Friday, October 19, 2007

The Job of Mom...

One of the toughest things for me to do, as a mom, is allow my children... to fail.

You have no idea how hard that is to do. I mean, here I am, Mom, a kid's biggest cheerleader, telling them that they can do anything they put their minds to, that they can achieve just about anything if they're willing to work at it...

But, they have to be willing to do it. And that's where allowing them to fail comes in.

I am not a nag. OMG, my mom was, and is, and the very idea makes me shudder. If I start to nag, my gods, I hope someone shoots me before I can do any damage!!! That being said, I do remind my children when they have homework, when they need to study, or to practice, etc, etc. But... I only do it three times. The first one is a gentle reminder. The second one is a bit more firm. The third one is, "Okay, now, you know you have to do X. Get busy, and get after it!" or some variant thereof, and usually works.

But sometimes it doesn't.

After three shots across the bow, so to speak, I figure they're on their own, and they can learn from the consequences. It's actually highly effective. You see, I've learned that experience is a pretty damn good teacher, and sometimes pounds those lessons in harder than I ever possibly could, so whenever possible, and within reason, I let experience do the teaching. They remember it better that way.

So, my daughter has learned, the hard way, that there is a reason I want her to do her homework pretty much right after she gets home. She figured out, when you do your homework right away, you remember it better, you get a snack with it, PLUS, your entire afternoon and evening is completely free to do whatever you want. You don't end up staying up way later than is good for you, with cranky parents grumbling about going to bed, wishing you'd told them you were having trouble with math, and then getting up exhausted and LATE the next morning because you overslept. Yeah. It all works out.

My son is going to learn today that when you do MOST of your homework, but you keep blowing your mom off when she tries to help you learn your vocabulary words... well, he's going to learn that you don't do well on your test. I know, it's not a big thing... but it is to him. He's done really well on his past vocabulary tests, because we take about five minutes every day to go over them, to spell them, to read them, etc. But this week, well, he was being Contrary Man. He did his regular homework under protest, but that third warning was most effective. However, it was powerless when it came to studying his words.

I recognize those days when studying is just going to go out the window. It happens. Sometimes, he's headachy, which I understand, or he's restless and just needs some fresh air. Fifteen minutes of racing around in the backyard, chasing squirrels, or dribbling his soccer ball, is usually enough to get him back on track. But, there are some days where he's just... well, I hope my supply of patience doesn't run out. So, I sent a note to his teacher this morning, explaining the situation, and my philosophy about it. He's going to be unhappy. He's going to hate it, because he's so proud of how well he does on those tests.

What am I going to say to him?

"Well, hmmm... can you think of a reason that you didn't do so well on that test?"

Sometimes, you have to let your kids fail. It's how they learn. You make mistakes, and you learn not to do it again. What I WANT to do is force him to study, or to keep trying, or to stop climbing on that, or to make him put that down...

What I do is step back, and let him learn. I make sure he's safe, and I let him learn. I shove my hands in my pockets so no one can see me clenching them into fists, bite my lip to keep from crying, and watch. When it's over, I pick him up, brush him off, kiss the boo-boo better, snuggle him close, and we talk. And I let HIM tell me what went wrong, and what he could have done to prevent it/do it better/avoid it.

It's one of the hardest things I've ever done in my life.

It's my job. I'm a mom.

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