Monday, November 10, 2008

Dreamers, Discoverers & Dynamos, Oh My…

I took the day off from work today. I was thinking about planting myself at a neighborhood Starbucks with my laptop and start this week’s Out-Numbered but then I remembered I have no such flexibility in my schedule. I have a full plate of Daddy activities to partake in. First, Music Class with the little one, then off to school to pick up the big one and finally, Ice Skating lessons to finish up the day. I’m always jealous and yet suspicious of those people sitting in the Starbucks with their laptops and sketchbooks, passing the time away. Don’t they have stuff to do? Can’t they get their shit done at home or at work? Or are they so efficient with their time that they can’t even relax with their Double Chocolaty Chip Frappuccino without multi-tasking? Whatever. I’ll just have a cup of Folgers. It’s the best part of waking up, right?

Last night I started to read a book called “Dreamers, Discoverers & Dynamos – how to help the child who is bright, bored, and having problems in school.” Aside from being the longest title in the history of modern literature, you’re probably thinking, “this can’t be his choice for the book of the month club.” Bingo! It’s not what I would call light reading. I’d much rather be sifting through an issue of Captain America. Some Judy Blume, “Forever” would be pretty awesome right about now. But I don’t have much of a choice. My daughter’s first grade teacher suggested that my wife and I read this Lucy Jo Palladino, Ph.D. masterpiece. I’m sure this sounds awful. But I’m not totally sure if it is just yet. Not the book, the situation I mean. It all started a few weeks ago. My wife and I began receiving notes home from our 6 year olds’ teacher. We are well aware that she’s not a perfect little angel at home so it would probably be a fair stretch to assume that she magically transforms into “Gabriel” at school. Parents can dream though, can’t they? Anyway, it seems as if she has been acting out and at times, disrupting the flow of the class. I’m not sure what constitutes “flow” in a first grade class but I can’t imagine my daughter has the almighty power to disrupt it. On second thought… Divine intervention or Act of God sounds like a fair analogy.

At first the notes didn’t concern me all that much. I remember the same exact thing happened to her in Kindergarten. Usually it was just an argument with another kid or a hissy fit of some sort but in the end, it worked itself out. You see, my oldest is, how shall I say this… authoritatively challenged. She’s basically a three-foot tall ball buster. Kind of like Danny Devito in Taxi except with Crocs and a ponytail. She’s never been a bully and she’s never been rough or violent. She’s just always had a knack for “negotiating” and “influencing” people in certain situations. Back in Kindergarten I read, “Parenting the Strong Willed Child”. I also had a nice relaxing read through, “Raising Strong Daughters”. Although those books had substantially shorter titles than the recent suggestion, it still left me pretty much clueless about how to curb my kid.

I remember when she was in day-care; she was showing very clear leadership skills early on. When she was three it was pretty clear that it wasn’t just because she was a Leo. Why does everyone always ask what sign a kid is if they are causing some sort of trouble? It’s like the kid’s personality is all preset and packaged neatly in the Leo section of the wacko store. It’s funny though because here’s what they say about The Leo:

Element: Fire (She does have a Hot Temper…)

Ruling planets: The Sun (Is the sun a planet? I thought it was a star. Shouldn’t a freaking Astrologist know this, of all people?)

Symbol: The Lion (This makes total sense. King of the jungle, right? She’s exactly like a lion. I know this is freaky but if she were a boy, her name was going to be Simba…)

Stone: Peridot (I don’t even know what that is. I’m pretty sure it’s a typo.)

Life Pursuit: To lead the way (This is pretty on the money. She could definitely lead a horse to water AND make him drink.)

Vibration: Radiant Energy (Radiant my ass. If she radiates anymore, my town will be like Chernobyl.)

Leo's Secret Desire: To be a star (She does love to sing and look in the mirror a lot. I bought her a microphone for her birthday a few years back. Aside from being a little bit “pitchy”, dawg… she’s pretty good.)

No matter what level they have attained, all Leos are trendsetters, leaders and adventurers. Their weakness is their pride. This is one sign where the saying "flattery will get you everything" applies, but be warned criticism will slam the relationship door right in your face.

Well, it’s very nice that people are able to quickly and easily tag my kid as a Leo. It’s also kind of fun to point out the similarities, but it doesn’t come with a Leo owner’s manual does it? I didn’t think so…

Back to the notes from the teacher. We decided to give the teacher a call and find out if there was anything we could do to help remedy the problem. She told us that when we come in to meet with her for Parent / Teacher conference, we could discuss it further. She also told us that maybe we could make an appointment with the school guidance counselor as well. Screw that! My kid is six years old. She comes from a solid family environment. She’s super bright. There’s no divorce, no history of mental illness and certainly no need for a guidance counselor! I was pissed. Instead of making a stink, we decided to make an appointment and approach it with an open mind. It is our child’s well being after all. I also thought that it was about time I started putting all those tax dollars to work for me.

We went in to talk to the teacher and spent a good thirty minutes with her. She apparently cleared her morning to devote the proper amount of time to the parents of her arch nemesis. It would have been like Lex Luthor meeting Jor-El or John McCain meeting Barack Hussein Obama Sr. It was kind of awkward at best but she seemed nice enough. She did that, “let’s concentrate on the positives” routine. The good news was that my daughter is extremely literate and engaged in her curriculum. She is just having a problem relinquishing her apparent lust for power. It all started to make sense once we hashed it out a bit. Ever since she was little, she’s been the star child. She was the first kid in our little family unit. She was the first grand daughter. She always loved attention and she had no problem hamming it up in front of who ever was willing to indulge her. She was extremely verbal early on and never had a problem expressing herself on any level. Heck, she even has a little sister to boss around now. As parents, we were enabling her to take control over any situation she found herself in. We always thought this was a good thing. After all, don’t you want your daughter to be assertive, out-spoken and independent? I thought I did.

The long and the short of it is that my daughter isn’t in a free for all Day Care anymore. She’s also not role-playing her leadership skills in the playroom at home. She’s in a class with 18 other children that all need attention from one poor sap teacher that is a “No!” away from a restraining order. She needs to respect that authority and learn to adapt to her new environment. How do we teach our little drill sergeant to obey the rules without crushing her big spirit? I have no idea but I’m certainly going to give it my best shot. I don’t know if I’ll find the answer in any one book but I’ll read as many as I can to try and piece together a plan. I’ll also try and use some of my own instincts, as unpolished as they may be. They tell me that the Leo and the Sagittarius are extremely compatible.

Let me leave you with a bit of encouragement I found from the book, “Dreamers Discoverers & Dynamos”:

“Your child’s Edisonian mind gives him a distinct advantage in the business world of today. He can handle abundant incoming data, and scan it for opportunities, like new markets. He can turn innovation into profit, which is exactly what he needs to succeed in our accelerated, entrepreneurial twenty-first-century workplace.”

I’m screwed. Judy Blume, where are you when I need you? This is one Sagittarius who is astrologically Out-Numbered…