My youngest child Peter is a marvel at building with blocks, train tracks, vegetables, paper cups, and anything else he can get his hands on. This may be fairly common for most five-year-olds, but it is very foreign in our family of five.
“Mom, do you think it’s possible he was switched at birth?” my oldest, Tom, asked.
This was after Peter had set up his trains all over our playroom. He had complex structures set up with bridges and towers. It was amazing to behold.
“No honey, he was not switched at birth.”
I completely knew what he was thinking though.
Poor Tom. He can name every President, knows every song the Beatles ever recorded, and can even outsmart his father over what baseball team won the World Series in any given year. But he couldn’t build a tower if his life depended on it.
He has the hardest time with fine motor skills, as do I and his father. We are definitely challenged when it comes to hand-eye coordination or whatever is required to build even the simplest structures
“The apple does not fall far from the trees,” is an expression I use often in notes to my children’s teachers. I’m not used to one of my kids having a talent that is so foreign to his parentage.
He is my son though. He proved this a few minutes later the same day his brother was worried about a possible birth switch.
“Peter, what is wrong, why are you so upset,” I say as I’m running down the stairs afraid that he fell or that his brother or sister were on top of him “playing.”
“We did nothing to him,” was my greeting from Thing One and Thing Two.
“He has this whole thing built and he couldn’t get one little piece to fit and he completely lost it,” Tom said.
“Well, you see honey, he is my child!” was my somewhat relieved response.
I may not be able to build, but I can certainly relate to at least wanting to lose it when something I’ve been working on does not go the way I want it to. My parents love to tell some legendary stories of how I would rip up a picture if I didn’t think it was just right.
Perfectionism has always been my middle name. And apparently it is Peter’s as well. It’s funny how much our children can take after us and baffling when they have traits we never dreamed we could produce.
Since I always felt a bit like a misfit, I was hoping that my children would possess traits I so sorely lacked. I felt that if my kids could run fast, play ball, or dance well, their lives would go smoothly.
I certainly hoped that my poor test taking and my dyslexia would skip a generation or two . I figured that since my husband got a 750 on his math SAT, it was possible that one of our children wouldn’t struggle in school as I did.
So far that theory hasn’t worked out so well. All three of our children have had to deal with different learning issues. Tom seems to have inherited my dyslexia and poor coordination. But he did get his father’s gift for retaining facts. And he inherited a love of learning and exploring the world from both of us. He has the confidence and people skills that I wished I possessed.
Although my special-needs daughter has challenges I never had to deal with, Lizzy must have gotten a bit of my perseverance. She works so hard at everything. And she accomplishes things everyday that at times we feared were impossible. She also has a wonderful personality and an infectious smile, which I ‘m going to take credit for because I can!
Then there is my builder. I don’t think he will have the same academic challenges as his older brother and I did, but since he is still only in kindergarten I don’t know yet. Language is harder for him than it ever was for me, or even Tom. But like his brother and sister, he is a very happy person. I’m going to take credit for this trait too!
As a parent, I so wanted my kids to have an easier time dealing with the world than I did. I didn’t want to see them struggle with the simplest tasks and feel as if they too were put on the wrong planet.
But I have learned, and am still learning, that being a parent isn’t about righting the wrongs of our own childhood. Or providing a struggle-free existence. It’s about teaching our children to handle that which comes their way with the talents they possess.
Building metaphorical bridges to navigate the world successfully may be the one building talent I possess. And the one I can pass on to my children.