Due to a complete lack of planning and foresight on my part, I have two children who are just a year apart in school. The oldest, I'll call him Atticus (because that's his name) started his Sophomore year today while his younger sister, Grace, started her Freshman year. These two children of mine, born a mere 19 months apart are as different as two people can possibly be.
They say (you know, they) that birth order influences our personalities perhaps more than any other thing and these two kids exemplify that. Given they were born so close in age, to the same parents, and raised in the same house, and attend the same schools, it is incredible they can be this different but I know from talking to other moms that this is quite the norm, not the exception.
Having two kids so different but living basically the same life can be somewhat discombobulating to me. Nowhere is this more apparent than their school experience. It's like they're going to two completely different schools in different towns or maybe different countries. But no, it's just the way they approach it that's different. Here are a few examples:
School supply shopping:
Atticus takes the crumpled list out of his pocket, scans it with his eye and says, "Let's see, I don't really need this, I can get this later, HA they never really use that, umm, okay I need a few spiral notebooks." We are out of Staples in ten minutes.
Grace pulls the supply list out of her folder marked "Supply List" and with the pen she has chosen for this project begins with the first item on the list. When she cannot find the exact brand and color the school suggests she grows very agitated. It takes me some time to convince her that it will be okay and only when I promise to go to other office supply stores does she move on to the next item on her list. She chooses pocket folders and sprial notebooks with girly designs that match. They have to match. She carefully checks each item off the list. In order. We cannot leave Staples until she is done. This takes over an hour.
School clothes: Grace had the first day of school outfit picked out last week and a secondary first day of school outfit picked out for Freshman orientation. She took photos of them and sent them to her friends so they could all vote on them. She modeled them for Lilly who pretended to care. She has been back to school shopping three times and still claims she needs "more tops".
Atticus has a dozen plain t-shirts (his only fashion rule is no logos, no ads), three pairs of cargo pants, and three pairs of jeans. He had them left over from last year, they still fit so he's good to go. Now, you are thinking, "Well of course--he's a boy." But really his indifference to clothing goes beyond this normal boy thing. He really, really doesn't care. He once grabbed the jeans that I had mistakenly put on top of the pile of clothing in his room, put them on, and did not notice they were his sister's. It was not until fourth period when one of his frenemies pointed out ever so helpfully, "Dude, you're wearing girl pants" that he even realized it. He looked down, shrugged, and said, "So what." He was in the seventh grade, not exactly an age when most of us are able to shrug off wearing our sister's pants. But there you have it. He is after all, the Buddhist among us.
Study habits: Grace comes home from school, gets herself a healthy snack, goes to the kitchen table and starts her homework. She works until it is all done. Then she does homework for stuff due later in the week. Then she studies for tests that will be given in a few weeks. She stops for dinner. Then she studies some more. She gets all A's.
Atticus comes home and gets a snack, tells me he has no homework, goes to the computer and does not get off until bed time. He does not get all A's.
I did not even know they gave out homework in Middle School until Grace got there and had the exact same teachers as Atticus.
Freshman orientation: Grace goes to any and all orientations that are offered. This despite the fact that her big brother tells her that most of them are repetitious and you will get all the information you need several times over. She finds her locker and practices opening and closing it. She memorizes where it is relative to her class. She makes sure she has her schedule with her at all times. She considers writing it in Sharpie on her hand in case she loses it.
Last year Atticus skips the first of the two orientations they offer. He is not worried. He passes on using the locker they have assigned him "It's too far from my classes, I'll just carry everything" Umm, winter coat? No worries, he just won't wear one. On the first day of his Freshman year in High School he arrives and realizes he does not have his schedule. (At this point, I apologize for the nightmare you are sure to have tonight just thinking about that, I know I've had several and so has Grace over the past year) Did this bother Atticus? Not so much. He just shrugged, found someone he knew was in his first period and said, "Hey what room do we meet in?" and got through the day like that.
Today those two loves of my life will come home after having both had their first day of school. Grace will tell me lots of stories about the first day, share some of the horrors like broken back-pack straps and lost IDs. She will talk about the different teachers and what she had in the cafeteria. When she's done she will make herself a fruit smoothie and start on her homework.
Atticus will come in, answer my question with a "It was great" grab a cookie and go to the computer. Strangely, he will not have any homework.
The oldest child and the second child. They inhabit two completely different worlds. I'm always grateful to be a part of both.