Parent Envy

I’m going to share a fact I hide from the world:  I battle insecurity with my job.  No, not the job that puts money in the bank; that one’s easy.  I’m talking about my important job; the one that if I mess up, the next generation can bundle all their problems, tell them to a therapist, and place the burden on me.  (Don’t tell me you’ve never seen a bratty child in the store and wondered what the parents were- or weren’t- thinking.)

Being a parent is a difficult job… for which I’m sure I haven’t been properly trained.  My lack of training and my inability to fully trust “winging it” causes me to cast sideways glances, or open stares, at other parents.

Sometimes, what I see is reassuring.  Oh, I’d never let my child drink soda every day….I’d never leave them in the car to run into the store…I won’t let my eight-year-old ride his bike on a busy road…my kids will clean their own rooms.

More often, what I see makes me second-guess whether I’m doing this parenting thing right.  These are moments when it seems other parents have it together.

We recently went to parent information night for fifth grade.  Several parents spoke out about how they are keeping track of Junior’s homework and progress (checking the class website and comparing to each day’s written agenda, monitoring the online grading system, reviewing assignments every night.)

Suddenly, I felt like the irresponsible parent who left her kid in the car while she downed a few beers at the bar…and then had the under-aged child drive her drunk self home.  After three weeks, I haven’t checked anything online, but I’m signing the agenda daily.  He says he’s finishing his work at school and turns it in…I don’t see it.  Based on past experience, I have no reason not to believe him.

Still, that evening with on-top-of-it parents left me second-guessing myself.

This is what responsibility looks like

I’ve felt that he should be responsible for keeping up with his own work.  I don’t have time coddle.  After work, we have four hours until bedtime, and I have a first grader that still needs homework assistance.  Even in fourth grade, my son brought home papers where I had to sign that we did the assignment together.  He did it on his own first, then we discussed and fixed anything that was incorrect.

Of course, at the first sign of slacking (i.e., course grades lower than a “B”), his responsibility will be reduced.  He’s been warned that he will have to bring home every assignment for me to check, I’ll make his study and reading schedule…oh, and to make time for all this extra together work there won’t be TV time during the week.  The stricken look on his face told me that he wants his responsibility as much as I want him to have it.

One morning, I found my older son’s homework paper on the couch.  School started in five minutes.  For a second, I wondered if should run it to the school for him.  After all, I didn’t want him to fail.

Homework that is NOT in the backpack

Ultimately, I decided no.  I left the paper on the couch.  He knows that all homework goes in his backpack when it’s done.  I’m sticking by my belief that a failing late paper grade might be the best way for him to succeed.

Have you ever compared your parenting to others, or am I just weird?  Wait, don’t answer that…the second part, that is.  Aw, forget it – just give it to me straight 🙂

30 thoughts on “Parent Envy

  1. Tessa August 29, 2012 / 10:12 PM

    Janna I think I am the worst parent in the world, but my 3 (now fully grown children, 2 with children of their own) turned out fine. Even with my insecurities I turned out 2 wonderful mothers. And I think your leaving the paper right where it was, is a good thing. How will they learn if we always rush to fix things?

    • jannatwrites August 29, 2012 / 10:55 PM

      I seriously doubt you are the worst parent in the world, Tessa! With most things in life, we get immediate feedback – with kids, we don’t find out until years down the road whether or not our parenting was successful. I guess I’ll just have to continue with prayers and common sense.

      I’m getting a log in to check his grades tomorrow. Doesn’t hurt to look 🙂

  2. Widdershins August 29, 2012 / 11:51 PM

    Good for you … that was probably one of the hardest things you’ve done in a while, eh?

    • jannatwrites August 30, 2012 / 9:39 PM

      Well, it wasn’t easy leaving it, but oddly enough, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. (And, as it turned out, it wasn’t due until tomorrow, so I guess his lesson will come another time 🙂 Glad you stopped by, Widdershins!

  3. suzicate August 30, 2012 / 4:26 AM

    You were right to leave that paper…too often we do everything for our children and they don’t learn to do for themselves.

    • jannatwrites August 30, 2012 / 9:42 PM

      I have to be careful that I don’ have them do too much, in my quest to train them to be worthwhile young adults. Thanks for sharing your opinion, SuziCate.

  4. Carl D'Agostino August 30, 2012 / 6:13 AM

    I retired just as all this on line stuff was coming about in Miami Dade schools. I used to hand write letters to parents re child’s “lack of success”. Last week of November(pre Christmas) I wrote to parents whose child thad a B or A praising their fine work. Smartest thing I ever did because those kids just cooperated and loved me rest of term. Have you considered going on line together with child to review efforts ?

    • jannatwrites August 30, 2012 / 9:45 PM

      The online stuff is pretty cool. Last year, they emailed results to us weekly. There were only a few missed assignments and a short period of about 4 science scores that were low. He pulled it together after that, though. When I get the log in, we will definitely have my son involved. He should know exactly where he stands, and what we expect from him. Thanks for sharing your suggestions, Carl (and thanks for your years as a teacher – you guys are often under-appreciated.)

