Whenever I think about writing another WOTHM / coping post, I think I must have already said all that needs to be said on the topic, right? (For the newbies, WOTHM=Work Outside The Home Mom) But of course, not. Because life is always moving forward and there will be a new challenge just around the corner, pretty much all the time.
My new challenge involves my baby girl and school. I don’t know if it was always this way or if it’s a change in the way school is done now from when I was a kid. For your frame of reference, however, these days, parents are expected to be pretty involved in homework for the kids up through a certain grade. Reading WITH them, Reading TO them, having THEM read to you, correcting and working through math problems and grammar exercises are all things I have had to spend some time with each of my kids up through about 4th or 5th grade.
I’ve been pretty lucky that Sarah and Dani were strong readers and able to do a lot of this on their own earlier than some kids. Dani never liked being read to (still does not like to be read to) and prefers not to read aloud. I suspect this is because she is a speed reader and it slows down her experience to be read to or to have to read aloud. Sarah enjoys being read to and reading aloud and we did this through 4th grade. Now that she is in middle school, however, she does her reading independently. I try to read whatever book she is reading so we can discuss it, if she wants to. As she has gotten older, there is less time for that anyway, so it’s a sort of no pressure situation. I say I’ve been lucky because I haven’t had to spend as much time with kids and homework the past couple of years and I have seen that as good because I work full-time and then all the kids have their activities and I’ve added some of my own. The time just doesn’t seem to be there.
This year, the luck ends. I feel like a failure right now because I see that my Helen is struggling a bit in 3rd grade. Helen has never been one to read without being assigned. She reads quite well. She’s fun to listen to as she reads aloud as she uses proper intonation and inflection. But she does not really like to read. I think she runs into a problem I had as a kid where the material wasn’t interesting enough to keep her focused and she will read a paragraph and still not know what she just read because her mind wandered. So she has to re-read it and that makes her mad. Her comprehension skills are not strong either and this impacts not only her reading, but her grammar and her math word problem computations. I feel like a failure because I haven’t spent the kind of time with Helen that she needs.
|My sweet girl, who wants to be “just like her mommy”
more than anything in the whole world
Our schedule is hectic, no doubt. Craig heads off to work shortly after I get home (and sometimes before I get home). Sarah has volleyball games and practices in the afternoons/evenings. Dani has cross country practices and swim practices all nights of the week except Wednesday. Dominic has a worksheet to complete a couple of nights a week and Vincent just needs regular attention so he’s not zoning out watching a screen all evening. You notice that I didn’t include anything with Helen in that list. That is how busy we are without spending extra time with Helen on her homework. And I’ve been working out in the mornings so I still get it in while I can’t go in the afternoons/evenings right now.
This is where the rubber meets the road with regard to a WOTHM’s life. It’s all about balance and sometimes, there just isn’t any. I had to have a serious talk with Helen last night, putting a plan together to help her strengthen her skills. We’ll be doubling up the amount of time I spend with her reading each night and we’ll be doing about 5 extra math word problems each night. I may even throw in flash cards for her addition and subtraction math facts because she’s not fast enough with those. This will be in addition to extra spelling and handwriting practice that I already had recognized she would need.
Helen said I was “being mean” and I had to reassure her that no, I am not angry and no, I am not being mean. I had to tell her, “I am being your mommy. I have to help you.” And then…I hugged her while she cried. I know her tears were those of disappointment — she thought she’d disappointed me. And so I hugged her and said, “I love you” over and over because the last thing I want her to fear is that doing poorly in school would ever make me not love her. And I told her that, too.
Then…I sat at my computer screen for about 10 minutes. And I cried. I cried because it feels like I have failed my daughter. I cried because I love her so. I cried because I worry that even with a plan in place, she might still not improve — and that scares the bejeezus out of me. I cried because I see so much of myself in Helen and I knew exactly why she was crying and why she thought I was being mean. Because when I was a kid and I didn’t live up to people’s expectations — it hurt. I didn’t want Helen to hurt. I want to expect great things from Helen, but I don’t want to expect the wrong great things of her. I cried because I face week after week of having to run myself ragged to get the kids to school, get myself to work, get the kids to activities, scrape the money together to pay for those activities — all the while trying to keep myself sane, healthy and as together as possible. And…I am not going to lie to you. Sometimes it feels absolutely impossible.
This post isn’t going to have any answers. this post is simply laying it out there that I have struggles that feel insurmountable on a fairly regular basis and my only option is to power through. I can cry and worry that no matter how well I execute my plan to help Helen that she will still fail. But in the end, I must still power through that plan and try my best. I must set benchmarks against which to measure Helen’s progress and I must also assess my expectations of Helen and be sure I am aligning them with HER personality and HER gifts and not her older sisters’.
Perhaps the biggest adjustment in expectations, however, has to be my own. It’s tempting to start to believe everyone when they tell you they “don’t know how you do it” and how “incredible” you must be to have so much together. It really is tempting…and sometimes you do start to believe it. But then the dose of humility that must, and always does, come slaps you across the face and you realize that you haven’t been doing one or more of the things you need to do to continue to raise your family, keep your home in shape, and maintain forward traction in life. And it’s time to reassess and change up the plan.
So that’s where I am today. Just like with weight loss or getting better at CrossFit, I am choosing to look at the next day as a new beginning. So what we were doing wasn’t working? Let’s try this and see if it does. I just wish that when it was time to change things up, it wasn’t so much like throwing a bunch of stuff to a wall and seeing what sticks. But I suppose that’s life sometimes.