Friday, March 05, 2010

Level 7

Genevieve continues on her path of being the most puzzling (and maddening) toddler ever. At home, she is not only talkative and loud, silly and adventurous, but of course she is also extremely obstinate, resistant to just about every request, hot-tempered, and even mean. She thinks nothing of adopting a sassy, taunting tone of voice in which to say rude things, merely as a reaction to someone else--and by that I mean Julia--being upset or cranky about something (not even related to her). She will also hit or shove Julia if Julia is crying, simply because she so hates the sound of other children's cries. IRONIC ISN'T IT.

And then in every social situation, from playdates to preschool, she refuses to speak, make eye contact with anyone, smile, or respond to others' (much more appropriate) behavior toward her, such as when they wave and say, "Hi, Genevieve!" with a big smile on their faces. Mainly, she ignores people. She follows all rules, and is mainly silent and compliant. The exact opposite of how she is at home. She does not talk to or play with other children. She doesn't even smile or talk to my best friend, who has known her since she was born, and who has spent countless hours with her over the years.

Yesterday after lunch I was sitting with Julia, doing kindergarten reading homework. Julia is on reading level 7 at school, which I gather is quite high for a kindergartner. She brings home these little books that I read to her and then she reads out loud to me. When we finished yesterday, Genevieve took the book and read it out loud too. She does this every day. She rarely makes a mistake.

Lately, Genevieve has been drawing elaborate pictures and writing all sorts of words and sentences on them. Her printing is fantastic and she can write many things without asking for help. She will write, "By Genna. To Mama and Daddy and Julia. I love you." and it looks like the work of a six-year-old. When people see her papers, they generally think Julia made them.

Some close friends of ours who recently saw one of Genevieve's writing projects--and who know Genevieve very well--told me later that they joked together that they'd figured it all out about Genevieve and her crazy, challenging personality. "No wonder they have so much trouble with Genevieve," our friends said to each other. "She's a genius!"

I don't think Genevieve is necessarily a genius, but that exchange made me laugh for awhile, which was nice. I'm not writing it here to be boastful about my child. It was a joke. She's very smart, but I don't really care about that one way or the other. I never work on writing or letters or numbers with my children. I don't coach them on academics. I value education highly and will always make school our family's main priority, but I'm not the type to tutor my children on my own or spend a lot of energy making sure they are the smartest or best. I would much rather my children be nice and have good values and proper manners and be good citizens of the world than get straight As at school. I don't care if my three-year-old can write all her letters perfectly or read kindergarten books.

But whatever the explanation, genius or not, it's clear this child is always going to be a challenge. The hardest part is that most people don't know what she's really like and how difficult to parent she really is. When someone never makes a sound or says a word in your presence, how hard can she seem, behavior-wise? Sure, she seems aloof and unfriendly, but most fellow parents just chalk that up to being shy. They don't know that at home, she fights me on just about everything from dawn to dark, wearing me down to a nub every day.

So maybe she is a genius; I don't know. Maybe she'll go on to do great, astounding things in this world. Time will tell with this one. She'll either rule the world or get herself into a whole heap of trouble someday.


Rita Ortloff said...

The only encouragement I can offer: Three is the hardest age. Period.

Maybe she'll be better next year?

Hang in there, momma!

Shan said...

Thank you to Rita! Rita! She is Susan's adorable neighbor! If you know Susan! Which I like to pretend I do, if only in an Internet-y sort of way. Rita also has the cutest baby girl in the history of baby girls. Honestly.