Alex · Julia

As Different As

I'm trying to remember what Alex was like when he went into first grade.  Did he have the same hard time adjusting to the big change from half-day kindergarten to all-day elementary school?  I don't think he did, really.  Or, if he did have any sort of adjustment issues, they manifested themselves differently than they are with his sister.

Maybe I'm remembering wrong.  I probably am.  I know, actually, that there were days he didn't WANT to do his homework, it was TOO HARD, there was TOO MUCH TO DO.  I remember alternately sympathizing and reprimanding, hugging and ignoring frustrated tears.  I do remember, after all.

But still.

I think I don't remember much of that because those instances were probably rare.  They certainly are now.  He is pretty responsible about his homework.  He gets out his folder, turns, for instance, to the assigned page in his math book, and does the problems.  And then he puts the sheet of paper back in his folder, and puts the folder and book in his backpack.  He told me – TOLD me – on the first day of homework this year, that I wasn't allowed to help him or even look at his homework.  "Homework is so we can learn," he told me somberly.  Or words to that effect.  And, by extension, mistakes are okay.  Normal.  They are expected.  I find that wonderful.  Not that I won't look at his homework every night anyway.  I'm his mother – I want to know how he's doing.  But I love the fact that he is taking responsiblity for his schoolwork, and that his teachers and principal encourage this.  Not only the taking of responsibility, but the freedom to make mistakes.  They don't want perfection.  They want progression.  At least, that's my take.

So he does his math, and then he does his reading before going to bed "because it gets my brain ready for the morning when I read at night time."  I tell him when it's about fifteen minutes or so before bedtime, he takes a little kitchen timer up to his room, and he reads. 

That does my heart good, I tell you.  He loves to read.  He's MY son!  Okay, yeah, he's Bill's son, too, but the reading thing?  ME.  ALLLLLL MEEEEEEE.  Well, okay, I guess I have to amend that, too.  A  bit.  He is currently in a very non-fiction frame of mind.  Not interested in stories at the moment.  He has immersed himself in books such as "Night Creatures!" and "Creepy Crawlies!" or something along those lines.  He thirst for knowledge, this kid.


At this turning point in my monologue, I am reminded of Bill Cosby's old standup routine about his daughters.  My sister and I memorized the couple of records my parents had, and can quote entire pieces verbatim.  So here's what I'm thinking of right now…

"Now the first one, Erica, she was beautiful.  She came out and said >ding!< "My name is Erica.  I love you both.  Mommy, what time in the morning would you like to get up?"  We said "Oh, eight-thirty…." "Well I won't wake up until nine, and even if I am wet I will not even cry, and when I wake up in the morning, you won't even hear me make a noise, I'll just say 'ohlalolo…leeleelalala…'  My name is Erica and I love you both." >ding!<

I looked at my wife and said "Look, this is great!  Like, we gotta have another one right away.  Before we lose whatever we've got going for us."  So we did.

Now this second one…Beelzebub…she came outta the chute a month early, champagne in one hand, cigarette in the other, "All right, who's in charge here?  You, the ugly guy, what are you doing here?" "I'm your father." "Get rid of him, Momzie!…Time you been gettin up in the morning?"  "Oh, eight-thirty…."  "Well would you believe – THREE THIRTY!  For no particular reason.  And this is the way I cry:  WAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!  How's that shake up your spinal cord?"

And with that, I segue into Julia.

The first day she had homework – which involved copying out her 6 spelling words NEATLY three times each, you'd think we'd asked her to re-pave the driveway with ground up Barbies.  She rolled around in her chair, moaning in groaning in AHH-GO-NEEEE about all the WORK she had to do and she JUST.  DIDN'T.  WANT.  to do HOMEWORK!

Oh, yay.

We managed to get through that somehow – and yes, it seemed to take forever.

Now, today the kids don't have school, because it is Rosh Hashanah.  (For whatever reason, my husband's school is open, so he is at work.)  Anyway, because I knew the kids had today off, I let Julia skip homework yesterday. 

A little while ago, I had Julia do her homework, which is due tomorrow.

Again, the torture.

I was telling my sister about it moments ago:

All she had to do, Mere, was, on one sheet of paper, draw 1 thing in the first space, 2 in the next, and 3 in the third.  Then on the other paper – the one that took forEVERRRRRRRRR, the teacher wanted her to erase the lowercase "d"s she'd scribbled in class and do them the right way.  I helped her out – I did the erasing.  And while I did that, she wailed.  And moaned.  And buried her weary head in her arms on the table.  And flung herself on the floor, and wailed and moaned and groaned some more.  And made weeping noises but without tears, so I was unmoved by them.  I finally told her I was going outside to pick tomatoes, and if she was still lying on the floor  when I was done, she'd go to bed half an hour early.  I went outside, she followed, carried on some more, and finally one of her other personalities surfaced and she marched maturely back into the house, did her "d" practicing, and brought it back out to show me her finished work while i was setting up the sprinkler.  Finally.

I sincerely hope this is not the way this school year is going to go.

No, wait.  Strike that.  This IS NOT the way this whole school year is going to go.  Because I'm not going to cave.  She is going to do her homework, or she will be going to bed earlier and earlier until she changes her attitude.

I know it's an adjustment.  I do.  I expected this, and more.  She had a meltdown in the truck on the way home from gymnastics, and I was not at all surprised.  I let her cry.  I think she needed to.  And when we got home we sat in the big beige chair in the living room and I hugged her while she finished crying – real tears, so she got real sympathy – and then she was fine.

And she will adjust.  I know she will. 

She just needs to sort things out within herself. 

And she needs me to be constant and caring.

I think we can manage that.


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