I realized something this week. I’ve been facing the reality of schooling two very different children recently, because the Princess is fast approaching the point that we started “officially” schooling the Engineer. I realized …wait for the profound announcement …. that my children are different.
I mean, I always knew they were different: different personalities, different strengths, different challenges. But from a schooling perspective, they are just as wildly different from each other as they are in personality.
Not a big surprise there, really. But I never sat down and analyzed what that meant for me: to teach both of them at the same time.
The Princess is a little stubborn just like her siblings, but she is far more likely to follow directions if she’s in the mood. If she’s not … just ask her Sunday School teachers who frequently report that she flops on the floor at assembly time or dances in the aisles. They are not a big fan of neurodivergent thinking.
She’s a little girly stereotype who also loves holding snakes and caterpillars, pretends to be an astronaut, and thinks poop jokes are hilarious. She is her own unique little person.
She also loves worksheets.
Now, after 2 years of living and working with the Engineer, who strongly believes that worksheets are of the devil, that’s earth-shaking. Worksheets? Seriously? I can just hand you a page and you’ll happily draw lines and connect dots? How easy!
She went through half of a workbook in one sitting the other day and asked for another. I was the one who refused and told her to go take a wiggle break.
Of course, in keeping with our family’s traditions, she is slightly picky about which worksheets that she wants to do. The boring “color the car in red” worksheet was passed over in favor of the “find the shape hidden in the picture” worksheet. Pure busy work is boring – it has to have a puzzle or maze or something fun to do on it.
She also requires my presence, even if we both know that she can do the sheet by herself. So I’m frequently called in to see how she drew a line from this shape to that, or how she connected this dot to that one. It frustrates the Engineer, who is struggling to focus on his own schoolwork while his sister blithely sings, scribbles, talks, and yells for “mommy!” to come see. I’ve had to sit them at different tables to deal with it, and I bounce back and forth from one kid to the other.
Now, I’m sure I’m going to get flack on this, because after all, she’s four. She should be playing, having fun, and learning social interactions, sharing, and all those important 4-year-old lessons that kids need. And she is! But every so often, she asks to do a worksheet. A workbook. Because she wants to. Because she thinks it’s fun.
So like I do with her older brother, I follow her lead. I do what she wants to do, at her pace. I print out 3 copies of the Engineer’s handwriting practice sheets because she wants one, and then the Destroyer wants to scribble on one too. And I pointedly refrain from saying that she’s almost at the Engineer’s reading level in his hearing. She will probably read before him, at this rate.
I had to laugh the other day: I found her a new book at the used book store that I knew she would love. She adores My Little Pony, and I found a graphic novel of My Little Pony. She carried that book around for days. It went everywhere! We made a quick trip to Target and she wanted to bring the book in – and she read it while walking down the aisle. I had to watch ahead of her and warn her to look up because she almost crashed into 3 support pillars and 2 displays. That’s definitely my DNA right there!
Our kids are such individuals, I marvel at the parents who have a favorite kid. For me, that’s impossible, because they’re so different. I appreciate the creativity and curiosity of the Engineer’s mind, while also appreciating the rich imagination of the Princess. I love the remorse the Destroyer shows while appreciating the Princess’ caring heart. They’re individual. They’re wonderful.
They’re my kids. And I am amazed by how similar they are to me, yet individual they still are. It’s pretty cool!