Archive for October, 2011

I recently discovered that my teenage son, Noah, had started a new collection.  It wasn’t baseball cards or coins, nor was it bobble heads or even girls’ phone numbers (okay, he may also have that one…I just haven’t discovered it yet).  His shiny new collection consisted of a lofty stack of unfinished math assignments that had been tucked deep into the bowels of his backpack –nearly a three weeks worth, untouched except for a few scribbles and doodles he’d scratched randomly across some of the pages. I think he’d poked a pencil hole into a few of the assignments, too.

I don’t think I’d ever have made this discovery on my own. It was after his math teacher, Mr. Nagel, alerted me via email that I was prompted to don my biohazard suit and canvass my son’s backpack for the missing work.  Nevertheless, amongst candy wrappers and a wrinkled apple, I uncovered them and  immediately set up a conference with the teacher to discuss Noah’s less than stellar homework habits.

I guess what burned me is that my kid is smart – his standardized test scores are all high, he’s been placed in advanced classes, and he’s even won an honor or two. But the bottom line is that he hates homework and doesn’t understand how it applies to his life. And in a way, he’s kinda right. Where does algebra fit in for a kid whose life revolves around Call of Duty, Cheetos, LOL and OMG?

My husband I have tried all kinds of ploys to motivate him to do his homework– and hand it in before he loses it — including hiding his game controllers, confiscating his cell phone (unfortunately, I took it away from him, then I lost it somewhere around here), and snagging the power cord to his computer. We even tried bribing him with “sick” new clothes and cash prizes but to no avail.

But when we sat down with Mr. Nagel and Noah was presented with the idea that he might need to take 8th grade over if he doesn’t pull it together, he was actually struck with a bit of terror. Especially after I said, “Hey Noah…just think about it. If you take 8th grade over next year you could be the only kid in middle school old enough to drive.”

Mr. Nagel put Noah on a schedule and gave him a deadline to complete the assignments. We were approaching the weekend and it was pretty clear how Noah would be spending those days off. Instead of sleeping until noon, he’d be awakened at sunup to the sweet sounds me playing Reveille on my bugle (I don’t really have a bugle but if I did, I would have done it). And it also meant my weekend was down the crapper since I knew that I’d be standing behind him, cracking my whip to ensure that he was adding, subtracting, and multiplying.

But he persevered. With some prodding from us and a bit of tutoring (courtesy of his college-age sister, Stella) he did it. All the assignments were completed by Mr. Nagel’s deadline and Noah went from a pitiful “F” to a snazzy “B” in the class. His teacher later told me that in the 40 years he’s been teaching he’s had many meetings with parents and kids, just like the one he’d had with Noah and I, and rarely (if ever) did kids turn it around like he did. And he thanked me profusely, which kind of blew me out of the water. But honestly, I don’t think I could have been more proud of my son.

Isn’t it a parent’s job to help their kids put their best foot forward? To guide them in the right direction by figuring out what does and doesn’t work for their kid to ensure success at a level equal to their personal abilities? To be their parent, and not their buddy?

Life within a family certainly has its challenges and I honestly don’t recall signing up for a single one. And while some things work for me and my household (like when we had ice cream for dinner one night when I didn’t feel like cooking) it may not work for another.

Are there odd things that have worked for your kids that others may find weird? Are there times you’ve made sacrifices for your kids to help them succeed at a particular task?

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