Stories and thoughts about family and life

Parenting. . .

on May 17, 2012

I told the teacher in Brennan’s class the other afternoon:  “I remember us being married several years, and talking about starting a family.  You do that–decide you’d like to have kids, think of how wonderful it will be and the impact you’ll have on another person’s life.  You think of the love and skills you’ll give.  You think of the fun campouts, trips to the park, traveling, etc.  You DON’T imagine how fun it will NOT be making trips to the school two days in a row to talk to the teachers of both your children.”  Yeah, that’s for darn sure.  You don’t think about that part.  You don’t think about how hard it is to potty train, teach manners, instill good ethics.  But most importantly, you aren’t thinking about those afternoons that you’re standing and talking to the teacher for the umpteenth time, seething and staring at your child.

I had always heard things from older, more-seasoned parents like “that’s why mothers in the wild eat their young” or “that’s why babies and puppies are so cute–so you won’t hurt them.”  I’ve gotten a really good dose of that this week.  We had already struggled a bit the past couple of years with Lucas, moving to a new school and getting acclimated alone are no small feats.  Add into that a child who isn’t particularly interested in engaging all the time (he’d rather build Legos or play his clarinet), and his Type A mom who did her schoolwork without fail, and you’ve got a fight on your hands.  Now, up the anty a bit.  Now add in a 9 year old who has reached the end of his rope (actually, had about the time of Spring Break), and the house of cards begins to collapse.  Type A mom is wondering how teachers are not all raving alcoholics.  I know I surely would be.  Or a drug addict, maybe.

I had such a fun summer planned.  We’re leaving just a few days after the end of the school year on a two week driving adventure across several states–camping at Yellowstone, visiting Mall of America, riding the Cog Railway up to Pike’s Peak.  I’ve been in countdown mode the past couple of weeks, and have been preparing to leave the company in the hands of a very capable employee.  I thought we were all going to coast into the end of the year, and have a fun, well-deserved summer.  Boy, was I wrong.

Monday wasn’t a great day anyway, but by the end of the day, I was engaged in a conversation with Lucas’ teacher about his inability to complete his classwork.  Math, in particular.  Math isn’t my favorite either–I’ll admit, but holy cow.  We reviewed several assignments which haven’t been completed over the past couple of weeks.  The teacher had finally taken Lucas to the office to visit with the principal, who gave him in-school-suspension (or ISS, as I’m now acquainted).  We decided to change tactics and place Lucas in another class for part of the day to make a point–his brother’s 3rd grade class.  When the teacher went to the other class to discuss this revolutionary idea, I wasn’t expecting what happened next.  The teacher returned and informed me that Brennan’s teacher would also like to see me.  It seems they’re having some continuing problems with him as well.

Beautiful.  I feel the lump growing in my throat as I walk down the hall.  Brennan’s teacher very calmly explains the problems and how she has worked to engage him.  He’s simply “checked out.”  He had standardized tests the previous week and she literally walked past his classroom and watched him staring at the wall.  She, of course, couldn’t interfere, and her fears of his falling scores had come true:  he lost 14 points on literacy, and 6-8 points on math from the previous testing.    We call Brennan in and have a similar discussion with him as we’ve just had with his brother.  Nothing of any real value.  They both know they’re in trouble.  So much so that they barely say anything when we leave the campus that evening.

The ride to school the next morning is filled with conversation of how we’ll do in class that day, and how I know the year is winding down, but they just have to hang in there for a few more days.  Everyone agrees today will be a better day.  I’m feeling a little better myself, until I arrive at the office and receive my first text from Brennan’s teacher:  “I hate that it’s so early, but Brennan had several homework assignments which haven’t been turned in–just wanted you to know.”  I frown at the phone and aim to make the day better.    If only.  With e-mail and computer problems much of the day at work, I was exhausted by lunch.  I spent much of the day sighing at my computer and trying to get things to “work” again.  At 2, I get a text again from the teacher “we’re not having a good day.”  And then a notice that he, also, has received ISS.  I recognize this as my cue to come talk.

I leave the office, and head toward the school.  I call a friend of mine who is a teacher, hoping for some helpful advice, but she’s not available.  I’m trying to remain calm, but inside I’m welling up with anger, frustration, anxiety, and a bit of depression.  By the time I reach the school, I’ve resolved that I’m going to have a conversation with the principal.  She’s busy tending the book fair when I arrive, and I find myself engaged in a conversation in the hall with the boys’ teachers again.  They are very supportive and encouraging.  They remind me that  it’s the end of the year and that it’s not necessarily a reflection of parenting.  Their words are comforting, but honestly do little to settle my nerves at this point.  When the principal finishes her tasks and we get to visit, she assures me the boys are both going to be able to go to the next grade, and I’m not the only parent going through this at this particular moment.  She offers me some good mom-to-mom advice, and then I hit her with a request–since I know they’re technically out of jeopardy, I want her to scare the crap out of them.  I remember as a child never wanting to visit the principal’s office, and I am hoping that she can make a lasting impression on them.  She startles for a moment, and then responds that she’d be happy to.  She says that many parents wouldn’t be this involved, and she appreciates that I want them to learn the lesson from this.    We arrange for her to talk to them on Friday, as it’s a half-day for the school and should be less busy.

On the ride home, the boys have the nerve to ask me if I’m upset and if they’re in trouble.  After a serious 20 minute lecture about the hows and whys and my expectations of both of them for the evening, we arrive home and I go to my room.  I shut the door and made a couple of phone calls.  When my husband arrived home about an hour later, I think he was amazed at whatever I said to motivate them, because we were getting some serious chores finished.

I hate that I have to get so upset.  I hate that it seems that sometimes no one is listening to me unless I’m screaming.  I really hate that my children don’t really even realize that they’re putting their own futures in jeopardy.  I’m not sure I would have “gotten it” to the degree I do now at their age either, but I did understand the value and purpose behind why I was at school.  I want to say that I don’t care, but that’s simply not true.  I just hope some day they will really appreciate how much I DO care, and it will have made a difference in their lives.


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