Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Homework--'Nuff Said.

Regrets...I've had a few....All right...I mean come on, let's be real.  I am forty one.  There are more than just a FEW regrets.  Oh...now...stop tsk tsking...We all have those moments that we wish we could do over in a different way.  Some are bigger than others.  Some aren't worth the thought.  Some are always with us and will be until we are old and gray.  My list is lengthy.  Some of the ruefulness is what you'd expect...the angst that comes from being young...and stupid.  You know what I mean.  Like--I wish I had the chutzpah to tell my prom date that our strong friendship had become so much more--to me.  Instead, for the next month I tear-soaked my diary lamenting his prom night hook up with my mortal enemy.  I wish that I wasn't a shallow teen consumed with popularity forsaking-- even down right humiliating--those who weren't part of the crowd I deemed important.  I wish I valued my education and wasn't embarrassed by my intelligence, dumbing myself down to attract the "right" kind of boy.  (Those of you who know me....pun intended.) I wish I was more independent.  Being alone, even for the smallest amount of time feels scary to me.  Seems kind of weak if you ask me.   I wish I hadn't felt a compulsion to grow up so fast, and that I experienced the world in all the ways that a 20-something experiences it when not married and a parent of two young children.  Not that I regret having my boys.  No.  The way I see it, they are the REASONS for my twenties.  However, an abundance of my regrets are ABOUT my boys or how I parented them.  One of the biggest regrets when it comes to them has to be the GINORMOUS mistakes I made pertaining to homework.   Uh....cue the foreboding music please.  Ah yes, homework.  The bane of any parents' existence.

Mistake number one: My belief that the boys DESERVED a break when they got home.  And by break I mean playing video games, watching TV, chatting on Facebook, etc.  I no longer hold this idea to be true.  Here's why;  I think it would have been much more effective to teach the boys that homework was their job or responsibility and that free time and recreation come only after their responsibilities were fulfilled.  Hear me out on this one.  In REAL life we work.  We come home to more work.  We cook.  We load the dishwasher.  We run errands.  We read to our children.  We sweep the floor.  And it is only when all the work is done do we sit and watch Grey's Anatomy with our box of tissues perched on our knees.  It is only when our responsibilities are complete do we check our Facebook page to play a game of Christmas Crunch (my guilty pleasure!)  By teaching the boys from a young age that old adage "business before pleasure"  I believe that we would have avoided so much drama.  If I hadn't set up from the beginning that they were "entitled" to that all powerful fun before homework, I am sure there would have been a lot less of me screaming phrases like, "I DON'T CARE HOW MANY MORE LEVELS YOU NEED BEFORE YOU CAN SAVE THE GAME...IT IS TIME TO DO YOUR HOMEWORK."  or "NOOOOO YOU CAN NOT WATCH ANOTHER EPISODE OF FAMILY GUY.  I DON'T CARE IF IT IS A NEW ONE.  IT IS TIME TO DO YOUR HOMEWORK!"   Rule number one to try this time around with Ila:  Work comes first.  Play comes next.  That's the norm.  (I'll let you know in fifteen years if that works out!)

Mistake Number 2:  Lamenting along with the boys the pitfalls of homework.  I can't tell you how many times the boys asked for my help with homework that I inadvertently rolled my eyes at a seemingly ludicrous or laborious assignment.  Then of course there were the times that I put to words my disdain for homework saying, "I know homework is boring, (or hard, or stupid) but you HAVE to do it." Yeah...I know...I should never try to sell a product.  Pretty great mom huh?  Feeding right into the "why-do-I-have-to-do-this-crap attitude that my boys had. My consistent message?  "Yeah.  You are correct.  Homework bites.  Just suck it up and do it."  Rule number two to try this time around with Ila-sell the virtues of a job well done.  Push pride. Hold dear the importance of trying your hardest and completing a task.  How does that song go?  "You've got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative...."  (I'll let you know in 15 years if rule number two works out!)

Mistake Number 3:  Coming to the rescue every time an "oh-my-gosh-I-didn't-finish-my-project-that-I-had-four-weeks-to-do-and-it's-due-tomorrow!" happened at 9:00 at night.  I mean don't get me wrong the first time it happens...okay...any mom would help out by running to Walmart to get bow tie noodles, pipe cleaners, water color paints, and red cellophane.  The first time it happens any mom would sit at the kitchen table meticulously gluing over 100 bow tie pastas to the various colored pipe cleaners until her fingers cramped.  But the second, third, fourth and even fifth time, it would have been smarter to let. my. precious. babies. hang.  Sound harsh?  Let me explain.  It is just in the past few years that I learned the valuable lesson that logical annoying irritating consequences can sometimes...maybe most times..be more effective than artificial consequences that we place on our children.  For instance, I no longer fight with my kids about wearing coats.  When they don't have coats on and it happens to rain, the long walk home or to Grandma's will be wet, cold and miserable.  Next time they will wear a coat.  The same goes for unfinished homework.  Sparing my boys from the glowering disappointment of their teachers didn't do them any good.  It would have been better for them to be a little uncomfortable from time to time, especially if their decisions warrant the discomfort.  Discomfort is by nature...well....not fun, and had I let them suffer (I know this SOUNDS harsh) they may have developed habits that were more organized and diligent.  Instead they rely on mom to save them.  Rule number three to try this time around with Ila-let her suffer the natural consequences of not doing homework.  Instead of rescuing her each time, I'll try to help her find ways of being organized so that she is equipped with the tools to avoid the "oops I forgot my homework" syndrome.  (Again, and for a final time, I shall let you know in 15 years whether or not this works!)

Victoria Holt once said, "Never regret.  If it's good, it's wonderful.  If it's bad--it's experience."  I am lucky to be able to use my regrets as experience to mother Ila in a different way.  Lots of moms don't get another chance to do it all over again more than a decade later.  But do a girl a favor...don't make me wait for 15 years to see if my homework hypotheses are correct.  Let me know what YOU think by commenting below!