One of the things about having a big family like ours is that we long ago lowered the bar to its extra low setting. By baby number seven, I wasn’t making homemade organic baby food from veggies I grew hydroponically, or making all of her little clothes from thread I spun on my hand spindle carved from an old chair with a butter knife. By baby number seven, I wasn’t making gift baggies of individually wrapped homemade bon bons for the kids to take home from the party, or handing out invitations etched in perfectly rectangular sugar cookies with colorful frostings. Hell, I don’t even remember if baby number seven even HAD a party, but she probably did, or we’d be hearing from her. She knows how to have her voice heard in our busy, noisy house.
People ask us all the time “how DO you do it?” We wonder that a lot too. Some days I think “We are really doing great at this! We are the Parents of the Year!” Other days, I think, “I’m not even ready to have kids,” or on the worst days, “where did all of these kids even come from!???” (Don’t answer that, Deb, it was rhetorical!)
To tell the truth, I have no idea how we do it, but I know how we don’t do it:
- We don’t make excuses for our kids, ever. But, we do advocate for them.
- We don’t rescue them from hard situations, even when we really want to. But, we are there to help sort out their choices (good and bad ones), and to cheer on their successes and sit with them in their failures.
- We don’t pretend everyone wins all the time, because sometimes they will lose, and they will need to know how to handle it, and move on. In life, not everyone gets a trophy every time. Get over it.
And the biggie: WE DON’T DO THEIR HOMEWORK. Ever. We did homework already, because we once passed elementary school, and high school and now it is their turn to do the same, on their own. As in, by themselves. So what if their friends’ science fair projects look shiny and sort of professional (because they are), and our kids’ projects look like… well, like kids made them, with moderate effort, some spit tape and plenty o’ smudging.
If you think doing your (kids’) homework is somehow impressing their teachers, you’d be wrong. You’re actually making their lives harder, and they are likely pretty annoyed with you. Suzanne Clarkson, Director of Student Affairs at the Susan Odell Taylor School brings it home: “I don’t need to know what you can do, I need to know what your child can do.” She assumes you can build the Parthenon out of styrofoam, draw a map of the world from memory and she surely doesn’t need to hear you sing the state capitols song. She wants to know what your child needs to progress, where s/he is struggling to understand a concept or acquire a skill.
The other problem with doing my kids’ homework is that (more than) half the time I have no idea how to do whatever it is they are asking for help with. So, that just makes the whole situation worse, and unnecessarily humiliating. It ruins that delicate myth I work so hard to maintain, that I am actually smarter than they are. I know I’m not, and you know I’m not, and the longer it takes them to figure this certain truth out, the better.
So stop doing their homework with, for, beside, over their shoulder or anywhere near them. That way, when your child really does earn an A, it is her A, and no one else’s- and you can be fully excited and proud of her without needing or deserving any of the credit. My husband Jon agrees, “if I get involved in the kids’ homework, it’s going to take longer anyway, because I have to try to remember what the hell I’m looking at and how to do it. Meanwhile, I want them to finish up their homework so they can mow the lawn and clean the kitchen. Homework isn’t on their chore list for a reason.”
Oh, how I love that man.
What do you think?
Deb and I really want to have a conversation with you! Really really! Please leave comments, questions and ideas for what you’d like Moms@Work to talk about below, and connect with us on:
Twitter @CRWomenAtWork, @debmbest and @CoreyJamisonLLC
Join the LinkedIn Group: Capital Region Women@Work
Remember: Lower the bar, and drop the guilt (today).
This blog was originally published by the Times Union and can be accessed here.