Thursday, March 20, 2008

Poor Brown

Homework with N has been horrible lately. I'm short-tempered, he's in over his head and fidgety and unhappy. Yesterday was really bad. I was already feeling touchy, after his teacher had pulled me aside in the playground to tell me about some more problems he's having academically, and also to bemoan the fact that this same kid--the one who kicked butt as Star of the Week--is now the Pledge Leader, and is doing the measly little THREE LINES ("Put your right hand over your heart. Ready, begin. You may be seated.") with his hands over his eyes and his head pulled into his shirt collar and in a voice that is basically inaudible. "He's practically in tears by the end of it each day," she said, shaking her head. "I just don't understand."

To which I wanted to scream: I KNOW. THIS IS WHAT I'VE BEEN TRYING TO SAY FOR SEVEN YEARS NOW. There is no consistency; no using yesterday's gains to inform tomorrow's expectations. My child is like human quicksand, and every time I move, I get sucked deeper into the not-understanding.

But that's not my point. My point is, homework has been bad. And yesterday's was especially so. He was so not-there, and I was so on edge, that at one point I grabbed his arm...hard...with an intent to get his attention, and without an intent to be gentle with him. "N!" I snapped, loudly, getting right into his face. "You need to listen to me right now, or you're going to lose TV!" At he looked at me and grinned smugly, insultingly. I saw red and sent him to his room until I could calm down enough to finish working with him.

Today was less bad. Not good, but less bad. Still, by the end, he was twirling around a crayon and writing on the table inadvertently and simply not paying attention to the VERY LAST PROBLEM we had to get through. I could feel my composure slipping, and so--trying to pretened I'd something from the day before--I took my anger out on the crayon he was playing with, snapping it in half and throwing it into the garbage. I wasn't yelling, I didn't even raise my voice. I thought I'd done pretty well...until I looked at my son, who literally and immediately collapsed onto the couch in tears.

"That was my favorite brown!" he wailed.

"I'm sorry, but you were using it as a toy during homework, and I needed you to focus on what you were doing," I said.

"BUT YOU BROKE BROWN!" And thus ensued ten straight minutes of true, honest-to-goodness sobs, while I held him and rocked him and told him that I was sorry, that I didn't know the crayon was so special to him.

Finally, when he'd quieted down a bit, I said, "Are we OK now?"

"I don't know," he said, his head still in his hands. "I'm still so sad for brown."

Ten minutes later, after we'd finished the last homework problem, he came into the family room to find me. In his cupped hands were the two pieces of brown crayon.

"We're better now," he said. "I don't mind so much that brown is in two pieces."

I thought, for a microsecond, of being the model of consistency that every parenting book tells me I need to be, and insisting that he put the pieces back in the garbage: After all, that was the punishment I'd meted out, and I should stick to it. But I couldn't do that to his hopeful, newly happy face. I couldn't do that to a kid who could grin while his mom is yelling in his face one day, but who collapses in grief over a broken crayon. I couldn't be that mean.

Quicksand, I say. That child is pure quicksand. And he's totally sucked me in.


Ambre said...

I heard a rumor once that some people don't have to yell at their kids to get homework done.

I am not sure I'm buying it.

Leila said...

I think I see some bubbles in that quicksand...

You know, if you try... you might be able to heat up one end of brown very carefully and reconnect it to the other...

po said...

Yikes, I can FEEL your tension and SEE the red in reading this. I'm so sorry; I know you know that there's some other stuff behind the tension, that we're all feeling this week.

And yeah, it's beyond sucky to never know if gains will stay gains or devolve back into suckage. Hugs!

Green said...

Ebb and flow. I seem sometimes, like I'm learning things. I appear to be a great student. I take notes, ask questions that are intelligent, etc. But if I don't use whatever I was taught immediately and consistently, I promptly lose the knowledge.

And sometimes it takes me several times of being taught something for it to click. Sometimes I can't learn a certain concept for YEARS. The word ambiguous comes to mind - my cousin told me what it meant when I was 15. I didn't understand until my early 20's.

Learning is HARD. And paying attention to something boring that you don't understand anyway is also HARD.

I wouldn't have thought you were wrong had you taped Brown back together quite frankly. Those parenting books are for manipulative kids. From everything you've said about N he does not seem manipulative.