We've been flying by the seat of our pants in this family since right around Thanksgiving. My resolution for 2011 was to get a grip on "the-family-day-to-day" even if it killed me. My youngest, Q, who is a sixth grader, had left a note for me a day or two before school let out in December. Homework was just too hard; and his mother too mean and unfair in enforcing it's completion. Hence, he was running, I'm sorry, going away. Q put his hat and coat on before heading outside to walk around for exactly five minutes. He returned furious. Didn't I care that he was running away? Did I not realize the temperature outside? What was wrong with me? Did I not read the note? Why did I not come after him--he could have been frozen, solid!
I responded to his questions very simply by asking the boy to go pack a bag and decide where it was he was going to go to find things any better and, in the meantime, I'd go warm up the car. The kid got my point. I, too, got his. Once school was back in session after the first of the year, I was going to do a better job being available for him at homework time. It's not like he needs that much help, he's just the type of kid that likes someone around. Somehow, sitting at the same table reading a book while he plugs along with math problems brings him some kind of comfort.
Fast forward to last Friday. School had resumed the day before. Q came home from school that first day back with plenty to keep him busy until dinner time. I hung around the dining room table hounding the kid and offering assistance from 3:45 until around 6:30. Nothing got done other than books spread about and pencil shavings littering the kitchen floor next to the garbage can.
Sometime after dinner, Q was positively miserable; definitely over-tired from this morning's early wake up call following two weeks of sleeping in during vacation. And, I could not possibly expect him to finish his work based on the headache he was now experiencing. I suggested going to bed sometime around 7:30. I believe my exact words went something along the lines of this "Go to bed, now. I'll wake you up early. Things won't seem so overwhelming once you've had a good night's sleep".
Somehow, Q heard something entirely different--must have been his exhaustive state. Excusing him from homework in lieu of sleep translated into mom saying he did not have to do homework therefore, he'd make like he was going to bed and instead head upstairs and play video games. Needless to say the 6 a.m. wake up call to complete homework turned into a one hour "beg fest" and hounding.
By 7:30 the next morning he was finally out of bed and dressed. No homework was completed. He began a five minute list of reasons for his procrastination. Homework was hard. There was too much homework. He was just a kid, do teachers not understand. He's got a lot of subjects...do I not understand. Then he began quoting his fifth grade teacher--the guy who didn't believe in homework. "Mr. L. always said homework is nothing more than mindless busy work given by teachers with nothing but time on their hands to grade it." Oh, thank you, Mr. L. While I enjoyed the homework free evenings fifth grade provided, I realize now, as the mother of a sixth grader, you did him no favors. I, clearly, was not amused by this kid's excuses.
I started in on a ten minute lecture regarding his complete disregard for me as an authority figure, his desire to play video games instead of attending to his studies, his sheer ignorance to his teachers and classmates in coming to class unprepared.
I finished with a complete look of disgust as I told him to "face the consequences, buddy boy"...and told him "I wash my hands of you~practice up on your video game skills, Kid...looks like you'll make a career out of it...you won't be the first 35-year-old spending the rest of his life in his parent's basement playing games on-line, you definitely won't be the last."
Q looked down at his shoes, up at the clock, and down at his shoes again. I'd clearly struck a nerve. Score one for Mom, right? Wrong. Q was merely preparing to return my right hook with his left.
As he zipped his coat, he looked me square in the eyes and said, "You're right, Mom. Making a career of playing video games would sure be embarrassing". (Uh-oh, maybe I got through--he's obviously not that far gone that he doesn't understand reason, right?)...nah, as he put his backback on his shoulders he finished his thought..."but that can't be as embarrassing as what you tell your friends what you do"...he looked back down at those shoes again as he mumbled, "you're nothing but a housewife".
And there I had it...Knock-out and Match...to the kid with the sharp tongue. Now I was looking at my feet, then the clock (five minutes til this clown had to leave to catch his bus), then my feet again. I wanted to smack him right across his smug face. I feared the mark I might leave and thought better of it. This kid was going to school today if I had to drop-kick him there. I walked away. This kid was not going to get the satisfaction of seeing me cry.
I walked back out of my room about three minutes later, bit the inside of my lip to keep my voice steady and said, "You'd better get going, you'll miss your bus". He looked at me with the sad eyes. "Mom, I'm sor", I cut him off.
As I opened the front door to see him out, I said to him, "Q- you're allowed one mean thing to say to me a year". As I "gently" pushed him out the door, I continued "you're covered until you can legally take your first drink...have a nice day". The door slammed behind him...as I did a little mumbling of my own..."ya little fu*ker".
It's an age-old question--almost as long as we've been asking what came first the chicken or the egg? We've been asking what's more rewarding: having a career or being a housewife.
I won't lie--the kid's words stung. I've sacraficed a lot for my kids. Dad works downtown--I work at home. Have we gone without alot of the "perks" living on one salary? You better believe it. Looking back, would I have done it any other way? Not a chance.
I don't think a stay-at-home-mother is any less important than the gal "who has it all" thanks to a career, daycare drop-offs and pickups, and drive thru dinners. We both have made a choice for whatever reason and neither one is more or less rewarding.
The kid came home after school that day and headed right to the kitchen where I was standing. He dropped his backpack and gave me a big, bear hug. He looked at me with those sad eyes and simply said, "I'm sorry". This time I didn't cut him off.
Once he let go, I told him that while I didn't have a fancy degree to afford me a big job downtown, I had something else and something I cherished more--I saw first-hand every "first" he ever experienced, great memories of field trips and class parties I attended, aggrivation and gray hair from every lesson he didn't quite understand and excuse he made, and then added I enjoyed every single second of every single day since he and the other clown arrived on the scene.
While we don't vacation round the world each summer or have extra money to drop on fancy things, I truly believe I'm raising two boys that might some day make a difference in the world. I'm more than willing to sacrafice a trip to Disney to be a part of that.
Then I repeated my early sentiment..."you're allowed one mean thing to say to me a year--you're covered until you take your first legal drink". This time, I didn't slam the door or mumble after he left.
What's the meanest thing your kid has ever said to you; what is the sweetest? Do you ever regret choosing to stay at home; or do your regrets lie in "having it all"?