When my oldest started school, I delighted in micromanaging his homework. While I still found it hard to believe that kindergarteners required homework, I was happy to sit at the table with him to oversee his work. This was mostly because I missed him a lot during the day and it was a great way to spend some time with him. It didn’t even occur to me to take a hands-off approach. By the time he started first grade I started to realize that he really didn’t need me hovering over him. Every child and every situation is different, but in this case, I knew he no longer needed my ‘help’. This was a huge adjustment. It was as if my brain could not compute this or at least didn’t want to compute this. Here I had been his caretaker for six years and in the blink of an eye, I was obsolete. He of course, was absolutely thrilled to be independent from me.
This pattern has continued with him through the years. Again, I know this isn’t the case for every child. Some still need a watchful eye supervising work and making sure they are up-to-date on assignments as is sometimes the case with my younger son. As parents, we have to adapt to each child and each school year the best we can. As far as I could tell, staying out of my older son’s way was working. That is, until he started fifth grade this year. Needless to say, when he brought home his first ‘F’ of his academic career, I was shocked. When he brought home his second ‘F’ I was beside myself. This all happened in the span of a week.
I tried to be cool about it. I tried to get a sense of the atmosphere in his classroom to get to the bottom of it. Had anyone else struggled on this particular test and quiz? The answer was no. Were the directions confusing? Again, not really. Did he speed through them? He adamantly denied this. He insisted he took his time.
Well, none of this added up. There was a huge piece of the puzzle missing. The mystery only deepened as my son continued to refuse to offer up any helpful information. In fact, he seemed downright angry anytime I posed a question about it. I could tell he was having a hard time processing his personal responsibility in this matter (that’s putting it mildly).
In communicating with his teacher, we both decided he didn’t study enough and that rushing through his work didn’t help matters. Armed with this information, I talked it over with him. I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt if he promised to make changes moving forward. Somehow, I could sense the thought of mom micromanaging his work again was extremely unappealing (no offense taken, sort of). It was hard, but I backed off and let him figure it out. Thankfully, he seems to have made the needed adjustments.
And, wouldn’t you know it, as I checked my inbox today, my youngest’s teacher had reached out to me. Seems he’s part of the rushing-through-his-work club, too. At least I have an idea on how to handle it. That’s the thing about failure and making mistakes, they are a great way to learn, make changes and hopefully, slow down. In the case of my boys I’m guessing that won’t be anytime soon.
Written by Diana DeVaul, MSW and Parent