The Middle Child Syndrome
Sometimes I worry that my middle son feels like he is lost in the shuffle of my family. Usually I am proven wrong time and again. But this last parent teacher conference was different. I know it is tough to move to a new area and go to a new school. But what his teacher said really set off alarm buttons:
"Your son is at the top of the class in math and reading. He is so polite and behaves well in class. I just wish that he weren't so quiet."
What? My son? The one who, every year at teacher conference, is told that he is a great kid but he needs to learn not to talk so much? My child, the social king of the classroom?
"He knows the answers but often will just whisper the answer rather than raising his hand. I would like to see him contribute more in discussions and help out his class mates".
What? My son? The one who, ever year at teacher conference, is told not to help out his classmates so much, that they need to do their own work even if he knows more than they do?
I also found out that he did not play with anyone his age at recess. How could I not know these things? When I looked at him I realized he was embarrassed. This whole time he had been putting on a brave face when he really was struggling. I though he handled this move better than my other two sons. Why hadn't my mom-dar gone off about this?
So I pushed my own mom-guilt aside and tried to come up with a plan to help DS#2. That plan came to me in the middle of another sleepless night. It was a plan that seemed too simple to work.
The next day I gave DS#2 the neighborhood map and phone list and told him to call at least 3 boys and they had to be his age (our phone list has the ages of the kids in every household on it). We were going to host a late-over. For those of you not in the know, a late-over is like a sleep over. It has all the fun of a sleepover without the hassel of trying to get the kids to actually go to sleep. I bought the fixings for popcorn, rootbeer floats and brownies. We had plenty of movies to choose from. DS called 3 boys his age who were thrilled to show up. I put the younger kids to bed, served the food, and then got out of the way (I did check on the party surreptitiously every 30 minutes). For 3 1/2 hours our house was incredibly noisy and full of 4th-grade humor. There was popcorn on the floor, debates on where to have your mom buy the best pizza, seconds on rootbeer floats , silly jokes, and wrestling. I don't think they every watched the entire movie. At 10:00 we took them home (DS#2 was surprised to see how close everyone lived to us.)
I have since been crowned "Coolest Mom Ever", which I will be lucky to retain for 24 hours. In the meantime, I have the best reward of all. DS#2 has been smiling more often. We have more visitors to our house asking for him. He is noticeably kinder to his siblings.
I wish the solution to all of life's problems were this easy to solve.