Saturday, April 13, 2013

Holding It All Together...

...with a few used pieces of Scotch tape I found on the floor, most of which are covered in kitty fluff.

Am I right? Moms out there? Ever feel this way? You know you have. I know you have. Still. When it's me, and I feel my little piece of the world I at least partially manage, with the help of others, is not as together and orderly as it should be, well... Who's fault could it be but my own? All my fault.

For me, it's paperwork. Namely, school paperwork that Sweetie brings home.

I actually pride myself on not being one of those moms who feels they have to hold on to every school project, test and paper my child brings home. I used to. But last year's move from one house to another helped me weed out all the unnecessaries. As the time came that we knew we'd be moving, then packing, I realized I really didn't want or need to pack up and move all these papers around. Be gone, math worksheets! You're out of here, random art squiggles and doodles. It's been nice knowing you, social studies studies. We just don't need y'all around here anymore. I'll keep tests and report cards. Really nice art and fun and/or well written essays and stories. The rest of it? Not so much. Not so needed.

So. That was last year. Now, we've been in our new home almost a year and I've done really well with keeping this practice going. I'll look through Sweetie's folder and, for the most part, throw most if not all graded items in the trash. She doesn't mind - encourages it, actually. I only keep the best of the best. Our clutter piles thank me for this - they're cluttered enough as it is.

Beyond the graded papers, Sweetie occasionally brings home school fliers and other informational notes and such from her teacher or the school in general. I'll read them right away, decide if they're something we'll need to refer to later, then toss or not accordingly. Sometimes, though, I get it wrong as to whether or not the flyer or note contains truly pertinent info. Pertinent to who? If not me (toss) maybe Swee (don't toss.)

This recently happened with a notice that came home regarding the school's end of the year talent show. I know I read this. I remember the general idea of the thing. It listed when auditions would be, when practices would be, and the do's and don't's for those auditioning. Interesting... but, after reading through it, I threw it away. Not needed.

Wrong! Wouldn't you know, Sweetie wanted to audition. Really wanted to audition! She wanted to do a skit with one or two other kids. But upon asking everyone she thought who may be interested, she found they were already auditioning for something else in the show, or just plain didn't want to do it. Oh well, I told her. At least you can enjoy watching the show. Or she could do something on her own. She's a good singer, why doesn't she do that?

Okay. She resigned herself to a solo act. She went through a couple different ideas of what that would be, until finally settling on the singing. She picked out a song and practiced at home. We encouraged her to do her best and we were happy for her to be trying out.

Then, about 8:45 the night before auditions, she happens to mention that these auditions were after school the next day.

What?! They are? Sorry, but you can't do that. Daddy and I work, unable to pick you up. It's way too late notice to ask Nana to pick you up there. You don't even know the details! What time after school? You certainly can't go back to the school to audition and be picked up after that. We need you to go to the Boys & Girls Club, as you're expected to do every day. Too late. Too little information known. No. You can't do it. Sorry.

Had I only kept that info sheet around, I would have known all this. Had I only dug the info sheet out of the recycling once Sweetie expressed her interest to audition, we wouldn't have had a poor, desperately sad Sweetie on our hands that night. Why didn't I think to retrieve that paper?

Long story a wee bit shorter, Sweetie talked to the powers that be at school the next day and arranged for herself to get another, during school, audition time a couple days later.

The night before this new audition time, I see in her folder a handwritten note from one of the teachers in charge of the show. It was addressed to Sweetie, but, along with confirmation of her audition time the next day, it mentioned to "please tell your parents that if you get in the show, practices will be after school."

I felt like I was being scolded. Like I was a child myself that needed a talking to about responsibility as well as a reminder of rules that should have already been known. I know I shouldn't have felt that way, and I'm 98% sure that's not the tone it was written in. But that's what I felt.

So! Sweetie auditioned, she got into the show, and she will do the after school practices. It's all fine, we told her, as long as we know ahead of time and can make arrangements. It's just not fine to have to scramble for arrangements at the 11th hour.

Regarding other holding-it-together/not-really parenting issues:

- One of Sweetie's report card grades, for Music, was Unsatisfactory. Other subcategories in Music were all Excellent and Satisfactory+. But this one, regarding her practicing of her recorder, was a U. Along with the grade came a note from her teacher saying that Sweetie hadn't been turning in her weekly sheets that show how much she's been practicing, even though the teacher reminded her 3 different times to do this. We knew that Sweetie had been doing the practicing - it was just turning in these slips of proof that was the issue. I felt bad because I had seen a couple of these slips in Sweetie's room a couple times, but I'd thrown them away, since they were for weeks gone by. Why would she need these anymore? Anyway, she practices through an on-line service and records her practicing there. These slips aren't even needed.

Little did I know that that on-line service hadn't worked for weeks and that, yes, these slips were the only way to show your work.

So there I was, writing to Sweetie's music teacher, explaining the situation. How I threw out the forms. How Sweetie really had done the work. How, obviously, this was completely up to her if this new info would change Sweetie's grade or not. How we recognize it was unexcusable for Sweetie to have been reminded 3 times about something and she still never produced the required forms - or asked us for help with the problem. But, there you go. That is what happened.

