We have two little boys who are 19 months apart. We’re asked constantly if they’re twins, and to be fair, they do look very similar with their blond hair and blue eyes. But that’s about where their similarities end. In fact, my husband and I are trying with difficulty to navigate the differences between the two while remaining fair to both.
I’ve never kept a baby book (mainly because I don’t have the energy for them), and I’m grateful that I never started one. I’m afraid that I would become the type of mom who would compare her kids and fanatically check the records of when the first was potty-trained and compare it against the second.
Actually, potty-training is a perfect example of their unique personalities: Carson, the oldest, was easy to motivate and conquered the potty in three days. He unfortunately established what would become impossible and unfair expectations for Atticus, our second, who took over six months to master his fear of placing solid waste in a bowl of water. Six. Agonizing. Months. We’re talking taking poop out of his diaper and hiding it in the corner. While that alone should have been an obvious indicator of how vastly different their personalities were, it wasn’t until school started that we fully comprehended what we were dealing with.
When Carson started school, we were shocked that he came home within two weeks of his first taste of education announcing that he was the August Star Student! He took to school’s structure, routine, and expectations like a duck to water. He excelled with little motivation from home (again, I’m a lazy mom) and thrived in an atmosphere where one cross look from a disappointed teacher is all it took to get him in line. Since that first month of Pre-K, he has considered it a failure on his part if he does not receive the Star Student accolade within his first month of school. It’s not enough that the little competitor receives it. No. It must be achieved in the first three weeks!
Atticus, on the other hand…he’s the one we worry doesn’t really “get” school. I had to ask the teacher three times to make sure that he speaks to his classmates at recess. Does he play? Does he know how to get to the bathroom? Is he really saying his cafeteria number? I never understood parents’ anxiety when their kids started school until Atticus went. He’s just a different type of thinker–I think. I’m not really sure. I never really know what he’s going to say or what sparked a thought. Even though I’m a teacher and have been on the other end, I’m now the parent who goes to the teachers for answers.
Teacher: “I’m just worried about his focus.”
Me: “Yeah, me too. What do you think I should do? I’LL TRY ANYTHING!”
Evidently, though, he’s been cooperatively and merrily playing with his peers. He makes connections in reading and is excelling in that area specifically, along with his writing, which his teacher swore is “so imaginative! But I’m sure you already knew that!” (I didn’t already know that. I had to play it off like “yeah, sure! Of course we already knew that! What kind of parents would we be if we didn’t know that about our own son?!”) If it weren’t for the “On this day” feature of Facebook, I honestly would never have known that Atticus has technically been far out-reading his brother. He’s a quiet, quirky little guy who can fall between the cracks of other, more vocal and outgoing students.
Which is why we were surprised and elated that he got the Star Student recognition for the month of April.
We were thrilled that his teachers would A) notice him and/or B) reward his distracted yet earnest behavior! We celebrated with ice cream! a new book! the fatted calf!
Now, imagine the absolute mortification if Carson had received the recognition that late in the year. I’m sure some inexperienced and arrogant version of myself would have considered April the “bottom of the barrel” month to select from the handful of students remaining who hadn’t yet gotten the award. Now I know better. Atticus has taught me that the April Star Student deserves just as much recognition and celebration as the August one. I mean, technically, my August Star Student is the pushy one who sorted his friends into Hogwarts houses at recess–including Slytherin! Atticus may never lead others, but he would also never make a judgment call about their characters in such a sneaky way, either.
My trouble now is attempting to maintain consistent expectations for behavior while balancing fair standards based in such different personalities. And honestly, I still don’t have a clue how to do it. In the meantime, I’m hoping we can get by on focusing that they got the recognition at all, never minding when they got it (with ice cream, of course).