Thursday, January 27, 2011

Parenting Your Mini-Me

Having children can remind you of the "you" you used to be. This is not always a pleasant experience. While you might have the inside line to understanding you child, you are reminded daily what a huge pain you must have been as a kid.

Oh, my poor teachers. However did they put up with me?!

The Rationalist and The Intuitive both have characteristics from DH and me. The Rationalist truly is a mini-me of his father, so much so that it is hilarious to hear them argue with each other. It's like watching clones battle with each other. However, even though The Rationalist is a mini-me of his father, he has some of my traits also...traits which I share with his father. The poor child got a double-dose of certain personality traits from us, and not only just the good ones either.

The Intuitive isn't exactly my mini-me, but he thinks a lot like I do/did. I knew that I was going to have trouble with this one when at 4 years old I overheard him telling his older brother, who is a conscientious rule-follower, that they wouldn't get in trouble for what they were doing as long as I didn't know about it.

At 4 he had already gained the insight that it wasn't the breaking of the rule that was bad, it was the getting caught part that was trouble.

I still remember that and am keeping it on file for when he hits the teen years.

He got that from me. I was a skilled liar when I was young. I never lied to get things, or to make up outlandish stories about myself. I only ever lied to stay out of trouble.

Who broke the lamp? Oh, the dog was running behind the couch and got caught in the cord and pulled it off the table.

Who ate the strawberries that were going to be used for dessert? Gee. It must have been my little brother.

Why did you get a zero for your homework? I don't know. I turned it in on time.

Who called Japan? Japan, who's Japan? I don't know anyone named Japan!

The Intuitive's propensity for gaming the system with his intuitive grasp of how people work was simply me reaping what I had sown, I suppose.

Before the Christmas Break, both boys had to finish mandatory science projects which were very involved. They had to do multiple trials of their experiment, graph their results, write up their hypotheses, results and conclusions and assemble everything on a large tri-fold poster board. It was a lot of work for them and for me too because I had to supervise the process, showing them how to use the graphing website, how to use Word to type out their reports, how to adjust the font to fit on the paper, how to format the text....etc., etc.

I was very thankful when everything was done and turned in.

During that whole process, when I was talking to The Intuitive about his project and what he had left to work on he said to me,"I don't have to get a good grade....I only have to pass."

A Maternal Brain Aneurysm was only narrowly averted. After catching my breath, I asked, "What do you mean you only have to pass?"

"Well...I don't care if I get an A or not. As long as I pass, I'm OK."

I had to sit down for a moment. Who was this child who was happy with just passing?

Suddenly, I remembered my third grade year. Many C's and D's on my report card....because I didn't turn in a single stitch of homework...because I didn't want to. I remembered my junior year in high school when I got a D in Health class, one of the easiest classes in existence. Even though I had A's on all of the tests and quizzes, I had decided that I didn't feel like keeping a Health Journal through the semester. Too much work. Too annoying. Not big on my list of things to do.

I consciously chose not to do it and took the hit to my grade....which was quite substantial.....but I didn't care. I didn't need an A in Health class. I only needed to pass it.


The more I thought about it, the more I saw myself in The Intuitive's tendency to procrastinate, to become distracted, to get lost in reading, to amuse himself in his room for hours and his tendency to keep his thoughts and emotions to himself.

Many of those traits I have actively suppressed in myself, either out conscious choice, or because of being forced to by the demands of life. The Intuitive is helping me remember myself.

The Intuitive is very smart, but he also thinks differently and more intuitively and he can't always explain how he knows things, or understand what teachers want from him when they word things ambiguously. I used to think it was because he was a lefty and right-brained.

Now, I remember similar moments from my childhood. I remember infuriating my kindergarten teacher, a wrinkled woman as old as Methuselah who would grab children by the ear and pull them towards their mats when they were naughty. We were pretending to deliver Valentines under doorways while we sang some sort of Valentine's Day song. Each child would spot a door in the room and slip the valentine under it and come back to their place on the carpet before the song ended. WHen it was my turn, I went over to a table and chairs and stuck my card under there.

My teacher berated me, asking me what I was doing, why was I shoving the card under the table? I was confused. I thought we were pretending. I was pretending that there was a tiny house under the table and a mouse who lived inside it. I was putting the valentine under the mouse's door.

