So, after last night's reading debacle, this morning Jacob came down to our room and asked if he could play Wii, since I took that away in the midst of some ridiculous behavior during our last-minute evening Wegmans trip. He's constantly encouraging his brother to get riled up, and it's getting problematic when we're out in public. Last night on the way back to the car, he walked through the parking lot, stepped on an island, and twirled around a tree...and of course Carter wanted to follow suit. I am having a heck of a time getting Carter to hold my hand lately, so a lot of the time I'm trying to make do with him walking close to me. And of course Jacob's little side trip did not help that. He just can't seem to understand when it is time to be serious and not do something that might put him or his little brother in danger (or in an embarrassing situation, or whatever). Everything is a big joke to him.
Anyway, this morning I said that he still had reading to catch up on, but he could play Wii *IF* he got ready, had breakfast, and did some reading. Then, if there was any extra time, he could play. Of course that was responded to with much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Well, okay, whining and rolling around on the floor in protest of the injustice. Sigh. Craig and I repeatedly tried to explain to him that this is the new reality and that despite his insistence that he's not going to read, that yes, he HAS to read. End of story. We're going to attempt to switch his normal read time from bedtime to shortly after he gets home, because 20 minutes is longer than it used to be and half the time he was too tired to get in his full 10-15 minutes without nodding off. He didn't like that revelation either, even though it will free him up for Wii and TV and whatever else for the rest of the night. As he rolled around and complained, we reminded him that he was wasting time and if he had any shot to play, he was blowing it with his tantrum.
After some other form of a threat, he finally got up and got ready. I apologized to him while he was eating breakfast, explaining to him that I don't like yelling at him and that we have to work out our differences, particularly since it's just going to be the three of us for a while when Craig is working for Team Canada. I told him that I know he's smart and that he can do the work, but he just needs to put in the effort. I reminded him that I love him, even though sometimes the things I say and do may not make it seem that way. I assured him that I desperately want to get along, but I need his cooperation, too. He took it all in, emotionless, as he ate his breakfast, but nodded his head. And do you know what he did after breakfast? He read. He sat down at the dining room table with that book and read about half of it. Sure, he was reading it to himself and could have just been staring blankly at the pages, but I think he really did read.
I don't think it was my speech, but I do wonder if he just realized that he needed to get it done if he ever wanted to have "fun" again. Either way, I will take it. Still, I don't anticipate this will be any sort of breakthrough. This is looking to be another year of drudgery, much like Kindergarten. Jacob does not like his teacher, though I have yet to figure out if he's just being grumpy or if she's incompatible with him like his Kindergarten teacher was. He says that she's boring and mean. He thinks we're mean, too, so I take that with a grain of salt. He doesn't understand that normal discipline is fair and necessary to form good kids. He just takes it as a direct affront to his way of life. But he says she disciplines for no reason, which I certainly question as he's not always the most aware of his own tendencies. I will say that her communications have been pretty dry and basic, so it's possible that she's not the most enthusiastic teacher. I think we'll get a better idea once we go for Open House in a few weeks and can get a better read on her once she's had a chance to connect with the kids a bit more. But in the meantime, he's not thrilled, and that makes me sad...for all of us. He needs a teacher who sees his potential, and I truly hope that once everyone has settled in, that will once again be the case. I can't get anything out of him as far as what they're doing in class, or what he might be enjoying even a bit, or which exact issues are making him not enjoy the year so far. It's still early, but it troubles me when he starts disengaging like this.
It's so hard to not know how to motivate your child. There's such a fine line between helicopter parenting and guiding them in a way that gets results, particularly with a child who isn't exactly typical in a lot of ways. Jacob is incredibly smart, but if it doesn't come easily and it's not something he's passionate about, it is very hard to motivate him. He's always had his own agenda, and school is clearly not on it. I'm still perplexed as to why reading doesn't excite him, given his thirst for facts and figures and general knowledge on numerous topics. You would think that would be a gold mine for him, but so far it hasn't been. I feel like we shouldn't have to bend over backwards to motivate him to do the schoolwork that is expected of him, but if we don't I fear it won't get done. And I absolutely believe there is value in letting your kid fail, but what happens if they don't care or they start believing they really can't do it? That's what I feel like we're facing. If we don't push him, he won't do it...if we do push him he will resent us and rebel. I feel like the same thing applies to chores around the house. If we don't push him or bribe him, he won't do them. If we do push him he will complain and make our lives miserable. I don't feel like he should get paid to do normal things that contribute to the household--cleaning up after himself, for example--but I'd be willing to pay him for above-and-beyond contributions, like raking leaves, sweeping grass clippings, cleaning bathrooms, etc., as long as he does a good job. And I think that last part might be the challenge. He'd be so eager to get his prize that he won't want to pay attention to detail, and then it starts a whole new argument. And it all just sets a really bad precedent, because incentives that we use as motivation will forever be expected. That's just how he is. It's why I think twice any time he asks for something besides milk or water to drink at dinner. If I say yes, he will expect it next time. It never fails. It's just how his brain works, and it makes parenting even more difficult than normal. He has never conformed to most of the parenting suggestions you'll see all over the internet, and it leaves you at a loss when a "sure-fire" method fails miserably.
Anyway, night two of homework went slightly better. He did ten minutes of reading before dinner and ten more a little before bedtime. It's going to involve lots of discipline for all of us, no doubt. I never thought I'd have to hate homework again, but I'm definitely dreading it. I know it's important, though, and with any luck we'll get in some good habits and it'll get easier. We can only hope.