And yes, it's "only" Music, in elementary school. One small aspect of Music, actually. But I felt at least partly at fault for this. I should have asked Sweetie if she needed these forms before throwing them out. I should have known that the on-line way of noting your practice wasn't working and that the forms were the only way. I should have been more diligent about making sure Sweetie was actually practicing. My evening job makes me unaware of much of Sweetie's homework. It (should be) all done well before I get home. Still, I should be more aware. I used to be.

- Sweetie's science grade dropped significantly this last report card too. Still a good grade, but a grade and a half lower than 1st term. We questioned Sweetie on it, but didn't get very far for why/how she thought this happened. So I took it upon myself to email her teacher for answers as well as ways we can help Sweetie bring this grade back up. Tricky, when she rarely, if ever, has science homework.

However, upon looking in her assignment notebook, I did see that, some weeks prior, she'd had the science assignment to bring a snack food in (I think to discuss/find out the nutritional value of???) Having seen that, I remembered how Sweetie had casually told me how she'd forgotten to bring in her food, but a classmate gave her some of her own to work with. But even at the time, Sweetie so non-chalantly talked about this - with no remorse for not having done something she was supposed to - that I hardly considered it as anything more than another school story of hers. But, having seen the dropped grade on the report card, followed by the written instruction - in her own hand, in her own book - to bring something specific in to class... well, it reminded me of how bad I've become at checking through her assignment book. I used to all the time. I was always pretty on top of what her homework was and other important school information. But here was a homework assignment I'd never seen - along with so many others - and Sweetie'd not done it. Had I known about it, I could have reminded her of it, no problem.

This lone incident, of course, was not the downfall of her final grade. Turns out she'd been goofing around with a friend a lot during science labs, instead of working. But the teacher moved Sweetie's seat away from this friend and, after I emailed her, talked with Sweetie about her not paying attention and why she was moved, working with Sweetie on an understanding and agreement that she'd now concentrate harder.

This is a great end result to the whole situation, and I'm glad to know I can easily work with the teacher and she's willing to work with me and Sweetie to help Sweetie out. But, one the one hand, I feel partly at fault because of my not looking after Sweetie's assignment book. On the other hand, I feel too working-behind-the-scenes/helicopter-parent-ish for contacting her teacher about the lower grade when it's an issue, honestly, that isn't my fault - but Sweetie's own lack of concentration and inability to take care of her own assignments.

Holding it all together - either too tightly, or not enough? So hard to find the balance.

Another example of that:

- About a week or so before the above email exchange, I also emailed with Sweetie's teacher and guidance counselor about my (and Hubby's) desire for Sweetie to form some new female friendships. The 2 boys she is friends with are great kids. But one is older and therefore going to the middle school next year, and the other is moving away next year. So we are concerned that she will end up lost and lonely. If there was anything her teacher could do to encourage female friendships for Sweetie, we'd be appreciative.

Her teacher wrote back, stating that she too had the same concerns for Sweetie. She had separated Sweetie and her one boy friend in the class (see above), in part hoping to get her involved with some girls instead. She and the guidance counselor told me they'd also think of some other ways to encourage new connections.

Did I go too far? I'd already talked to Sweetie about making new friendships with girls. Did I have to/should I have gone behind Sweetie's back to make sure everyone who could help with this was on board and working toward a similar goal? Or was that too much? Should I have just left it in Sweetie's hands and walked away? She's in 4th Grade, for goodness sake! High time she be responsible for her own actions, not needing mom and dad so much to make sure all is running smoothly.

But - she's only in 4th Grade, for goodness sake. Still a little girl in need of as much support as she can get from her loving parents.

Again, the fine balance of too much/too little plays out in my parenting life in so many ways.


So. After all that, after the literally hours it's taken me to write this (working between family outings and helping Sweetie with a school project - helping too much? not enough?) I almost feel like I don't want to post it. It sound/feels to whiny to me. Way too much blaming myself when, clearly, the blame is not on me.

Sweetie should have known the details - and divulged them to us - way before she did, if the talent show was that important to her. Sweetie should have been turning in her music sheets. Especially - my goodness! - after being reminded 3 separate times! It's my right as a responsible, loving parent to want the best for my child and to question dropped grades and to be concerned with who she makes friends with. Sweetie should be in control of her homework and completely able to remember to do things she's meant to do.

None of this is my fault at all, really. I see that now. I guess I've seen it all along. It's not my fault.

So, I will post this. Because, like it or not, right or wrong, this is how I have felt, at times, recently. Like it's my job to hold at least certain aspects of our family life together, and I'm failing in bits and pieces. I know other moms out there feel/have felt the exact same way I have. It's important, I think, for me to share these feelings. To not only write them out for myself, but to show to others that they are not alone in how they sometimes feel.

But failing? No. I see now that I'm not. I see now how much I'm actually succeeding. Many parents don't take the time to even go over their kids report cards, let alone contact a teacher when something seems amiss. Many parents don't even know who their kids' friends are, let alone wish to see them succeed socially, having fun with a variety of kids. Other parents would have told their kid that they couldn't try out for something that would end up making scheduling their own lives difficult. We, though, are happy to have Sweetie involved, even if it means rearranging our schedules and working with others to make sure Sweetie can be where she needs to be in order to participate.

Failing? No. Succeeding to the best of my abilities. Yes.

Hey, look what I just found! A brand new role of duct tape and some Super Glue.

I've got this. No problem.