Parents have lots of problems built in, yet we make more for ourselves all the time. For example, I started our first in gymnastics classes when she was 3, and encouraged her to take as many classes as she liked. Now that (only) two other children are in the mix, and Lucy is even busier, 3 or 4 classes a week turns into 9 or ...17!
I never did the math, even though I reminded myself from time to time that the exponential activity explosion would happen one day. Probably the bigger "problem" here is me trying to equalize my parenting and time allotment from child to child. A noble idea, but impossible and maddening.
If I were wise, I would just accept that the oldest will have advantages that the others won't, and that the youngers will have advantages the oldest didn't. It seems so simple!
Take Gabe's Kindergarten experience. His is very different from Lucy's, although they are both enrolled in the same school and we live in the same house.
Gabe is in a Chinese immersion program.
The only program available to Lucy was the... English immersion program.
Gabe's school day is much longer than Lucy's Kindergarten school day.
Gabe eats lunch at school. Lucy never did.
I took Lucy to school every day.
Gabe often gets to walk or ride his scooter to school with Lucy.
This is the tip of the iceberg.
So...what does that have to do with...anything?
The other day, I got an email from Gabe's Chinese teacher requesting help from parents in her morning class. She explained that the afternoon class was getting along fine, but that the morning class was falling behind due to "behavior problems."
When Lucy was in Kindergarten, I got into her classroom regularly enough. Not all the time (I did have Gabe to care for, after all), but I was able to squeeze it in. Before yesterday, I hadn't spent any time at all in Gabe's class.
When I read that email, I decided that I needed to find a way to help in Gabe's class. Imagine how much stronger that resolve became when Gabe's teacher approached me one afternoon - when I picked him up after school - to ask me to come to class to help Gabe pay attention better.
I guess it never occurred to me that Gabe would have any difficulty in school. In retrospect, I think I should've been more aware. When Gabe is faced with something that is new to him, it's pretty normal for him to get frustrated to the point of withdrawal. I've tried to teach him to tie his shoes at least 20 times. It feels like fifty. He won't sit through it. Its like the instruction hits the "special kind of torture" receptors in his brain. His Chinese teacher explained that Gabe often just goes into his own little world and plays by himself while the teacher instructs the class.
So, I made arrangements and spent 3 hours yesterday with Gabe in his Chinese class. It was fun. It was eye-opening. It was exhausting!
It has been a long time since I've learned much that was truly novel. Until yesterday, I had forgotten how exhausting it is to be immersed in a foreign language. I remember being absolutely wiped out when I was immersed in other languages in France and in Africa. Those three hours of helping the teacher and reminding kids to stay on task and not talk while the teacher was talking was a great reminder of what Gabe is doing every day in school.
I made arrangements to spend a couple of days each week in Gabe's class. I had a hard time getting to that decision - chalk it up to mom guilt - but I found someone to babysit Charlie who I feel will add a lot to his world. I am so relieved to have time scheduled for me to focus just on Gabe!