Thursday, October 16, 2014

Say what?

“Hang on a second,” I said to my sister. Our oldest child was still struggling in school so I’d called my sister – who is a teacher – to ask her advice. She had also successfully raised her own daughter who was now a responsible mom of her own. I felt as though my husband and I had already tried every possible way to motivate our daughter and I just didn’t know what else to do. I needed my sister's wisdom and encouragement.

Knowing how many different attempts my husband and I have made to help our daughter – including ADHD meds, regular counseling sessions, rewards, revoking privileges, working with her teachers, etc. – my sister suggested that perhaps it was time to let our daughter experience the natural consequences of her actions ... even if it resulted in failure.

When failure fails
I agreed with my sister's concept. However, we’d already done that – without the desired results. During our daughter’s seventh grade school year, she failed in a very public way. The first consequence was being put on academic probation by the school. This was a warning about her ability to continue with cheerleading and choir – two activities she loved.

The next time grades were checked by administration, she was deemed ineligible and was required to sit on the sidelines rather than cheer with her squad. Even THAT wasn’t enough to spur her to action and she was ultimately kicked off the squad. The very squad that she’d begged us to let her join. In her very small close-knit school, her absence in these activities was very evident.

Good at heart
Our daughter wasn’t defiant about not doing her schoolwork. She’s a sweet and loving girl who wants to please us and her teachers. She always feels badly when she thinks she’s let us down. And yet, she still failed to turn in her assignments on time and was generally irresponsible with her schoolwork. Not intentionally. Not defiantly. Just by default. It was tough to punish a good kid who is kind to others and has developed such a good set of personal values.

Heading into our fifth year of dealing with a daughter who wasn’t taking responsibility for her actions was mentally and emotionally draining. I’d even left full-time employment several years ago so I could provide our kids with better support during those critical right-after-school hours.

That being said, I don’t have helicopter-parenting tendencies. I am the type of person who wants – and expects – people to step up to the plate and be responsible for their own actions. Yet, I’m now morphing into a hovering parent who's stepping in deeper and deeper to help prepare her kids for high school.

So as I chatted with my sister while cooking dinner (Thank goodness for Bluetooth!), I continued to feel anxiety about our daughter’s academic performance. As my stress level rose and my optimism waned, I heard my husband talking to my son upstairs.

“You are NOT allowed to eat popcorn in the bathtub,” I heard him say with exasperation.

Yes, while I was cooking dinner, doing dishes and talking to my sister about my daughter’s academic future, my son had settled into a nice warm bath with a big bowl of popcorn.

Almost as quickly as my stress level had elevated, I was now able to laugh at the absurdity of a tween enjoying a pre-dinner snack in the tub. After sharing a laugh with my sister, I hung up and turned back to my job of imperfect parenting.