Ready, Set…Not So Fast
Moments ago my twelve-year old announced that he has not yet done the “optional” summer math packet. He was throwing around the term “optional” cavalierly, as if it absolves him of all responsibility toward the aforementioned math packet. I think he and I have different interpretations of “optional.” Not only has he not completed the packet; in fact, he has not even started it. And, the first day of school is tomorrow. The bad news is that since the school website has been updated he can no longer print out the packet so it will remain exactly as it was on the day school let out last year: untouched, unseen, undone. The really fantastic news is that not doing his math freed number three son up to watch all two hundred fifty episodes of Dr. Who this summer.
I feel the familiar stress of uncompleted schoolwork begin to seep into my weary fifty-year old bones. The usual platitudes start to roll around in my head. It’s his work. A child has to learn to fail to succeed. But, those thoughts are quickly supplanted by nagging tentacles of guilt and doubt. Should I start calling around, try to get the packet from someone, spend the day tormenting both of us? But, whose work is this anyway and where does my responsibility end and his begin? And, what am I teaching him if I don’t? If I do?
In the scheme of things this is not something to lose sleep over. I’ve been around for a while now and I know what to lose sleep over. This is more like the proverbial fly buzzing in my ear, irritating beyond measure. It’s like the college essay that hasn’t been written, the common application that hasn’t yet been filled out, the summer reading books that lie on the table half read. Why can’t they JUST. DO. IT. And, how much of this undone work is a parent’s burden?
When I was a kid my parents had their work and I had mine and the twain never met. I don’t think that my parents felt responsible for my work. EVER. But, things were just different back then. When I was a kid first grade art projects looked like something created by a first grader, not like Rembrandt’s early works. When I was a kid my second grade diorama was a hundred popsicle sticks askew covered with hardening knots of glue and not a flawless early rendering of the Taj Mahal. When I was a kid you wrote an essay, you asked your parents to read it and they said, “Why would I read your essay?”
Over the years when it comes to homework I’ve tried to be more like my own parents were, more of a helper than a doer and truth be told I’ve been more hands off with each subsequent child not because of them but because of me. This will be my fourth go round at seventh grade and let’s just put it out there, seventh grade was just borderline okay the first time around and maybe even the second time around but I really don’t know many people who could stay engaged for the fourth hit of seventh grade.
So today we’re going to enjoy the last day of summer and tomorrow my youngest son is going to tackle seventh grade.
And, both of us are going to survive.