  5. Jonesingafter40 August 30, 2012 / 7:12 AM

    It would have been oh-so-hard for me to leave the paper on the couch but I have no doubt you did the right thing and the lesson your child learned will stick with him a lot longer than if you had come to his rescue. Parenting is hard (understatement). I love your am/pm chore chart. I think I need to put this into effect at our house. 🙂

    • jannatwrites August 30, 2012 / 9:51 PM

      The AM/PM chore chart is helping. They each pay a quarter for each item that isn’t done by the time we have to leave in the morning (or if they start playing in the afternoon before they are done.) In a couple weeks, they should have the schedule down! Thanks for stopping by, Jonesing.

  6. Debbie August 30, 2012 / 11:10 AM

    Janna, do NOT beat yourself up over not parenting the way others are! It sounds to me like you have a level head and are doing so many things right. I can only imagine how hard it was for you to leave the homework where it was, rather than rush to your son’s school, but I think it was the right decision. After a tantrum of sorts, he will realize you’re a woman of your word, that you expect him to take responsibility for HIS things (one of which is homework).
    I always hated it when Domer’s friends bragged about their parents “helping” with homework — I preferred to believe my son was capable of doing it himself, though I was always available if he needed some help (and “help” doesn’t equal mom doing it!)
    If parents do everything for their kids, how can we expect them to develop any self-confidence? That said, parenting isn’t easy — kids don’t come with an instruction manual! Hang in there!

    • jannatwrites August 30, 2012 / 10:06 PM

      I appreciate your thoughtful comment, Debbie. I found that when doing homework with my son, he often got lazy and claimed, “I don’t know” and waited for me to answer questions for him. I won’t do that. I told him that I’d already graduated school – I didn’t need to do it again. He knows what we expect of him, but I am concerned about over-emphasizing grades, simply because there’s so much cheating out there. I don’t want to encourage him to cheat to get the grade.

      I expect my six-year-old to be responsible, too, even though I do sit with him through homework. (It’s hard to resist the urge not to baby him.) It’s his job to bring me his folder each night so I can sign his behavior report and he has to remember to put the folder in his backpack himself – I won’t do it.

      I’ll let everyone know in ten years or so if everything turned out okay with them 🙂

  7. philosophermouseofthehedge August 30, 2012 / 7:48 PM

    THis is 5th grade? You are doing exactly right.
    The kids whose parents are constantly “helping” them organize their lives get used to it, tend to expect it to continue, rely on them to intervene and rush in to fix things. (Helicopter parents are not so cute in middle school or high school – kids use them, but resent them)
    This is the appropriate time for a kid to start taking control and responsibility for their learning and life. A kid should want to be handling things – and should want their parents to start stepping back a little – otherwise middle school transition will be a nightmare.
    Right now there is a little safety net – if necessary.
    But leaving that paper on the couch was exactly the right thing to do. Good time to learn that actions (or lack of them) have consequences – and then you have to deal with that….little lessons now that will shape life. Kids need to fail and learn how to deal with that and go on to succeed.
    Your kid will be fine – mainly because you started them out right.
    Good job! Hang in there.

    • jannatwrites August 30, 2012 / 10:13 PM

      You’ve got good points, Phil. I don’t want to be a helicopter parent (I don’t have time to be that into their stuff!) Today, we took the chore chart one step further. They have a cut off time that everything needs to be done. At that time, they pay a quarter for each item not done. Today, they paid us a combined total of $1.50. We started this because we found that we had to keep nagging them to get stuff done. The only reminder they got today was a ten minute warning for ‘check time.’ 🙂

      They just have to learn this responsibility thing because if they show up on my doorstep ten years from now with 8 bags of laundry for me to wash, I probably won’t open the door! Thanks for stopping by and sharing your parenting philosophy!

  8. Eric Alagan August 30, 2012 / 8:25 PM

    Am I a good parent? I don’t know. Am I a good person? On balance, I like to think so…that makes me a good parent I suppose. We live, teach and nurture by example…I reckon.

    Then again, what is a ‘good’ person?

    • jannatwrites August 30, 2012 / 10:15 PM

      So many questions, Eric…so few answers! I’ll buy that being a good person transfers to being a good parent (to some extent.) I guess ‘good’ can vary somewhat based on personal values. If I cheat and lie, I can expect the same from my kids.

  9. Sandra August 30, 2012 / 9:15 PM

    Janna, my DD is in fourth grade, and even now, I would have left the forgotten homework at home. She would have to take responsibility for her own work or lack thereof. Having said that, I realize that if that was a one-time event or an honest mistake, I would probably let the teacher know that I was aware of it and that she simply forgot. The teacher would also know his/her students’ work ethics and personal habits, etc.

