Big A’s first week of school was rocky because apparently his Advanced English teacher had given them a book report to do over the summer vacation that we were unaware of! Since she was to be his new seventh grade teacher, the assignment was sent to us via the internal school online system and because we were leaving for our India trip 2 days after school closed, so I guess we totally ignored it! Eeps!
That was not a good start because, over the summer, Big A nurtured his passion for video games so much that he was writhing in agony about getting back into routine anyway. Now, with a teacher’s wrath on his head, he was even more miserable right on the first day. His teacher gave him until Friday to turn it in!
Initially, he ranted and raved, indirectly asking us to intervene. I asked him how many in his class had not turned in the assignment and it turned out to be only three. That put a lid on it because if half the class had not been aware of the book report, I could have talked to the teacher about improper communication, but this, I told him, was clearly our fault. I specifically said ‘our’ because I was to blame too since as a parent, we’re a team and it was comforting to him that I didn’t throw the entire blame on him.
He had come back home via carpool and he had already vented to our neighbor who was driving him back. She had told him that her daughter already had the book, Surviving the Applewhites, so he was able to borrow the book (about 250 pages) from her. He started reading immediately and 50 pages in, came and told me that it was “mindlessly boring’! I offered help by telling him that I could read it to him at bedtime and that’s what we did, interspersed with his exclamations of boredom and the general unfairness of life. I let him vent but obviously, we only made it through only an additional 20 pages that way!
He took the book with him to school on Wednesday so that he could try and finish the book. When he came back, he told me that he couldn’t even remember what happened in the first few pages because – boring! At that point, I did what a bad mother does and taught him the art of skimming the pages he had already read to glean relevant information rather than read the book again. I wasn’t about to let him off the hook completely, but I understood that an assignment that was meant to be done over a month could not be done in the exact way in 3 days!
He completed the book on Thursday but still had to write the report. I guess the teacher relented, because he came beaming to me and said he could turn it in on the following Tuesday. Of course, he still hasn’t realized what a crappy mom I am! I said, no. You were told to turn it in tomorrow, you’ve already read the book, you can do it instead of procrastinating and ruining everyone’s long weekend.
We then sat together and completed the report. He turned it in on Friday and was disappointed that the teacher didn’t shower him with accolades and glitter!
I’m hoping after all his pain and resentment goes away, he comes away realizing that what just happened is real life. You’re going to be held accountable for your actions or inaction, you can’t skip out on a project just because you forgot to do it; you still have to do it. If you miss a deadline, you may be given a second chance and your best bet is not to further delay it; his teacher may have given him a third chance, but had he not turned it in on Friday, I have a feeling that her opinion of and expectations for him would have definitely diminished further. And, lastly, don’t expect to be praised for just doing your job! That too, when you initially didn’t!
I’m glad that most of the teachers he has now have this mindset. When his karate instructor asks him why his uniform is dirty, he knows better than to say that it’s because his mom didn’t have time to wash it. He’s said that once and was immediately admonished for being so big yet not responsible for washing it himself.
This is real life and he’s at the age where he should pick up the good habits and mentality that you should be self-reliant, responsible, accountable, able to meet deadlines, and not expect a medal for just showing up; you get praise only when you demonstrate initiative.
It just beats me when I see so many parents of his peers make excuses for their kids and even argue with the teacher when a valuable life lesson can be learnt. I can understand that many feel the need to shield their children from the harshness, but that is something best done when they were infants who were helpless and therefore dependent on us. Today, kids are smart and savvy and they can definitely take on challenges if we just step back and let them! And, we can still be there for them to lend them a hand but not completely incapacitate them in the process.
This is my two cents. This is how we parent our kids and it’s no surprise to me that we are deemed very harsh parents. I’m okay with that.