Parenting is full of challenges, and each stage of child development comes with a new set. As soon as parents figure out what to do and dare think, “I’ve got this,” the kid will morph into a different phase and we’re back to the drawing board.
The book “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” is followed by “What to Expect the First Year,” and then, “What to Expect in the Toddler Years.” I loved those books. They gave me a blueprint of things that may happen; they taught me that whatever weird behavior my kid was doing was only weird to me and, in the big picture, it wasn’t only normal it was necessary for their development.
But then the books stop; the parenting training-wheels are off.
We read other things, talk with parent friends further down the road, and (maybe) accept that our own parents may have done something right and talk with them. Using these and trial and error I developed a semi-chill, sorta hands-off parenting style (which is a fancy way of saying, “I winged it daily.”)
As far as academic support goes, the early elementary Decorate This Paper Turkey with Your Parent assignment taught me a lot about the consequences of taking the lead. Seeing it hung up with the ones obviously made by 6-year-olds was like those before and after make-up tutorials. Clearly an expert hand was involved.
After that, the projects were all kid-conceived and executed. I may have operated the hot glue gun, but they told me were to put the molten dab. I would proofread essays for grammar, spelling and thoroughness only. It didn’t take too many, “I have no idea how to do that. Where would you go for help?” for them all to speak up in class, stay after for help and, basically, learn how to learn without Mommy spoon feeding it to them.
Did they fill out all their reading logs? Nope.
Did I see them walk into school carrying a kid-produced project next to one that clearly had adult help? Yup.
Did they get straight A’s? Nope.
Did they all learn how to learn? Yes.
I realize this can’t be the case for all kids and that mine had no learning challenges. This year, I have one in college, one in sixth grade and a senior in high school, and after all those years of fine tuning my homework help strategy, I finally thought, “I’ve got this.”
Then my high school senior son approached me.
“Mom, can you proofread this essay?”
“What’s it for?”
I cracked my knuckles. “Sure. I’ve got this, hold my coffee… .”
And then the carefully curated, chill, hands-off homework methods that I had perfected over the years disappeared.
I got out my digital red pen and highlighted the misspelled words and incorrect grammar.
Then I went back and questioned some word choices.
THEN I went back and crossed out entire sentences for awkward structure; I rewrote an entire paragraph.
I was out of control. Was it because money was on the line and not simply a grade? Or was I simply putting the “hel” in helicopter parent?
I sent it back to him but he didn’t say anything about it until a few days later.
“Mom, do you think I should completely rewrite this from a different angle?”
I took a sip of my coffee and held the cup tight. “Yes … and ask your sister to proofread it.”
I’m no expert but the first — and perhaps only — sentence of my imaginary book, “What to Expect the High School Years”:
At this stage in development, independence should be the goal for your child. With caring-eyes open, back off. You will both learn more that way.