm trying to break him of the shame that surrounds these frequent trips behind my back to the fridge or cupboard.

I'd rather have him as big as a house than hiding behind the couch eating Z Bars and Doritos (Dad's purchase--not mine).

We have to do homework with the boys now.  School is so much more rigorous than it was when I was young.  They expect to get the kids imputing content into their little forming brains probably 2 and half years earlier than we had to worry about it. We had a cakewalk comparatively. 

We question the wisdom of this but we also don't want to leave the kids without the necessary skills and stamina to manage the requisite workload.  We don't have Ivy League designs but we would like to avoid incarceration if at all possible.   Sort of the old motto of "keeping it between the ditches."

Elliot is a typically developing academic. That might be an understatement.  He definitely inherited his Dad's love of school.  Henry's natural skill set is somewhere slightly outside of the average classroom.  But he's a genius swimmer--2 years ahead of his age.  He's strong as an ox and he possesses a nearly photographic visual memory.   He just struggles with sitting still and giving much of a crap about math or reading.  And attending to one thing at a time.  Hard to believe he's NOT my biological child. Right?  Oh look, a chicken!

Anyway, Elliot does his homework easily and quickly--most of the time.  Henry, well, not so much.

So on Friday, I announced that it was time for some homework.  And let me say, I mean 15 minutes of homework.  Not hours.  Almost immediately, the gnashing of teeth began.  It ushered in a tantrum complete with slamming doors, weeping and throwing toys.  I just sat quietly until the whole thing played out. And it did. Eventually.  For the third time in a week.

This is what happens when things are not nipped in the bud.  My kids' unacceptable behavior will escalate until they get the desired response which to them is my giving up on a course of action. Instead, I held steady and only backed off when Henry did some of his work.

Then I made a mac-n-cheese picnic for the living room in front of Pirates of the Caribbean (or Carob Beans as the boys call it).  They happily ate their dinner at the ottoman while I plotted.  As soon as the opening credits were done and the mac-n-cheese consumed, I pressed Pause.  It was amazing to see the little minds engage in simple addition and subtraction, phonetics and writing. Maybe those little desks are too little. Maybe more carrot, less stick, maybe I just have to be stronger and calmer than a 6-yr-old.  

When it was all done, Henry showed me his work beaming. He was so proud of himself.  And when I whispered in each of their ears that I believed in them--even when they freak out, they both hugged me so hard and smiled in a way that told me it was exactly what they wanted to hear.  I think it's all about overcoming our own resistance to growth--mine especially.  It's time to grow up. A little bit every day.   Tantrums reflect the little pieces of myself and my kids that we are too ashamed to claim let alone integrate.   I know this from my own experience not just from sitting with my son in conflict with himself. If I can remain calm and present, it's the most profound transformation to witness. It's like being present at a birth.  There's a lot if pain and screaming, but in the end there's a whole new person. 

But man does it ever kick your ass as a parent sometimes.  Whew.  Hope today's is easier. If not, it'll just be another lesson for me in being calm and lovingly detached and for Henry in overcoming his own resistance.

Either way, it's a win.


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