    This reminds me of your son’s wish to bring electronic devices to school, and how it would be an expensive mistake if he were to lose it. Same concept, right? I think the fact that you think about all this and question your parenting skills already shows that you really care and put forth effort in this job. Don’t be so hard on yourself! I think you know your son well enough to trust his judgement, too!

    • jannatwrites August 30, 2012 / 10:27 PM

      I know what you mean about the one-time mistake. That does make a difference. Everyone forgets something once in a while.

      My son is a good kid, and I think sometimes I worry too much about him sliding that I might be too hard on him. Then, I fear that if I lighten up, that will cause him to slide because it would seem like we didn’t have high expectations for him. See that? I waffle like a politician 🙂

      Thanks for your supportive comment, Sandra. I’ll see if I can keep myself from overthinking this!

  10. GodGirl August 31, 2012 / 5:14 AM

    It’s easy to compare ourselves to the vocal “perfect mothers” who could well be the ones “sending their kids to therapy” because they’ve spent all their time on their image?? The fact you’re so self-reflective about it indicates you’re probably doing a great job. Parenting “success” is one of those unknown quantities isn’t it… so intangible.
    PS I think you did the right thing with the paper 🙂

    • jannatwrites August 31, 2012 / 8:22 PM

      Parenting would be so much easier if we had more immediate feedback on the job we did 🙂 I’m glad you agree with the paper, GodGirl. (I finally got into the grade system today, and found out it is a late grade…he never turned it in. He did seem upset that he has a ‘C’ in that class right now. Hope it gets him motivated to stay on track.)

      • GodGirl September 1, 2012 / 3:26 PM

        Absolutely! And I hope so – it sounds like you did the right thing, and hopefully it was a memorable lesson for him. You’re doing great!

        • jannatwrites September 2, 2012 / 11:28 PM

          Thanks for the vote of confidence, GodGirl. I shall see 🙂

  11. pattyabr August 31, 2012 / 5:47 AM

    it is natural to compare yourself to other mothers. Sometimes it is a good thing, giving you a different perspective and sometimes it just adds to the neurosis and guilt we feel already. I worried more because I was trying to overcome deficits from my childhood and guess what? in the end we all do the best we can as parents with the information we have. This too will pass.

    • jannatwrites August 31, 2012 / 8:51 PM

      The different perspective is a good thing, Patty. You’re right about the guilt…I feel that more than I would like.

      Excellent point about doing the best we can with what we have at the time. My mind accepts this as a logical fact, but for some reason, there are times when it doesn’t feel good enough.

      • pattyabr September 1, 2012 / 7:58 PM

        You will always feel like you need to do better, because you are very conscientious. I was the same way. The more experiences you have in this crazy world called life and parenting, the better you will be able to make sense of it all.

        My husband and I just spent the past month and intensely the past week preparing our son, who left today for another country. I cried in two spurts yesterday and one today wanting the best for him and expressing our pride at accomplishing so much so far as a young person. But, we are mothers and fathers and we try to extoll our wisdom on children who filter what they want to hear and what they don’t. We all want the best for our children and we have to hope for the best that they gleaned the best of what we had to offer.

        It is all good and you are okay. God Bless You.

        • jannatwrites September 2, 2012 / 11:35 PM

          It sounds like an emotional time for you, Patty. I can’t imagine my kids in another state, much less another country. I’d say tears are definitely in order. I hope he keeps in regular contact with you, especially while you get used the fact he’s far away.

          I love your comment about how they filter what they want to hear and what they don’t. By the time they reach adulthood, we’ve pretty much done what we can to raise them right. All we really can do is pray they listened to us 🙂

          Thanks for your thoughtful comment. Best to you as you as you continue with the process of getting used to the idea of his absence..

  12. pattisj September 2, 2012 / 3:30 PM

    We had a neighbor who did her kids homework for them! My mom didn’t do that for me. She did call out my spelling words while doing dishes, though. That was fun. I loved spelling, anyway. I’m glad you left your son’s homework, and that it wasn’t due yet. Thankfully, the dog did not eat it in the meantime. 🙂 From what I’ve read on your blog, I think you’re doing great in the parent department. And the fact that you question it, all the more so.

    • jannatwrites September 2, 2012 / 11:38 PM

      Parents doing the homework bugs me. In Scouts last year, I looked at some of the Derby cars and thought, “yeah, right. The kid made that car.” I get that they shouldn’t be around power tools to cut the wood, but the paint job should at least look like a child did it!

      We don’t have to worry about the dogs eating homework in our house…it’s the cats who like to nibble 🙂 Thanks for your comment, Patti. It made me smile!

  13. nrhatch September 4, 2012 / 8:33 PM

    From everything I’ve read . . . you seem like a STELLAR parent (except for the late night ice cream eating when they aren’t watching). 😉

    • jannatwrites September 4, 2012 / 8:46 PM

      Ice cream? That’s so last week…this week, it’s cookie dough 🙂

      Thanks, Nancy. I don’t know about stellar, but most days, I feel encouraged that I’ve got it at least half right!

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