Monday, April 13, 2009

Step Away

Sometimes I do a good job at this parenting thing. Sometimes I suck. And sometimes, I take a 'good' moment and turn it into a suck moment simply by not being able to keep my mouth shut.

Take this morning, for instance. Let me set the scene: The kids are on spring break this week. Last week, I had a conversation with Em's teacher over some unfinished homework due to Passover seder observance, which I promised she would finish over break. He noted that he wasn't concerned about her missing one or two homework assignments; instead, he would prefer her to take home her in-class math workbook and 'catch up' on the stuff she hasn't finished in class.

"She works slowly," he said. "And she's distractable. And that means her workbook's a bit of a mess. If you guys could take care of that over break, that would more than make up for missing homework."

And so, when she came home from school on Friday, we had a talk about the workbook. I told her that it was her responsibility to 'clean it up' by doing missing assignments and fixing things she'd done wrong. I told her that she would probably be happier if she would do a little bit every day, so that it wouldn't end up eating up a whole day of her break near the end. But, I stressed, it was up to her. She's a sixth grader, and she's going to middle school next year, and she needs to be responsible for her own work. If she didn't do what she needed to do, she'd suffer the consequences.

She nodded gravely...then went off to one sleepover after another after another.

So, this morning, with her latest sleepover friend by her side, I asked her if she'd even cracked open the book yet. "No," she answered cheerily, "but I'm definitely going to do some of it today."

Don't say anything, I warned myself. She needs to learn responsibility on her own.

I couldn't do it.

"I just want to make something clear," I said. "I mentioned that if you didn't do your work in time you'd suffer the consequences. I should probably tell you what those are. If, by the end of break, you have not done what you needed to do, you will be full-out grounded for a whole week. Understand?"

She nodded. "I said I'm going to do some of it today," she said. "And I will. It'll get done in time."

Still, I couldn't leave well enough alone. When she called me an hour ago to tell me about something completely unrelated, I asked her if she'd done any math. "Not yet," she said, and I could tell she was gritting her teeth.

Again, my inner voice warned, Shut up. There are six days left in her break. Who cares if she leaves it for a couple more days? And besides, she can't learn if you don't let her succeed or fail on her own.

And again, my inner idiot refused to listen to my inner voice. "Well, if you don't find the time to pick up that book for at least ten or fifteen minutes today, no more sleepovers this week. I mean it."

Sigh. Even I was annoyed with me after that one. Big time parenting fail.

When will I learn? When will I stop expecting my kid to see the OBVIOUS wisdom of my words and fall IMMEDIATELY into line and do EVERYTHING exactly the way I would want her to do it? Am I the only one who finds it this hard to lay down the law...and then step away from it?

And on that disgusted note, some completely unrelated photos of my Jewish children on an Easter egg hunt. (N is the boy in the red shorts; Em's the blonde in the tie-dye.)


kristenspina said...

I love this: "My inner idiot." I have one of those too.

kris said...

i do the same thing with my son. he is 9 and in 3rd grade so he needs to at least start taking some of the responsibility but he never has a chance with me around....

Ambre said...


that's the helicopter sound...


AB said...


I can so relate with E. Been there.

Meg said...

Of course not. Last night my teen had a headache and was tired (our break was last week so too many late nights) and asked me to write a note saying he couldn't do his homework. I said (in a somewhat horrified, loudish voice as he was at the top of the stairs). "NO!" Instead of leaving it at that, I had to keep going on about responsibility and how he had been playing on the computer instead of working and needed to get his work done and he of course gave me the "OK mom, you could have just said No". Just one simple example of how my inner idiot is alive and loud.

TC said...

Meg: "How my inner idiot is alive and loud." I love that! Feel free to call me on it when I totally steal it one of these days!