April 25, 2006

Parenting One Oh One

Parenting sucks sometimes. You wonder if you're doing it right or doing it wrong. It's a perpetual struggle.

"Am I being too lenient and will my kid expect to skate in life?"

"Am I being to hard and will my kid think he is a miserable failure?"

"Do I help and show him how to pass or do I not help and let him fail?"

Always... the questions in my head. The balancing act of being a good parent vs. one who helps too much or... one who doesn't DO enough.

And I will say, I err on the side of letting them fail. I do. I have refused to do anything except help them study. They are responsible for knowing when their tests are, when homework is due, and for accomplishing all projects on their own unless I see assistance is truly needed or unless they request it.

But... my eldest is feeling the brunt of this, of course, as eldest children do. Am I doing it right, I ask myself, as I hear of mothers who pour through their children's backpacks going over due dates and tests and pushing and pulling and staying on top of them.

And I realized this past quarter that my eldest is not REALLY ready to be 100% responsible for all of it. He's not. He has poor organizational skills. He is struggling. There is a lot going on in 5th grade. A LOT.

So this quarter, I have stepped in and he is making all As.

He always did his homework, but wouldn't turn it in. I am on him... always... he is turning it in.

He said to me at the end of last quarter, "I hate it when you yell at me. It makes me feel really bad about myself..."

And part of me wanted to scream at him, "YOU MAKE ME NUTS! YOU THINK YOU FEEL BAD ABOUT YOURSELF FOR YELLING! GGRRRR! YOU AIN'T SEEN NUTHIN'!", but the other part of me thought, "Wow. I'm a bitch. We all know it. That took some serious guts for him to say that to me..."

So instead I said calmly, "Every time you do something like what you've done today, you make me cringe. I'm afraid you will fail in life. I am afraid you won't get into a good college. Every time you do something like this and do not listen, I take it personally that you don't respect me and it makes me feel like shit. I won't yell anymore. It's your deal. But you have to listen to me."

And he said... OK.

And he has. And I've quit yelling at him.

And his homework has become teamwork. I no longer say, "Did you have a question on your math?" and let it go. I now say, "I want to see your math homework to make sure you're not missing something..."

The thing is, he has a brilliant mind. He truly misses nothing. But he can be sloppy. I have to make sure he understands what his strengths and weaknesses are.

And I told him today, bluntly (and for the record he laughed), "Dude, you are smart as hell. But your handwriting. It truly sucks ass. It's bad. You cannot rely on your brilliant mind to get you through organization and neatness. You must type when you can and work harder than the guy next to you to present your stuff in a neat fashion... because, Man, your handwriting totally totally rots."

What spurred this post? He has a project due tomorrow... he had baseball today (takes 3 hours out of our day) and tons of homework and as I looked at his 50% completed project, I felt this urge to say, "Tough shit. It's not done. You can get an F. I passed 5th grade."

But I looked at his poster board, and he had put down what he wanted, drew it out... and it was more than anything, just really sloppy. It needed work.

And I thought, "What does it hurt for me to SHOW HIM how to do it neatly?"

And so even though I passed 5th grade, I sat down while he did his reading, science, and math, and typed out labels, printed them, pasted them on his project, added a little color here and there, and talked to him while I did it. And his project, it was his idea and everything is laid out the way he wanted it, but it looks nicer because I helped.

Part of me feels kind of bad... but the other part says, "I had to show him... next time, he's on his own."

We'll see. This parenting thing... it keeps getting harder and harder and the multiple choice questions appear to have more than one right answer.

But sometimes... none of them look right. Its up to picking the one that fits best. And I'm struggling.

Posted by Boudicca at April 25, 2006 08:59 PM | TrackBack

So what did your parents do with you? You turned out to be successful so they must have done sumpin' right. Right? Don't be hesitant to ask for their advice.

BTW, I was a terrible student with bad handwriting (shoulda been a doctor). My father made a deal with me: do well in math (logical thought processes) and English (able to express oneself) and he would give me a pass on everything else. Got A's and B's. I flunked out of college on my first try (lack of discipline). Fortunately, my parents taught me that actions have consequences. I had to get a job to start paying room and board.

I actually turned out OK. Retired from IBM and am now a Snotty Rich Fuck.

Looking forward to this weekend. See ya Friday.

Posted by: Denny at April 25, 2006 10:01 PM

We didn't have this much homework. I'm serious. The kid has a ton of work. It amazes me.

My folks helped, but I never had the projects my 5th grader brings home.

Posted by: Bou at April 25, 2006 10:04 PM

I was pretty smart in school. My dad always just said I was lazy and lacked attention to detail.

I got kicked out of my first year of college for not going to class and not studying!

So, he let me struggle some, and I learned not to be lazy and to pay more attention to detail.

But he never hesitated to show me how to do something!

Posted by: Sissy at April 25, 2006 11:22 PM

All parents go through that thought process. I think it's a right of parenting passage.

If you ever question yourself again (and you will), think of it this way:
"Did I say I wouldn't do this again?"
"What does it REALLY matter?"
"Is this a control issue (MY control issue)?"
"Is this my personality or my childs?"
"What will my child learn from this?"
"Is my child passively assuming I will fix/take care of it?"
"What are the consequences of doing/not doing it (for me and for my child)?"

If you can feel relatively comfortable with the answer(s) you come up with, go with it.

Your boys sound wonderful, so you know so far you are doing a good job! Keep up the good work!

Posted by: Rave at April 25, 2006 11:29 PM

Wow. I was just talking about this to my hubby and M. I am amazed that you were able to handle it so well. I hope I can do the same.

Posted by: vw bug at April 26, 2006 06:08 AM

... the fact that you asking the question tells volumes... if were not asking, it would mean you didn't care... and you do care... and that is really all that matters...

Posted by: Eric at April 26, 2006 06:34 AM

I have found that if a parent is always asking themselves those questions those are the parents that are doing everything right.

Parents that don't ask themselves those questions either don't care or they are doing everything for their kids.

Posted by: Quality Weenie at April 26, 2006 07:16 AM

I'm with Eric and QW. You've asked the question, means you care. Parenting is a give and take. Being able to "see" when your kid needs a little extra help, that is what a good parent does. We let them learn, let them fail, point them in the right direction, and we are the place they turn to when they just need a little extra. You are doing a wonderful job. The proof is in the fact you can have an honest dialog with your child.

Hey! enough of this sappy stuff, see ya Friday! What time are you getting in?

Posted by: Oddybobo at April 26, 2006 08:48 AM

Have you seen my handwriting? It's the same as it was when I was 10. I no longer write anything in cursive.

Posted by: Toluca Nole at April 26, 2006 06:11 PM

I have ASS handwriting. I think that our brains work faster than our hands :)

Posted by: caltechgirl at April 26, 2006 10:21 PM

I think that there's nothing wrong with showing or helping, as long as you explain the "why" of what you're doing.

If the boy can learn the underlying principles of what drives you to make the decisions you do, he'll have the tools to make those good decisions for himself when he's on his own.

He won't use those tools now, because he doesn't HAVE to, but when he does, they'll be there.

Posted by: Harvey at May 2, 2006 09:46 AM