Pickles was recently given an assignment that threw him for a loop. He is supposed to come up with an original invention. It is actually a pretty big assignment, they have to create an invention, come up with an advertisement touting the virtues of their product, then finally do an oral report.
Pickles is a pretty academic guy. He enjoys a nice brain challenge and likes to get things right more than most normal folks do. However, this invention is kicking. his. butt. When he was first chasing his tail about it, I suggested that he find a need. You know, necessity is the mother of invention and all that stuff, right? After extensive fretting, soul-searching and hand wringing, he finally decided to make a grabber. (The Grabatron 2000 to be exact.) As in I can’t reach the dog’s toy that went under the dresser, I sure wish I had some sort of grabber to help me. It involved paper towel tubes, tape and string. Which is perfect from a 9 year-old, except he had to actually build the durn thing. I probed gently, Do you think it will be sturdy enough? What could you use for the handle? Will you leave it laying on the kitchen table where Sweet Pea can find and maim it? Pickles had no responses for my inquiries and they only served to propel him into another tailspin.
The next morning he was ready to build. He decided that a wrapping paper tube would be preferable to taping two paper towel tubes together, but not without a brief panic. When it came time to create the claws (the part that does the grabbing) he had no ideas and was starting to freak out. That was when Sweet Pea intervened.
Remember that this was in the morning and Sweet Pea’s meds weren’t really working yet and his usual morning activity of choice is rolling on the floor with the dog. But, he intervened! He suggested and then built out of Legos a serviceable claw! When that one was too short, he made it longer. Every problem Pickles came up with, Sweet Pea went to work solving. It was really an amazing parenting moment for me because I got to see my kids working together using their strengths helping, allowing help, and being kind to each other. When does that ever happen at home? Even though that was a rhetorical question, I am going to answer it. NEVER, that’s when.
This task highlighted the differences between The Brothers’ strengths. Pickles read the assignment and followed the rubric to the word. He knows how school works and is able to work effectively in a traditional learning environment (he is fortunate that way). Pickles can think inside the box with very little effort. I can see that fitting into school this way has not created opportunities for creative problem solving. Pickles pathologically hates making mistakes and is very risk-averse. He may have gotten that from me, but I’ve read that second children tend to develop traits that are the opposite of their older sibling, and that sure looks like Pickles and Sweet Pea in this scenario.
Sweet Pea is the most pragmatic human being I have ever met. He can solve any problem, quite possibly in a way no one has ever thought of before. The solution may not adhere to the laws of Physics or Spacetime, but whatever. He doesn’t think outside the box because for him there is no box. His brain is unchained, unrestrained, and uncontained. Sweet Pea also is not at all afraid to make a mistake. These qualities absolutely have to do with his ADHD. In his world, he is corrected constantly. Sweet pea, your shirt is on inside-out if you care. Sweet Pea, your knots are great, but you can’t tie up your brothers with that rope. Uh-oh, how’d that work out putting your cold hands on the furnace? Making mistakes are a way of life for this kid, so why be afraid of them? Also, when school/life is a bit more challenging for him than for his non-liker-of-shiny-things counterparts, his first instinct is to find short cuts to get him to the end faster than the traditional route. When Sweet Pea was in first grade, I received the following email from his teacher (which I copied directly from the original message):
Just a funny little story that happened today…we were responding to a question on a district-wide reading/writing assessment and the directions specifically asked for the student to “write to the bottom of the page”…sooooo, Sweet Pea started his response on the second to last line and wrote 1 sentence. He looked at me and simply said, “You said to write to the bottom of the page, you didn’t say to start at the top!!” What a smart, resourceful strategy! 😉 I knew you would get a kick out of that!
We were lucky that his teachers appreciated him for who he was that year, although shortly after that she stopped teaching and moved to the other end of the country…
Suffice to say that school has not been easy for Sweet Pea. That made it even more rewarding to see him help Pickles with this school project in a way that I wasn’t able to. Sweet Pea solved the problems with him (and for him to some extent, but I am letting that bit go) in a manner that got Pickles excited about the project and moving forward, where my help sent him into a rapid descent toward an anxiety-induced catatonic state. Together, the balanced talent extravaganza that was Sweet Pea and Pickles succeeded beautifully where I mucked it all up. Now that I think about it that’s really all I want as a parent right now, for them to create some kind of harmonious way of being together. And if it fills a need, that’s just an added bonus.