It’s hard to say who dreads the first day of school more – my kids or me. Now, I’d love to say it’s because of the waning days of summer or the loss of freedom to make plans and spend time together without a care for football game schedules or upcoming exams or papers due. I could even wax eloquent about the first day of school as harbinger of another Michigan winter, another year of our lives together passing into the mists of time, etc., etc. But that really isn’t it.
The first day of school means that stress time and conflict time begins. Sure, some level of stress and/or conflict is there year round – I live with teenagers after all, when a request to please pick up laundry takes on Wagnerian levels of drama. That said, school brings a whole ‘mother level of stress and angst, beginning with the first evening’s homework – usually a signature on the class syllabus which is to be turned in the next day.
Homework, in it’s own special way, (a new ring of hell for Dante way) becomes a fire point, a trigger, a symbol of both my kids’ indifference and my self-perceived failures as a parent. My kids are very intelligent creatures. I say that with all confidence. They could also give a rip about school, each in their own way.
My daughter generally gets her work done shortly after getting home. She seems to view it as a necessary evil separating her from the things she wants to do. If the subject or assignment is something she particularly enjoys, she’ll give it her all; if it isn’t, she’ll do enough to get by and may or may not read the directions before proceeding. We can also safely assume that what’s completed will be turned in. Her special stressors really isn’t homework as much as study habits (a silly and somewhat archaic concept in her mind) and test prep – but that’s a topic for another day.
My son is a different matter altogether. He is, I think sometimes, smarter than all of us, as far as sheer ability. He is also Olympic-level homework-averse. If we can get past the hurdles of a) recording what homework needs to be done and b) bringing home the materials to complete said homework and even c) completing the homework and packing it up, there’s a sizable chance that the work – done well and done on time – will never see the teacher’s inbox. His hard work, crumpled on the bottom of his backpack, there to die among the gum wrappers and old Monster Energy cans, never to see the light of day again. (And yes, we know there’s a control issue woven in here.) Then, after a period of no (in the teacher’s eyes) discernible attempts at mastering the material, he’ll saunter in on exam day and ace it.
What this all means is that the school bell rings and my Pavlovian response is to spike my blood pressure and yearn for valium. Somehow, somewhere, we missed out on the “work is it’s own reward” lesson. Aw hell, I’d settle for “if I do the work and get the grades, that crazy lady will leave me alone”.
I’m not one of those moms who demand perfection. Far from it. I’ve seen the kids that are the product of their parent’s own thwarted ambitions or drives and it ain’t pretty. What I want is for my kids to simply give it their best shot – and along the way, hopefully stumble into something that they love to do and want to pursue. Happy lives and gainful employment – and the ability to take care of Mike and I in the manner to which we’d like to become accustomed someday. 🙂