Sunday, February 03, 2008

Oh, the Joys of First-Born Birth Order Malfunctions

There are certain afflications that rise from being the oldest in the family. I am an oldest child, raised by two oldest children, and as I thought about it, MOST of my closest friends are first-born.

It appears that dysfunction craves the dysfunctional.

Anyway, my precious little (first-born) Jackson made me realize that in full force this week.

Since he's off track for THREE ENTIRE WEEKS immediately following TWO ENTIRE WEEKS off at Christmas break, I've been occasionally trying to mix-in some school work with all the Wii play. Because when I talk about "well-rounded" I don't just mean in the variety of Nintendo games we've mastered.

In my very official assessment, J needed some work on handwriting. My objective isn't to make it beautiful; I only want to get most of the letters going the right way most of the time.

No big deal.

Famous last words.

Being a retired/recovering teacher, I went right to the storage closet (read: I searched around for the better part of two weeks) to find my beloved sentence strips.

Jackson's handwriting is...fine. Let me say it this way: Right now, Lilly's is probably better. He is just plain disinterested. Give him a soccer ball or a Wii nunchuk and he's good to go. Crayons, paint, and pencils have absolutely never interested the lad.

But there does come a time when one must learn to write one's name. I'm not requiring cursive or anything fancy schmancy. Just a "J" that goes the right direction more often than not.

Also because (I'm saying this part for the benefit of doting relatives, so if you have children close in age to mine, just skip down below), I KNOW Jackson is smart. He's reading well-beyond his kindergarten years and adding huge words to his reading repetoire every day.

But the writing. Oh mercy, mercy me...the writing.

So, on the sentences strips, I wrote one word:

I know that is beautiful and might have intimidated him. But I learned how to write like that thanks to an entire college degree costing tens of thousands of dollars.

Handwriting was part of the curriculum every single day, so I can safely say I have in my arsenal some effective teaching strategies.

I modeled the handwriting and ran off to grab a quick shower because I smelled really bad.

A few minutes later, Jackson stood at the door of the bathroom with his eyes looking glassy and his bottom lip shaking.

From behind his back, he pulled out this paper and held it up to my face:

I about lost it in a puddle of shower water and tears.

Remember that problem I alluded to at the beginning? The big, ugly (and most likely hairy with one eye) beast of perfectionism. Here it was, rearing it's ugly head right in Jackson's face.

If my sweet baby couldn't do it perfectly (the first time, no less) he considered himself a failure. Gave up trying, threw in the towel, just couldn't take it anymore.

My heart broke and I gulped back a few tears myself. Even though perfectionism wasn't something I dealt with in regards to school work (as my parents will quickly affirm) there are so many other areas of life where I constantly have to remind myself that being perfect isn't possible.

And I am a lot older than Jackson to still be figuring that out.

Even when I know God doesn't ask for perfection, why do I still seek it? To glorify myself? To prove I can do anything?

Which is why I suppose the God who created me, despite knowing I would fail again and again, loves me anyway. But more than that, He has the grace to humble me and show me I am lacking what only He provides. He reminds me that above all, I desperately need him. He points out my imperfections through the Perfect One, as a reminder that he IS everything I am not.

And so much more.

A few hugs, tears, and a pep talk later, this is what Jackson came up with:

In his brokenness, I couldn't be more proud.