Sunday, February 6, 2011

Pathways of Life

It seems like the difficult conversations with our kids are coming thick and fast lately.  Not only are we fielding the usual adolescent boy stuff, and the girl-on-the-brink-of-hormones stuff, but we've been having to talk a lot with Princess Yakyak about her brother, Safety Guy.  I know it's always been hard for her to live with an older brother with Asperger's.  We've done our best to make sure she doesn't get any less attention and consideration than he has needed over the years.  It was much easier when she was little - she didn't ask tough questions so often, or think about the future so much.  Things have gotten much more interesting this year, as their emotional maturity is overlapping, and their academic differences becoming more noticeable.

This morning's conversation was prompted by our decision to have Safety Guy stay home from church with me, because he's developed a cough, and has also had trouble with sleeping soundly lately.  He was up for a while last night, and was pretty dragged out this morning.  Princess commented that he was probably making it all up, and why didn't he have to go to church?  I explained to her that her Dad and I decided to do this so that he'd be rested and better able to deal with school tomorrow.  I told her that returning to school has been much harder for him than for her - she took to it like a duck to water, but he's had trouble not only with his math learning disability and writing issues, but with bullying on top of that.  Being tired and feeling unwell only  makes him that much less likely to focus and be able to learn during the school day.

Looking for potential, and imagining the dividends:  
my kids are like fields, being planted, cultivated, weeded and pruned now, 
but the harvest is still years in the future.

Princess acted surprised when I told her about the bullying that has happened to Safety Guy.  (I don't know where she's been all year - it's not like it's a secret, and we've talked about it in front of her often enough.)  She said, "But they have those 'NO BULLYING' posters all over the school!"  I told her that some kids either don't learn quickly not to bully or don't care how they treat others no matter how often they're given the rules and consequences.  Either way, her brother has been the target of some consistent physical and verbal bullying since the beginning of the school year, in spite of the excellent efforts of the school to keep it to a minimum.  She was upset on his behalf, which I was glad to see.

Then she made a comment that really bothered me, although I think I handled it okay.  She said, "He should be a janitor when he grows up."  I squashed my initial "He can do much more than that!" impulse and asked her why she thought that.  She said, "Because he wouldn't need to do much math."  Good thinking, even if it came out sounding like a put down - she didn't mean it that way at all, to my relief.  But her helpful suggestion tapped into my fears for his future:  what kind of job will he be able to hold down?  How independent will he be?  I can't answer those questions right now, but it's on my mind quite a bit.

I explained to her that I don't expect them to perform the same in school.  They're different people, with different strengths and weaknesses.  We just want them to do their best within their abilities.  They both got their report cards this week, and there was some minor unhappiness over who got what grades, but the fact is that they're three grades apart, in different schools.  They're being graded at two different levels, on different skills.  It's apples and oranges - comparing their grades just isn't relevant.  They got over that pretty quickly, to my relief.  Still, it's an issue that won't go away, as she is likely to surpass his ability in math within the next year, and probably in writing too.  Emotionally she's already on a par with him and moving up.

Yesterday, after talking to me about her friend's sister who didn't want to sit with Safety Guy on the bus even though he wanted to sit with her, Princess commented to me that her brother would never find a girl to date.  I reminded her about his social difficulties, and that it would always be harder for him to form relationships, but certainly not impossible.  Princess Yakyak is way too perceptive by a long shot for my comfort (I've wondered about him dating, and he's said that he really wants to meet someone and have a family someday) - but she's not here for my comfort.  Heck, I'm looking with a certain amount of dread toward her becoming a young lady, which will happen sooner rather than later.  Heaven help me, I'm going to worry far more about her relationships than her brother's, I think.

Hopefully we can help them make the most of their gifts, and work around or through their areas of struggle.  But I really, really don't want them to grow up competing with each other academically or in everyday life.   Our comparing them to each other would be pointless, and even harmful to them.  They've each got their own path to walk.  I hope it involves healthy relationships and productive employment.  May the Lord walk with them all the way.

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