Here’s a conversation I had with Young Son recently:
Me: “I know you’ve really been missing your buddy, so I’ve ordered that game you wanted so you and he can play together online on your Switches.”
YS: “Really?! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you, Mom!”
Me: “It should arrive tomorrow, but you know what has to happen first before you get to play it.”
YS: [Sighs] “I know…get my school work for the day done first.”
Me: “Yep. AND you need to do it without all your usual drama, moaning and groaning the whole time you do it.”
YS: “Arrrggghhh! But Mom!!!”
Me: [Blinking]…”Seriously dude. You are complaining about not being allowed to complain. You are a piece of work, my Grumpapotamus Old Man.”
YS: [Pouts…while trying not to smile.]
Me: “You know, I think you complain for sport. Like you should try out for the Olympics. You’ve been complaining so much, I think you got your PE credit in for the day.”
YS: “Really?!? COOL!!”
Me: [Rolls eyes. Sighs.]
Oh Young Son. Compared to his big brother, he’s generally pretty chill and usually a rule follower. He’s a lover, not a fighter. (That’s not to say he won’t throw his siblings under the bus when push comes to shove. He is human.)
For as much as First Born makes me completely lose my mind and make me want to quit this whole parenting gig sometimes, his fearlessness and creativity does get put to good use (when he’s not creatively wearing me down or tormenting his little brother.)
The words, “I can’t do this!” have never come out of his mouth. Life is pretty much a dare for the kid — both good and bad. (You’ve heard a LOT about the bad already.)
But one admirable quality in him is that if it’s something he is passionate about, he goes full tilt at it. He’s very much like The Warden: Go big or go home. I always say, if First Born would harness his powers for good, he could change the world.
Young Son often lives in his big brother’s shadow. While I appreciate that he doesn’t do every crazy thing that comes into his head, I wish some of First Born’s can-do attitude would rub off on him a bit more. Often times if something is challenging, Young Son takes it to mean that he’s not smart enough or strong enough to do it. It breaks my heart. Convincing him otherwise is usually an uphill battle.
So when it comes to trying to get him to do his eLearning every day, it makes me appreciate and worship his teachers even more. Somehow they are able to coax and encourage him to do the hard things that he thinks he can’t, and they haven’t set their hair on fire in frustration yet.
The past two weeks have been Poetry Weeks. Oh sweet Jesus. For the first week, each day they studied a new type of poetry and had to write a poem in that style — Haiku, Clerihew, Tanka etc. You’d think he was supposed to write a dissertation on quantum mechanics in Olde English. It was excruciating. For both of us.
The whole “power through and just get it done” method does not work for him. No. He prefers moaning, groaning, dragging his feet, complaining and making it as miserable as possible. He took it to a whole new level when it came to writing poetry. We managed to clobber out a few poems, but it left me frustrated and exhausted. So imagine my disdain when the second week was writing more poetry, but this time for their poetry journals. It nearly brought me to tears.
I decided then and there that this poetry assignment was not going to break us. I needed to come up with a different approach. We needed to come at this like a nine year old boy. That meant getting weird and gross. He finally decided on which style to write, but then he started in on the, “but I don’t know what to write about!!!”
“Okay. Let’s write about silly stuff. We’re having one of your favorites for dinner tonight: lasagna. You’ve been helping me make the sauce and we’ll put the lasagna together later. What’s awesome about lasagna? How do you make it? Let’s write down some descriptive words. And so we did and here’s what he came up with:
Super cheesy Italian food
Mozzarella, Parmesean, Ricotta
Layers of noodles, sauce and cheese
Super yummy in my tummy
Layer on noodles
Then the cheese
Add more sauce
Repeat Repeat Repeat
Bake in oven until it’s hot
Okay. Not bad for a third grader. We survived writing that. But the next day he needed to write another poem in a different style. Forget any progress we made yesterday. We were back to the same drama. “But there’s nothing good to write about! I can’t do this!”
“Okay. Well, what’s the grossest thing you can think about?”
“Poop,” he said with a defiant sneer, thinking he was going to call my bluff.
“Okay. Let’s write about poop. Haikus are five-Seven-five syllables, remember?” He looked at me for a beat, raised an eyebrow, got a mischievous look in his eye and went to work.
Cats do, Dogs do. People do.
Poop smells really bad.
He was quite pleased with himself. Now you might be wondering, “But what did his teacher say?!? Wasn’t she appalled? How do they give detentions during eLearning?!” Well, luckily my kids have had some really amazing teachers and I knew this wouldn’t phase her a bit. Plus they all know what a nut job of a mom the inmates have, so the bar has been set pretty low I’m guessing. In fact his teacher responded that she thought it was funny and that it fit the pattern, even though Haikus are supposed to be about nature. Ummm, excuse me. What’s more natural than POOP??!
So the next day was yet another poem type to write. But it was game on for Young son! “Today I’m gonna write about FARTS!”
“Fantastic!” We reviewed the remaining styles of poetry he could choose from and he thought alliteration would be the best. After all, he had lots of expertise in the subject matter. After a bit of word smithing together, here’s his poem in all its glory:
Freddy farted ferociously.
He ate a billion baked bean burritos
His powerful poof produced a plume of poison
Freddy fainted flat.
Young Son beamed with pride and would randomly recite it throughout the day followed by gales of laughter. That night, his teacher died laughing and said it made her spit out her tea at her computer when she read it. You would have thought she had awarded him a Pulitzer, he was so proud of such high praise!
Now granted these aren’t “hang on the locker for Arts and Academics Night” material for all the parents to see, but it got him to write poetry with the least amount of pain for both of us. I consider that a huge win.
After all, Alfred Mercier said, “What we learn with pleasure, we never forget.” Still, I’m not holding out for a future career in poetry for him. But we survived the third grade poetry unit. Better yet, we had a positive step away from a fixed mindset toward a growth mindset. Success.