Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Mollie writes:

I'm so glad my kids are grown.  In the 90's 'back to school' week was a roller coaster ride for all of us.  It meant that the kids were back in school, so I could shovel out their bedrooms and disinfect their closets.  I could get the family on a more regular schedule.  Our schedules got busier, but it was an organized busy, with nobody complaining for the next nine months how BORED they were.

With the start of the school year, and our kids in public schools, it also meant more exposure to the rest of the world.  Grade school wasn't too bad.  The girls generally seemed to grow faster than the boys, which was fine with this mother of two boys.  But middle school was a whole other critter.

In middle school, some of the boys returned to school with long hair, no hair, green hair, or split-level mohawks.  My kids were still at the buzz cut stage when our oldest entered middle school, but by the end of the year, he was positively hirsute.  Some of his friends were still playing with toy cars and some were itching to drive a real one.  The whole speed of maturation was uneven.  But I still had the younger one all clean and tidy, looking smart.  So it wasn't too bad.

Until high school -

Mine would go back to school and find that their friends were tattooed, pierced, or otherwise more mature, while my boys were sure they had spent the summer stagnating.  Forget the computer programming classes and/or the anime classes, the concept of body art was a big deal in high school, as was who drove to school, who was driven to school, and worst of the worst, who rode the bus.

It wasn't just the hair and body image issues that came up after elementary school, but the whole issue of academics.  I have a BS; my husband ended up with a PhD.  As a result, we figured that the kids should at least do their homework on time.  But there is this magic that happens during middle school - the kids discover who they really are, and it doesn't necessarily mean that they are scholars.

One of my boys was in the district talented and gifted program (TAG), the other wasn't.  One got straight A's, the other often coasted through school by the skin of his teeth.  And if you think it was the TAG kid who got the A's, forget it.  It was our "mediocre" child, the one with the work ethic, who ended up with the highest grades.  The gifted child just wasn't into academics, he was into his social life.

The TAG kid had a certain disdain for homework.  When his brother was burning up the PC with homework projects, the other managed to keep in touch with his buds between theater, music, TAG enrichment programs and Godzilla movies.   And while the "mediocre" kid with the work ethic handed in his homework perfectly finished and on time, the TAG kid was lucky if he managed to do his homework, let alone hand it in and almost never on time.

It came to a head when the TAG kid was twelve.  I got mid-term reports and learned that Mr. Work Ethic was a joy to teach and an inspiration to all, while the gifted child, who always showed up at school, mind you, never managed to turn in his homework.  It just settled in the bottom of his back pack with the candy wrappers, school bulletins and other minutiae of middle school life.

My husband and I got to the point where we'd sit at the kitchen table with him while he did his homework, and then watch him place it in a Pee Chee (how DO you spell that?).  The following day, one of us would frisk his backpack, making sure the homework was handed in.  It was a good short term solution, but didn't address the underlying problem, personal responsibility.

I plan on writing more tomorrow, sort of another "Part Deux" again, that rehashes how we handled this problem.  I wasn't a perfect parent, and I need to muster up enough chutzpah to admit spanking my child.  But just acknowledging that schooling was a constant dynamic in our household and owning my mistakes is enough for now.

Tune in tomorrow!

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