Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Who did the project?

(From The Secret Life of  a Slummy Mummy, by Fiona Neill.)

Then I remember what it is I have forgotten.  Sam's "Six Great Artists of the World" project has to be handed in this morning.  Three down, three to go.

... Down in the kitchen I assess the situation while searching for paintbrushes and paint ...

I must be making more noise than I think, because during the course of this flurry of activity, Tom [the husband] wanders into the kitchen.

"I've got to do Van Gogh, Jackson Pollock and Matisse," I say, waving tissue paper in his face, "all by eight o'clock."

"What are you doing, Lucy? Go back to bed ... You're having some kind of nightmare about abstract painting," he says.

... "Sam has an art project.  He's done half of it, but luckily I remembered that the rest has to be handed in today.  And if Sam doesn't finish this, then it is me who will be held responsible."

"But Sam isn't finishing it, you are doing it for him."

"It's quicker and less messy this way.  If he were involved it would never get done.  Most importantly, if he doesn't hand it in, that means I have failed as a mother."

"Lucy, that is ridiculous, nobody judges you for something like this."

I put down the paints and take a deep breath.

"That is where you are wrong.  If Sam fails, it is a reflection on me.  It's just the nature of mothering in the new millenium," I say, jabbing a paintbrush in the air to illustrate my point.


  1. PsychMom says:

    Lately, dear daughter has taken to reminding me (and herself I guess), at 11pm that she has something due the next day. She'll be half asleep when she realizes it.

    There's no quick fix, just a heavy sigh on my part, for another example of inappropriate expectations of kids at too young an age. I know it reflects on me because I don't check the homework page on the school calendar, I don't ask about it and my child consistently hands things in late. And she's not the only one.

    When our elementary school age kids don't get things done it's because they're being asked to do something they can't do....and that is, mostly, organize their time. It's implicitly understood that parents step in to fill in that requirement, as subordinate homework overseers. I wouldn't make the leap, like the Mom above, that the child will fail without me helping, but when tasks are undone, it's because Mom didn't make the child do it. If the school system actually did lay the responsibility solely on the child, they'd have to ask why the work isn't being done, and seriously consider the answer.

  2. In my experience elementary school teachers assume that it's Mom's job to organize the homework, and they're astonished, and disapproving, if Mom expresses anything other than total cooperation with the school's mandates.

    They don't want to lay the responsibility on the child, they want Mom to "partner" with the school by taking on the role of homework cop. They know perfectly well the kid can't get all this stuff done on her own.

  3. PsychMom asks:

    This post is making me consider taking another run at the principal over the issue of homework because I'm envisioning a conversation where I continuously ask "Why?"

    Me: I would like to know why our school assigns homework to children in Elementary school?

    Principal: Because we believe it's important.

    Me: Why do you believe that?

    I'm trying to imagine the answer because I don't know what the answer would be.

    But in truth, I actually believe that I won't be tolerated on this issue anymore. I think the line has been drawn and we're standing on opposite sides of it. So much for partnership. I thought that my continued persistence and interest in the topic would be seen as a good thing...but it's not.

  4. Ha! We all have these moments of total innocent naivete -- I actually thought the Head of School at Natural Friends would welcome my very detailed appraisal of what didn't get taught in their math program. Well, he would if he was genuinely interested in fixing the problem.

    Bureaucratic inertia must be one of the strongest forces in the universe -- stronger than gravity.

    From the principal's point of view, as long as it's just a few parents complaining, there is no problem. Whether your argument is right or wrong is completely immaterial.

  5. PsychMom adds:

    And it's tied to the notion that some teachers in private schools hold, that we parents are totally loyal and see this school as the ONLY option for our children and that quite literally, we would rather fight than switch.

    Trouble is we're fighting on totally the wrong front.