CAPITAL DISTRICT – I love watching my kids have fun. I get a real charge out of hearing them talk with such passion about their favorite activities.
Sometimes I have a hard time following along because the names of the art teacher and librarian have gotten crossed in my mind. I may mess up while trying to remember all the names of the characters in their favorite stories. Heaven forbid I cannot properly label the latest Lego creation as a zombie house with a sunroom and sauna. What I do remember are the looks on their faces as they tell me about their days and what makes them so happy.
If there is something fun and challenging, Rebecca is all over it. She loves to read everything and anything. The library is one of her happy places. School and synagogue are also places she feels most comfortable. Rebecca seeks out knowledge with a determination to absorb as much as possible. If she feels like she isn’t learning fast enough or wants to know more, she will decide to get all the information she can and teach herself. Lately, her desires have steered her toward learning Hebrew and all about every president of the United States. I can see her doing very well on “Jeopardy!” should she get the chance. They take 8-year-olds, right?
Benjamin is one of those kids who has a few intense interests: Legos, reading lots and lots of non-fiction books, and the amazing toys that they have in the Children’s Room of the Albany Public Library Main Branch. I love watching him explore the possibilities that K’nex and magnets have when he can focus on that and let his imagination explode. Part of his intense focus could be from being autistic, or it could be because he really does like to read one book over and over. The one book I see in his hands more often than any other is “El Deafo,” a graphic novel that he received as a gift from the Albany Public Library. I frequently find his copy under his pillow or wound up in his bedding. The story is about a girl his age, CeCe, who is different because she is hearing impaired and a superhero in her own mind. He connects with the character because he sees people as people first … differing abilities are not part of his way of seeing people.
Olivia tends to be a creature of habit who does very well with a set schedule and thrives on routine. There is a certain amount of repetition in kids’ lives to begin with, and my kids are no different. Whereas most kids count the days until vacations from school, Olivia is troubled by the very loose schedule. I watch her struggle with some of the complex parts of school. She is still writing several letters and numbers backwards. Reading seems to be her kryptonite. Then she gets to art class! Watching her sketch, paint, color and design clothes and homes is beyond words. Give her some blank pieces of paper with a regular pencil and she can make Mt. Rushmore look like a kindergarten clay project. I exaggerate because I am a very proud Momma. Olivia has a heart of gold and she is a wonderful loyal friend.
I may not be able to remember who sings the song on the radio that Olivia likes or the author of the book that Benjamin read in pre-kindergarten, but I can remember how hard it is to get Rebecca to join us in this reality after spending 90 minutes reading about the Underground Railroad. I can remember that Benjamin likes to cook with me, Olivia can do a nice copy of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” and Rebecca can tell you every detail about a book. I also remember that they have their own interests to pursue and that even though Olivia, Benjamin and Rebecca came into this world as a group, they are most definitely individuals.
Jennifer Steuer is an Albany mom whose busy household includes her husband, Harlan, and 8-year-old triplets Olivia, Benjamin and Rebecca.