My children, Pumpkin and Ducky, are 6 1/2 years apart. While both are extremely gifted, it is fair to say it will be a long time before they are in the same place on anything. For a while, Pumpkin really enjoyed being Ducky’s hero, and although that hasn’t completely ceased, we are suffering a lot of sibling squabbles lately. Pumpkin, now ten, weighs about 54 pounds. Ducky, at three, is 42. Growth patterns to date (especially if you believe the half-their-height at two rule) shows that Pumpkin will probably be a fairly small man, patterned after his father’s French ancestry. Ducky is probably bound to be a strapping six-foot-something man with the axe-handle-broad shoulders of my ancestry (lots of Swedes in there). Ducky is also going through the tyrant stage that often accompanies toddler-hood. Only he’s got the muscle that few children have. We often call him Bam-bam in the Welsh household.
I do recall fighting with my sibs. I had a bunch. Six of us in all. And I can recall the various things to cause a fight. I am absolutely certain, blessed with the memory that I have, that we never fought over math. Yes, math. You see, Ducky loves math and he has some mad-math skills. He is not above his brother due to the age gap and the fact that Pumpkin is gifted as well. But he regularly blows the mind of total strangers. Typical math skills for a three-year-old are counting, categorizing, some patterning, and number recognition– preschool stuff. Ducky surpassed that stuff a year ago. He knows how to multiply. He likes math puzzles. And at the library, he loves math books. I’ve checked out “Math Potatoes” and “Grapes of Math” repeatedly for him. He knows where the math section is at the Highland library and if we don’t go there on every single visit, he will throw an all-out tantrum in the doorway.
On one hand, this math fixation is really good, especially as Ducky is my little engineer. He loves to build things. If that trend continues into adulthood, math skills will definitely help. On the other hand, competition at story time to solve the math puzzles gets a little old. Tonight’s math book was “Astronaut Math” explaining about how astronauts need math skills. It was also full of little questions to solve. Some were above Ducky’s head, and I had imagined that was good because I could ask each child to solve the problems suited to his skills. It started out okay. Then quickly degraded. Before I knew it, each time Pumpkin would try to answer something, Ducky would scream supersonic in my ear. And a few times, Pumpkin got tired of waiting for a turn and jumped in on the easier stuff, earning a reproach from me and riling his brother terribly
Eventually, I decided we’d had enough Astronaut Math for one night. I didn’t finish. Both howled liked I’d pulled out toenails, rather than simply closed a book. Then they proceeded to point fingers accusing each other of being the problem. Uh, no. The tango took two of them. And anyway, Mommy’s head couldn’t take any more. Plus, the little tyrant was getting angry enough to start hitting. We’re working so hard to break him of that that I just figured it was better to not go down that road. I reminded both that story time could be suspended for as much as a week if they didn’t knock it off. Gasps of indignation. Horrified expressions. Profound apologies.
In some households, time-outs and grounding work wonders. In mine, removing reading time does the job. If you had suggested that before I was a mother, I’d never have imagined I’d stop my kids from reading for any reason and between us, I’d rather not. When you must referee as a parent, you play whatever cards you have in your deck. Mine happens to be heaped full of books.
For the record, stripes make me look fat.