Are you smarter than a fifth grader?

I’m beginning to wonder if I am. Jason is in 5th grade. Now don’t get me wrong, I can do all of the math, science, etc. I am not concerned if I am smarter than him in 5th grade academics, but not sure I am smarter than him in life. So all of the challenges you face as a parent of kid on the spectrum are incredibly taxing and can wear you down mentally and physically. But, the typical kid, with his savvy, his sarcasm, and his ability to push your buttons, well, this requires a different kind of parenting. If your child is a mirror image of you (or me in this case) let’s just say I’m totally screwed. This kid has the ability to demonstrate down to the specific breath every bad quality that I have modeled for him. He gestures, sighs, gets frustrated EXACTLY the way I do. If it wasn’t so dead on, so pathetic to watch, I would laugh or congratulate him on a great impression. He uses expressions to “negotiate” over homework that he hears between Earl and me and I cringe the whole time. So I think to myself, hmm, I have to outsmart this kid. I need to be one step ahead of him in the power struggle they call growing up. There are so many issues here.
I need to get him to do his homework and take pride in his work. These concepts seem to be mutually exclusive yet shouldn’t be. I always cared about my homework, Earl always tells him how he didn’t and regrets it. Nope you cannot impart experience to your kid, we all know it doesn’t work that way. I need to change up the strategy clearly, from threat of punishment to incentive. Easier said than done.
He knows how to play me. He knows where the bodies are buried. Last year he let me know that he needs more attention from me at night and clearly attention equals doing homework together. I am seriously happy to comply. I feel if I spend time with him to show him the homework is important to me, he will try harder. Um, not so much apparently. Instead, it’s become his time to test me.He is so easily distracted and he knows that frustrates me. FOCUS!!!! There is a subliminal how much mommy time is available and how long before I can frustrate her thing going on here? How can I monopolize her time away from Bryan who seems to get all of the attention I want? I know he does not intentionally set out to do this; he is a good-natured, sweet kid. When we read together he holds my hand or snuggles up to me. He tells me he loves me every morning when I drop him off and gives me a warm, sincere kiss and hug goodbye. However, five minutes into reading he says he’s bored. We signed up to do the Reading Promise which is 100 days in a row of a parent reading to a child. The school talked about how you will bond with your kid and how they will want you to go on way past the required time. I even took the book we are reading together on my business trip last week to so I could read to him over Skype. Nope, he is not interested. He sets a timer, we are required to read for 11 mins(one minute per year for kid’s age) and even before the time is up he says he’s bored. Damn cuz, that’s just cold. However, he would like me to spend hours watching him play Minecraft or Sims.
So what’s my point? Well on the one hand I guess I am just experiencing behavior and challenges I have not had with Bryan, due to autism and his inability to communicate in a way that will manipulate me and guilt me like Jason can. It is a revelation in a lot of ways. However, as most of my parenting experiences go, it makes me think about Bryan and his need for attention too. It is easier to put him off since he really won’t complain about it. He is efficient, comes home opens his books and does his work. Autism, at least for Bryan, means you follow rules and homework is done when you come home. You gotta love it!! Last night on the Daily Show (which I love, not just for Jon Stewart who I think is so awesome but I also loved John Oliver all summer) Jon Stewart had on David Mitchell who translated a book by a 13 year old Japanese boy with autism. To listen to David and Jon exchange thoughts about autism and autisms as David said, (I love that by the way) I was touched by the sincerity in which Jon Stewart expressed interest in autism. I know he has been involved in many fundraisers (another reason why I geek out over him). I was also reminded, through their discussion about the boy in the book’s awareness that his autism stressed out his family, that Bryan needs reassurance that spending time with him is valuable too and that he is not a burden, he is a joy. Probably a good idea to watch the Bar Mitzvah video with him again.

4 thoughts on “Are you smarter than a fifth grader?

  1. Jane, I don’t have a child with autism and I commend you for doing everything you can to help him. But I do have a son who is 12, in middle school, has attention difficulties and some learning issues. I am a teacher so I have always thought that I would always be the one to do homework with my children and teach them anything they needed to know. Well I have learned that that cannot be the case. I learned that the minute I started working with my son when he started having difficulties in middle school. David was always able to complete his homework quickly and efficiently, but then he entered 6th grade. That was a whole new experience and he had a great deal of difficulty. I guess what I’m trying to say is don’t give in to the madness that is homework! After last years madness and the second David starts to try to test me, I walk away. I refuse to work with him if it is going to be such a detriment to our relationship. I haven’t hired a tutor yet, but it’s in the back of my mind and I have many numbers waiting if needed. I also deligate to my husband (sorry Earl!), but each of us has our strengths and middle school math is not mine. So although Jason’s autism presents challenges for both of you, maybe you shouldn’t allow the challenge of homework to be one of them. I feel your pain in that department!

  2. Ahh, the old reverse, reverse….sigh. I am not smarter than my 2 year old, and I am definitely screwed in all ways as she grows. Your optimism refreshes and makes me feel like a lazy butt. Please keep sharing (especially if you figure out the reverse, reverse, reverse). 😉

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