Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Method Parenting

As an adult now with children in school, I thought I was equipped to handle homework and tests and all the things that I had once endured; but having never been someone who needed to be convinced to "Just do it."  I don't understand my children. Being a dutiful student, it never occurred to me to ask, "What's my motivation?" Stuff was assigned, you did it. Books were to be read so I read them. Papers were to be turned in so I wrote them.   But weeks of offerings of bribes of pools and ice cream and pizza went unaccepted, even cash rewards for completing everything before the last day drew no serious commitments.  Threats of major carnage and endless chores resulted in hasty retreats to the abandoned summer projects due the first week back, but only for fifteen or so minutes at a time.

So yesterday, after chasing my son away from the TV which I had turned off and unplugged and for which I had gutted the batteries and hidden the remote, (he was reassembling it for use and claiming it was for his younger sisters who were bored, but who were in actuality, busy playing with barbies), I felt as chained to the table as my kids did, unable to do anything but maintain a constant harpy like watch over these procrastinating progeny.   One was finishing math, a second a poster, a third her report and the forth, he had a book he'd not cracked that required questions for all 21 chapters to be answered in complete sentences. 

Hawking over the younger two, I let the older ones fend for themselves and this proved to be a critical error for one.  He promptly lost the book.  How one can lose a book in five minutes without leaving the room when the floor is clear, I don't know but he did.  We spent 30 minutes in a search only to discover it in the pantry where he'd gone to get a snack.  In my mind, we were still in mid celebration of finding the book as I began outlining a strategy, "You should read the questions first and then the chapters." I prattled while grabbing the goods from the pantry to start making dinner.  "Who are you talking to Mom?" my daughter asked as she tucked her report into a folder.  I looked up and saw my bookless son outside playing with the hose with his two toddler sisters.  

Tempted though I was to take the hose and spray him back into the house, I gave the "Get in here now look" which earned a sheepish smile and obedient dropping of the hose.  When he came in, I tried reasoning.  It's a desperate ploy seeing as these are children, but sometimes you get lucky.  "Let's pretend you don't read the book or answer the questions.  What happens tomorrow?"  I asked.  He looked at the floor.   Nothing is as interesting as kitchen tile when Mom is right.   "I need to dry off first, I'm all wet." he said softly.  Fearful he'd bolt again, I ran to the laundry room and fished out dry clothes and a towel.  "Here." I held the book and camped outside the bathroom while he changed. 

When he sat back down, nose in the pages, I mentally congratulated myself on my fine parenting skills except the hyper critical part mentioned that maybe I should have tried this lecture two weeks ago or three.  For a moment, I noticed that the eating area needed to be swept; they were right, the floor IS interesting and then the mom me countered, "Hey, I've been asking them.  I've brought the books and placed them in their laps on more than a few occasions. I've made extra trips to pick up the lost summer assignment sheets.  I even copied them to have a back up in case they lost the second slips." Feeling smug again about my moming, I shop vac'd the kitchen.

The hours ticked by and I served dinner.  The brief respite for repast ended and I put the book back in front of my son who had tried to put things off by engaging in virtuous actions.  "I'm doing the dishes for you Mom." Impressive....I'm Tempted....I hate doing dishes and there are an awful lot of dis....but no, No. Mom has to be Mom and you're the Mom so you can't blow this off anymore than he can I told myself "You can do them for me tomorrow when you don't have a whole book to read."

Having moved the littles to bed, I heard those magic words, "This is a pretty good book." with the tone of surprise voiced by countless children who have waited to the last minute before him.   I cleaned the kitchen, I sat down with my husband while he ate and visited about the day and then we watched a show.  We heard, "I finished."

Still, there were the 21 questions to answer, one for each chapter in sentence form.  An hour later, he'd written them and wanted me to proof read his work.  It was late.  I concede, I was in no mood to do any more parenting but grumbled I'd take a look.  He asked if I would type the responses since he knew there were spelling errors.  Somehow, stupidly, I agreed.  Why?  Because the mom in me wouldn't let go of the fact that if he did it, he'd be up another hour and that was too much.

Weary, I went to the computer and only then glanced at the assignment sheet.  Due Friday, September 3.  Huzzah!  No homework for me!  I left the papers by the computer for the next evening. When I told him the next day, he rolled his eyes, "I could have gone to bed and read it over the next two days." he groused but then asked, "Will you still type it for me?"  and for the first time, I'm thinking, "What's my motivation?"   Maybe I can get a week's worth of dishes out of the deal.


Roger said...

I love it! I am also impressed with your will power to stay on the child so that he would finish the assignment, albeit a few days early, but it's done, right?

Kathy said...

Oh, my gosh, I feel like I've just relived about five or six of my own end of summer days from years gone by, and I too, have agreed, in spite of exhaustion, to type a paper for a procrastinator. You gotta love us moms! And the pantry or linen closet have always been great places to look for "missing" items.

MightyMom said...

nah, hold out for dishes AND laundry!!

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