Thursday, May 29, 2008

Black and White

That's what my girls are like most of the time. I can remember when Em was born feeling slightly cheated. I had another girl, she was about .1 ounce away from being the exact same size as her sister and they looked a whole lot alike. But it wasn't long - maybe hours - before I realized just how different they really were!

The struggle for me has really begun where school is concerned. Preschool was not so bad, as they had different teachers and it was not really all that academic anyway. Kindergarten was also a totally different experience, as Kt was half day and Em was full day. I was really dismayed by that and I'm still a bit regretful of the extra time I missed with Em, especially considering the issues she's had this year.

Kt is my people pleasing, over-achieving first child. Every teacher in school raves over her, wants 20 of her clones, always having amazing things to say about her. She's always the first student to win the citizenship awards, gets invited to tons of birthday parties, is artistic, creative, friendly, intelligent.... she's the quintessential student. Not the quintessential athlete - that's one area where we just can't compete - not any of us in the this household.

Then Em comes along. To me, she's amazing, unique, very special, but she just isn't getting the same reception that #1 got. Apparently, her handwriting is "eligible" (I disagree, but I'm the mom!), her attention to detail is non-existent, she is an inconsistent performer (I keep thinking that at least she's consistently inconsistent!), and until everything is up to par there will be no citizenship awards for her. It's actually quite heartbreaking for a 7 year old who weekly gets her hopes up that she might actually be the ACE award winner, only to come home week after week without it. My heart really and truly aches for her, but I'm really feeling helpless.

The things that really make her special are the things that aren't actually measured in school. She has a deep love for animals (they aren't even allowed in schools anymore!), she has a nurturing heart, she's incredibly imaginative - just despises drawing or writing, she is highly sensitive but doesn't demonstrate that outwardly to just anyone. At least three days a week she comes off the bus in tears. I know that school is taking a toll on her - it's been a pretty negative experience all around, very frustrating and demeaning for a young child.

As I'm looking toward next year, I'm feeling a bit of angst about second grade. It was not our favorite with Kt and I truly feel that many of the teachers would be a bad match for Em. Have I thought about homeschooling? Well, not my first choice, but if next year begins and appears to be much like first I'd consider pulling her out. It hasn't all been bad, but in general she and I both are feeling the pressure for her to be able to do something I don't think she's really ready for.

How do parents with three, four or five or more kids handle this? I have often felt like God really limited us to two because He knew Em would need that extra bit of TLC she might not have gotten had she been in the shuffle with a few more. I spent an hour with her today finishing up her journal that was not completed in school.... all while she cried, moaned, complained.... When I leave her alone to do this? I find her talking to her fish instead of working, or something related to that. Just no interest in school. Very interested in all her boyfriends, however! ;-)

It's hard not to compare your children, especially when your experiences are so incredibly different. It's been a good lesson for Kt this year, the one who has since first grade collected data on each and every assessment so she can compare her progress with everyone else (much to all her teachers' dismay!). I can see big picture that each of them is being molded and shaped for very different purposes in life - it's amazing, it's scary and at times it's tricky to decipher. I just pray for them both, that their lives would be used by God.

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