There comes a time in every mother’s life when she has to learn how to let her child take a fall. It’s the hardest thing for us to do, I think, because we’re nurturers. Lovers. Protectors. From the time we pop those little dudes and dudettes out, we take our jobs seriously, and that means buffering their mistakes so that they learn their lessons but don’t end up doing permanent damage to their bodies, their lives, or their grade point averages. That’s certainly what I’ve been trying to do for my not-so-baby Baby Girl.
But middle school has been a tough time for her, and grade-wise, it would probably only best be described with a very inappropriate cuss word. This year, I decided I was going to take a different approach: no more nagging or following up on my end. If she fails a quiz or the whole darn school year, it’ll be her fault. Her built-in test reminder and homework checker has officially called it quits.
For one, my constant nipping at her heels wasn’t reinforcing any sense of responsibility on her end. She was just as relaxed as relaxed could be because she knew that mama was going to take care of it, no matter what “it” was. We went through probably a dozen different systems to get her organized and on top of her assignments. We implemented a homework journal that had to be signed both by her teachers and by me, even if she didn’t have anything to do in a particular subject. That failed. I bought her a dry erase board to jot down her to-do list. That failed. I purchased I don’t know how many cute little notepads for her to scribble down page numbers before she trotted off to her next class. That failed. I even had the child tested for ADHD. That failed, too.
In between that, I was meeting with teachers, doling out lectures on the weekly, and doing lots and lots of praying and venting, praying and going for walks around the block, praying and wondering what the heck was going to get through that child’s stubborn, scattered little mind.
At least two nights out of the week, it was almost guaranteed that there would be some sort of fallout over an assignment she needed to do at the last minute — oh Staples, how many times have I raced through your aisles like a madwoman, looking for poster board and cut-out letters for some 11th hour project? — or something she should’ve done that didn’t get completed at all that I found out about too late. The constant bickering put a real strain on our home life. And it wasn’t changing a doggone thing.
So since school started, I haven’t laid an eye on a worksheet or a notebook page. This is her last year, the eighth grade, the final push before she makes her trek to the big leagues. But I let her know she wasn’t going to make it to nobody’s high school if she didn’t make it through this year.
I don’t chase her anymore. I figure I can’t be riding in her back pockets next year and definitely not when she’s in college, so the sooner she takes ownership of her work, the better. It’s not that it’s not nerve-wracking. I want so bad to rifle through her bookbag and see if there are reams of blank, unanswered pages stuffed all haphazardly in a folder somewhere. Even if there were, it would still be up to her to do them and do them right, and then retain the information the homework was supposed to convey in the first place.
It’s not the kind of independence and responsibility that she wants. She thinks that freedom comes packaged with permission to ride the city bus by herself and meet up at the movies with her friends. But I’m watching and seeing how she handles her biggest duty: her education. There’s a lot riding on this year, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried like all heck that she’ll lose the steam she’s been exhibiting during this first month or so. But mama’s gotta start letting her go because, to a degree, it’s her life to figure out on her own. Even if it means taking a fall.
Do you check your kids’ homework every night or do you trust them to do their work unsupervised?
Image via apdk/Flickr