First Grade. Another milestone year…so soon after Kindergarten, too. Somehow, that first dropoff on their first day of 1st grade felt just as heartwarming and bittersweet as Kindergarten did. Why didn’t anyone warn me?
For some reason, this year feels just as new as last year when my girls first entered our local public school. Why is that? I mean, after all the talk about how the material has become more advanced, pushing down traditional 1st grade work down to Kindergarten, you would think that 1st grade should feel somewhat old hat. Boy, was I wrong. I was…nervous. This will be the first year our twins are separated. For the last 3 years in preschool, pre-K and Kindergarten, we kept them together. Each year, though, we began to see how different our girls were – not just in their personalities but in how they learned. It became more and more obvious last year in Kindergarten. Truth be told, had we the option, I might have separated them toward the end of their Kindergarten year. I knew it was time. Time to let them struggle and achieve on their own and not in the shadow of the other. But I worried.
That’s my lot in life, I know but still. I knew what would happen. Songwriter, for all her boldness, boundless energy, and quick mind becomes the shy, reserved and sensitive twin when placed in new situations. Storyteller, on the extreme other hand…in new situations, becomes big sister, the protector and spokesperson of the two, the outwardly social one introducing herself and her sister to newcomers. It has given Songwriter time to get her bearings, feel her way around, observe and find her place in the classroom and among her peers. And once she does, well, it’s hard for anyone to believe me when I tell them how quiet and reserved she has always been in the beginning. Songwriter gains more support from peers and teachers because she is rather bright and catches onto concepts and ideas rather quickly. This encourages Songwriter to gain her confidence and become the extroverted, energetic little student most people know.
Storyteller is quite different. She thinks outside the box. While her sister may be a great rule follower, she tends to make her own rules and priorities. Her teacher said that her unique way of looking at things will be appreciated – when she’s older. Outwardly social from the beginning, she has what my relatives termed social intelligence. It’s a fitting phrase. She doesn’t push her ideas on others but observes, plays along and then starts influencing other kids to play her games. It’s a very different approach between the two sisters. And this past summer, we saw how successful her approach was with new kids and cousins, whether she realized it or not. It’s a life skill that she seemed to have picked up naturally somewhere. But I worry about her academics – not because she doesn’t pick things up quickly. In fact, she did well in Kindergarten last year and was certainly ready for 1st grade this year. No, I worry more because she hasn’t seemed to exude the enthusiasm for worksheets, problem solving and reading her twin has. My husband says to give her time. There’s nothing to worry about. She will learn what she needs to learn and she’ll love it. I know this. I just want to see it.
Last week, my heart sank. Our girls have been in school for 3 weeks now and I was feeling more and more encouraged that our girls are going to be fine. They’ll struggle but they’ll adapt. One night, I almost cried for Songwriter. Just before going to sleep, she talked about how lonely she felt at school. About how her sister is ignoring her and playing with other kids. About how other kids don’t want to play her games or she doesn’t want to play their games. About how some of the kids won’t talk to her because they’re really small (aka short) and afraid of her because she’s tall. And on and on and on. Yes, I talked to her and encouraged her to reach out. Yes, I let her know that other kids were just as shy as she was and she shouldn’t interpret that as them being mean or not liking her. And on and on and on. I shared this with my husband who reminded me that this was exactly what we knew would happen. It would be a struggle for her but she’ll be fine. Yea, yea, yea…I know. But still.
Storyteller almost made me want to pull my hair out over a week ago. On the second day of school, we were given a [rather thick] packet of homework for the kids to do. All the first graders were doing this same packet of homework – a complete review of letters, numbers and concepts from Kindergarten. I’d completely forgotten about it until two days before it was due. I dumped it on my girls and Songwriter couldn’t wait to get started. Storyteller threw a huge fit. Not a completely unexpected reaction but she still had to do it. She complained about how this was her sister’s homework not hers, how she doesn’t do that in her classroom, how she doesn’t understand it, how she can’t read yet and she can’t possibly do it and on and on and on. heavy sigh I spoke with her. I sent her upstairs to talk with Pappa (he usually has a way of getting our girls to do things with less frustration all around). I negotiated with her and let her put off a few pages for her to do the following day. I thought about a bribe but decided I didn’t need to set that precedent. I was worried about the following day…but she settled down and finished it. We all made a huge deal about how she finished the entire packet in two days! What an accomplishment that was! Seriously. That thing was thick. She wanted me to tell her teacher the next day. She was so proud of herself…and so were we.
Fast forward to now. Songwriter tells me names of new kids in her class she’s starting to play with. Storyteller jumps up and down as we test her on her new spelling words for the week and wants us to ask her several addition and subtraction problems. I think they’re starting to find their grooves. And I’m believing they’re going to be just fine.
An original post to It’s Never Easy, But It’s Always Fun blog.