The boys went out with Daddy first thing for breakfast at the local farm shop, and when they got back they did their usual Mathswhizz which seemed to take Middle in particular a very long time (he was in a different room to me - a room with a plentiful supply of distractions, I might add). Eldest has been struggling with Mathswhizz lately. Not so much the exercises, though they are stretching him - more that his PC and Mathswhizz have not been communicating well, so the program keeps crashing or playing up. It was the same today, so he was already quite frustrated by the time he came downstairs. I was also frustrated - a painful infection was testing my patience before I even interacted with my lovely boys, and trying to juggle all of their needs was not a smooth experience today.
However, we persisted with our adapted plan. We were due to do something arty, and as we have finally got around to looking at Tudor times I thought it would be fun to do self-portraits, Tudor-style. I found some wiki instructions on how to draw a human face, getting the proportions right, and then we looked at Tudor portraits via Google, particularly noticing the accessories (hats) and rich oil colours. We don't have oil paints so thought we could use oil pastels instead. Anyway, we started on the faces, and Eldest quickly muttered that he was rubbish at self-portraits. Sadly this kind of thinking still appears in the boys from time to time even though we have been out of the competetive school environment for almost 4 years, so I just encouraged him with the usual: we haven't tried for ages; it's more about having fun than comparing what we do with others; none of us are professional artists - nobody's expecting perfection. He carried on following the instructions, as did the rest of us. Youngest needed a lot of help today, particularly to slow down and take in the instructions). The more we continued, the worse Eldest's sulky attitude seemed to get, to the point where he gave up and didn't want to do any more, so he disappeared to his room. I said the issue was not whether he joined in, but I was disappointed in the stroppy attitude. The younger two carried on and finished their portrait (as did I: it was easier to demonstrate the instructions by doing it myself - but don't expect fine art, as you will see at the end). As soon as they were done I went to make sure Eldest was OK and asked him to show me his portrait from where he left it - as soon as I saw it I immediately understood that I had basically been a muppet.
His "bad attitude" was not (as I had impatiently assumed) a teenage strop; it was frustration that he hadn't been able to get it looking the way he wanted it to. The proportions were all out just enough for it to look really quite odd and he couldn't figure out how to put it right. As he said then, it was bad enough that it looked silly, but it was even worse because it was supposed to be himself. We sat down together and went over each part - showing him how to make the eyes a little bigger, the ears a little thinner, the mouth a little wider and the hat a little lower. All small tweaks but they made such a difference. I reminded him that we are not professional portrait artists & are not striving for a precise replication of how we look - and once he had made the tweaks necessary he was happy once again to continue to the oil pastel stage, needing no further help and resulting in a lovely piece of work.
The Tudor-style self-portraits were just a bit of fun, but the lesson learned was mine, and two-fold: just because we are doing something "simple" it does not mean that Eldest doesn't need my input; ALSO (which I know already but failed to connect with today) a child - or teen - who is demonstrating challenging behaviour is probably doing so because they are struggling with something. I'm not beating myself up because happily it didn't turn into a massive deal, although I am disappointed in myself that I didn't cotton on sooner. Yes he could have asked for help rather than getting frustrated (and I did suggest this afterwards for if/ when it happens again), but if I had just had a look when he was expressing frustration rather than assuming he was simply displaying a negative attitude, we could have sorted it so much more quickly.
Sigh. Anyway, there you go. Warts-and-all blogging complete, I have four Tudor-style self portraits to leave you with, and then I am off to the Doc to get this infection sorted.
(he also called it "The King Who Wasn't Sure" due to the quizzical eyebrows and mouth)