As I was thinking about what I should write for this month, the phrase “Jekyll and Hyde” came into my mind. Then I thought I should search this site, because I feel like I’ve written that phrase in relation to you more than once.
The results: two hits, neither of which was about you. Sorry to malign you with my shoddy memory. In any case, we’ve been seeing a wide variety of behaviors and attitudes in you lately. When you were very small, your dad and I read about “periods of disequilibrium,” which are fairly predictable stages kids go through when they’re harder on the adults in their lives. It probably has to do with growth and learning to manage the new things your brain and body are doing, and I’m sure it’s not easy for you either. We were trying to remember how it worked, and we recalled that usually the first half of a kid’s year is easier and the second half is harder. That made us puzzled, because you’re just a couple of months into your ninth year, so we should be in the smooth sailing section.
I looked it up again, and apparently after a certain amount of time, it stops being a twice-a-year cycle. The graph showed the entire ninth year in a trough. Oh boy.
I’m not saying you’re a terrible kid, not at all. In fact, I often catch you being really sweet. But you’ve settled into some negative attitudes and unwillingness to compromise, and it can be challenging to handle. I’m an emotional sponge myself, so I can be having a perfectly good day, and then you come in all crabby and rude, and I find myself sinking into a bad mood with you. That’s no fun, and there’s enough negativity in our world right now anyway. I want the times with my family to be the bright spots in my day, not the force that drags us down. When your dad asks what you did in school, you respond with a noncommittal shrug and the word “stuff.” Fortunately your teacher is really good about using her class website to update us on what’s going on. If I can ask you specific questions based on what she posted, I sometimes get better answers.
We had your school conference, and your teacher seems to think you’re about the best kid ever. Either you save your best behavior for her or she’s much less emotionally spongy than I am. She even used the phrase “happy go lucky” to describe you. That was a moment when I wondered if we’d shown up for the wrong kid’s appointment. But I’m glad you’re happy at school, and you’re certainly excelling academically. You have also shown a lot of social growth this year. You’ve developed some really nice friendships. We went to a school event a few weeks ago, and even though we saw some kids from your class sitting at a table, you seemed reluctant to go join them. One of them beckoned you over, and once you got that welcome, you were happy to go hang out.
I understand how that feels. I feel shy and awkward a lot of the time too. It’s good to be friends with people who are more outgoing, because they’ll help pull you out of your head and invite you to have a seat with them. Your dad just had a big birthday, and we made a special card for him that listed forty things we love about him. One of the items I chose is that he’s always friendly and welcoming to everyone. It’s a quality I admire in him and wish I could do better, so I want to help you find it in yourself and develop it.
Photo by Gary Clarke
We signed you up for baseball for the summer, your very first time doing a team sport ever. When you were little, we asked you if you wanted to play soccer and tee-ball like so many kids do, but you always said no. Once Tobin got involved, you became more interested, and having a big sports fan for a teacher last year also got you excited about baseball. I hope it goes okay. You’ll be in a league where kids pitch, which might be a bit intense, and I bet most of them will have significant playing experience. We’ll see how it goes. I’m proud of you for trying in any case.
We’re gearing up for our trip to Nashville, and I hope you and your brothers can handle the long drive without maiming one another. You’re really excited to see your little cousin Aleks and meet Vera for the first time. He wants to play baseball with you, so maybe you and your dad and Skittergramps can sneak in some spring training before the official Little League season begins. Unfortunately the Nashville area seems poised for a cool snap, so it won’t be much of a fun-in-the-sun trip. Still, I’m sure we’ll manage to have a good time. I even bought a box of junky fruit snacks, which are contraband around here. Don’t let me forget your toothbrush.
I know it can be hard to be a kid, and it can be hard to be the oldest sibling. We’re figuring out how to be parents to a nine-year-old, and we’re doing our best. Let’s see if you can bring some of that happy-go-lucky guy your teacher sees home sometimes.