“Let him forget [fail].”
Nothing is harder than watching your kids screw up and not intervene. I know what I’m about to share is on such a small minor scale (really I do), but I’m just starting to get a taste of this and it sucks…
Last year, when my son was in 1st grade he started getting homework. As a parent, I made sure he did it. In a way, it immediately became *MY* homework because I felt responsible for him to get it done. We quickly fell into a routine of him handing me his daily folder and me telling him what he needed to do and when he needed to it. This year, in 2nd grade, things started off pretty much the same, but changed a couple months in. One day, I made the huge mistake of forgetting *HIS* homework folder and he had to hand it in late. My son was mortified, “How could you forget that I needed to do this?!” I was immediately filled with anger and resentment and knew it was all my own doing. That’s when I knew something had to change, but I couldn’t bare the thought of letting go and trusting my son to get his work done on time. Unfortunately, things continued like this for a few weeks and every time I would need to tell him, “It’s time to work on your homework”, I would be annoyed.
Luckily, parent/teacher conferences were just around the corner. We had a meeting with his teacher and I explained how I felt like I was the one responsible for my son getting his work done. Well, his teacher gave me the best advice ever, “Let him forget.” I think I literally gasped when she said it. She assured me that it would be OK and that some kids never hand it in at this age. I was shocked. Not hand in their homework? Really? She explained that even educators debate the value of homework because the only ones that do it are the ones that don’t really need it. I felt a weird mix of reassurance and dread after this meeting. I knew what I had to do, but doing it would be so hard [for me].
The next week when my son came home with his folder, I handed him a blank calendar. I explained that this would be his Homework Calendar and he would need to mark when his assignments were due and HIS job was to look at his calendar every day and be responsible for getting it done on time. I told him that I would no longer tell him when it’s time to work on his homework. It’s been going pretty well these past few months, but he’s missed some work and it’s been harder than hell to not jump in and prevent it. He’s also opted out of some elective assignments that I would’ve made him do, but I’ve been good about restricting myself to only reminding him of the date and asking if he’s looked at his calendar. I routinely ask him, “What’s your plan for getting your work done when it’s due?” I offer guidance and suggestions, but I am no longer the one controlling his workload and taking responsibility for it. That’s on him now.
This all sounds great, right? Well, this morning was pretty rough. My son had tears in his eyes when he left for school this morning because he didn’t give himself enough time to plan a costume for Character Dress Up Day. He knew the due date and had plenty of free time during the snow days this week to work on it, but he decided not to start it until it was too late. Sure, we could’ve tried to do a last-minute scramble to whip something together — admittedly, I actually tried to do that this morning because I knew how badly he wanted to participate in this, but he actually said, “Forget it, Mom. It’s OK. I didn’t plan.” It was awesome to hear him take responsibility, but I immediately felt like a monster when I saw the tears rolling down his cheeks. I’ve been riddled with guilt about this all day. I’ve been asking myself if I’m taking this too far? Should I have intervened? Looking back now, maybe I should have on this one. I guess if there’s only one thing to be sure of as a parent it’s that you will never be sure of anything.
Damn, does this get any easier? Don’t answer. I know it doesn’t. I know we’ll be watching our kids make terrifyingly horrible choices and I should be glad we’re only dealing with homework right now. I just can’t believe how hard and challenging parenting can be at times and I know we’ve only just scratched the surface. As my husband jokes, “We’re only raising a human being, no big deal.”