It made perfect sense to me. My teacher, on the other hand, thought I was incredibly stupid. I don't remember if she grabbed me by the ear, or not.

I remembered fourth grade when I was marked wrong on a comprehension test of a story that we read. The question I missed was--How do we know that the princess and prince lived happily every after? I answered that we knew they lived happily ever after because the story told us that they lived happily ever after.

My teacher probably thought I was quite dim when she marked the answer wrong.

As dumb as my answer seemed, I had actually thought it through very well. In my mind there was no way to know if people were going to live happily ever after simply because they had solved whatever current problem they were facing. There were always more problems right around the corner that they probably hadn't even thought of yet. I had no basis to say that they would live happily ever after. The only way I could say that they would live happily every after was because the narrator said that they would in the story. Anything else was pure speculation in my 10 year-old mind.

Even at 10, I was a slave to what the text actually said, rather than what it didn't. Reading my thoughts into the text seemed like a strange, unnatural thing to do.

As I parent my children I am often left wondering which methods would be most effective at reaching them. Now, realizing that some of the traits that pop up in The Intuitive are actually my traits, I am sympathetic, and also wondering what would have worked for me at that age.

I had very little active parenting when I was a child, so I muddled through on my own, mostly, and just assumed that when teachers and school didn't make sense, that it was because I was weird and there wasn't much I could do about it.

Would I have wanted a parent like me, actively pushing me to do my best? Should I let The Intuitive just pass every now and then in order to learn that it's up to him to set goals and priorities and to motivate himself?

I'm not sure.


DH said...

It is definitely a challenge. Though the Rationalist and I butt heads a lot, he has my natural bent to meet performance expectations. My parents never had to put any pressure on me to do well in school. If I got a B on a test, I'd break down in tears - purely because it wasn't good enough for me.

The Intuitive, however, is a whole different ball of wax. He reminds me a lot of the kids I met in college who could ace tests and exams if they wanted to but who would rather spend time playing the computer or lost in some fantasy game. The talent, ability, and innate skill was there, but the desire was lacking. To them it just wasn't enough to want to please a parent or a teacher. If they weren't interested or engaged, they just didn't care and tuned out. It always amazed me to see such brilliant people failing out of college.

Unfortunately most schools, especially the public school that our kids are in, aren't good at finding creative ways to engage the unusual thinker or the unmotivated genius. They're so overwhelmed with trying to help those that do want to follow the rules and comply and learn, that the others get left by the wayside. My constant hope is that I can find a way to engage the Intuitive's desire for learning. It's why I check out the DVDs of Mythbusters from the library or the documentaries on the natural world. He thinks it's cool, and he eats it up. When he's engaged, he absorbs information like a sponge. Nothing escapes him. Here's hoping that he'll be blessed with teachers who can find similar ways to tap into his desire to learn and to motivate him.

Like a Child said...

My daughter and I are pretty different - she learns differently and she is a high energy whereas I'm pretty mellow. It is a huge challenge.

As for DVDs, my daughter enjoys Bill Nigh (sp?)...we've checked almost the whole collection from the library. Also check out Brain Pop (Jr).

terri said...

The boys were always big Bill Nye Fans. I think they've seen almost all of the episodes that our library carries.

How's the home-schooling going? I know that here where I live there are many home-school groups that get together and trade off teaching subjects, or organize activities for all of their home-school kids.

It might help on those days when her "high-energy" has sapped all of yours! ;-) be a kid again. They never seem to run out of steam.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I think that those other characteristics, to which we often assign moral value, are as heritable as intelligence - that is, about 80-20. Determination, desire to please, seeking the softer do often see your children showing the same traits as yourself. You can tell it's you by the style, somehow. Fortunately, they usually get a different intensity. And oddly, you will see them kaleidoscope a bit over time, showing more of a different parent in different eras. We were just discussing today how there were areas of switching places now that they are adults. Probably only understandable withing the family, though.

The way we approached the two biological and two adopted children was very different, and Kyle, who is partly both, is a new puzzle. We were able to say at times to the two older ones "I am very hard on you in this area because it is something I have struggled with myself." Less true with the Romanians. We see traits that we have absolutely no intuitive understanding of.