The things that will never make it in the baby books and other musings from a stay at home mom

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Scenery and blue sky

When we were younger, my mother used to say that my brother was going to change the world and I was going to write about it. I don't think she actually meant the statement to be unflattering about me and my limited role in serving society, though it could perhaps be taken that way. Instead, she was just observing the fundamental differences in our personalities and skill sets, as well as the fact that together, we made a good team.

I was thinking about this phenomenon of siblings with different, yet complementary traits this morning while Evan and I were working on puzzles together. He can do every wooden peg puzzle in our house in a minute flat these days, so I had pulled out a next stage puzzle from Julia's old collection -- a 13-piece fire truck that fits into a wooden frame. None of the pieces have handles on them, and the board they fit into has no drawings on it to help guide where the pieces go, making it a pretty big step up from the "dog in the dog hole" puzzles he's loved so much lately. I wasn't quite sure if he was ready for it yet, but I knew I was sick and tired of the old ones, so it seemed worth a try.

I remembered that Julia had found this puzzle pretty challenging when she first got it, until she studied the picture and realized that she could assemble the puzzle based on her mental image of the truck. That's the way she's always done puzzles; based solely on the pictures. A good year and a half after she mastered jigsaw puzzles, she still cannot identify a corner piece or an edge piece, despite the fact that I've explained the concept a gazillion times. She assembles puzzles from the inside out, one small part of the picture at a time. It's an odd technique -- and it will be useless to her when she gets to the 1,000 pieces of blue sky-type puzzles -- but for now, it works for her and we've just gotten used to it.

Evan seemed less challenged by the fire truck puzzle than Julia had been, and after a few seconds of watching him, I realized why. He was putting the thing together based solely on the shape of the pieces. When he got stuck at one point and I tried to help him by suggesting that he find the piece with a tire on it, he looked at me blankly. But when I ran my finger around the rounded edge of the puzzle frame and asked him if he could find a piece that was shaped to fit there, he reached immediately for the tire. And I suddenly realized that Julia will never even have to learn to assemble the sky pieces, because that's always going to be Evan's job.

I've said a million times that my kids' personalities couldn't be more different, but I continue to be surprised and pleased by how complementary their interests and skill sets are turning out to be. They balance each other out nicely just by being in a room together; Evan's gregarious nature pushes Julia to speak up in order to claim her share of the attention, and her endless discussions about things teach him more than he'd go looking to learn on his own accord. They seem so oppostite, yet they're phenomenally well matched. And as I realized today, if they're smart enough to recognize this and work together, they're going to be an unstoppable force -- and not just when it comes to jigsaw puzzles.

Given the fact that Dan's efforts to save the world are mainly limited to writing checks to worthwhile causes these days and my efforts to tell the world about it are limited by my measly little blog audience, there's probably little point in making the kind of broad sweeping generalizations my mom used to make. But I can't help thinking that a scenery person and a blue sky person will make a damn good team in life. And I hope my kids will see it that way, too.


At 5:40 PM, Blogger Kristy said...

One of the biggest, and toughest, lessons I had to learn in life was that people, well, did things differently. We all look at things differently, read things differently, learn things differently, understand things differently. This seems so simple now, but, before I understood it, it was not simple at all. You'd be good to hand this post off to them early and get them clued into this big secret in life sooner than later.

At 11:07 AM, Anonymous Gretchen C. said...

What she said. And I would also like to point out that this is a boffo writing effort on your part. "Best of" material for sure.

Isn't this blog thing fun? I've recently written to the Orange County Register suggesting they do a piece on the growing trend of mommy blogging. With my blog buddies and me as the subjects, of course. Hey, think about it: We could all become famous or something. Whee!


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