When my kids were in 5th and 2nd grade, we made a big move. My new job was over an hour away from home. Every day was the Groundhog Day of commuting, program development, teaching, and “additional responsibilities as assigned”, even on weekends. Like many moms, I was proudly sharing my own oxygen mask and waiting for someone to hand it back to me.
I wanted to be “that” mother–the one who could do it all. Of course it was actually more like the Harry Chapin lyric, “The new job’s a hassle and the kids have the flu. But it’s sure nice talking to you.” I was slowly fading out, chronically sick, and….my kids were on strike. This was frustrating since their work looked so simple compared to the load I was shouldering (couldn’t they just do it?), and it was more than a little embarrassing considering my line of work.
Both kids’ teachers sent home notes. At first they came often. For the older one teachers described lack of focus, and unfinished or completely missing classwork and homework. And… she read books during recess! Didn’t I realize that this was the kind of behavior which predicted problems in middle school?
For the younger one they detailed careless work habits and irritability. And…he told the teacher “no” when asked to demonstrate a math problem for the class! I was secretly proud of him for knowing to draw the line at public failure, but the teacher was concerned. Didn’t I realize that he was not risk-taking, an essential part of being a second-grader?
I agreed to parent conferences. Trying to fit it into the schedule was its own torment since I had used my one personal day and two sick days to move–and to not share the flu. I went into school early, dropped the kids off at morning-care and steeled myself for criticism.
In retrospect, mostly what I got were offers of help.
Personalization. We can break the tasks down into more steps.
Accountability. We can make a plan with your kid and have check-ins.
Feedback. We can let you know how it is going on our end.
I could have been more gracious (a lot!) about this help. In the three slides at the top of this post is what I learned.
Compassion. Self-compassion. Forgiveness. Self-forgiveness. Repeat.