Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Mother Inferior: Lesson 467

I have finally figured out something about myself. As much as I miss my little, tiny boys that used to hang on my knees and gather around me like men gather around the latest flat screen technology at Best Buy, I realize that being around my now nearly grown children may in fact be my favorite time of motherhood. Mostly because I happen to like my kids - a lot. Enough said about that - I think you'd like them, too, but this isn't about all their attributes and funny little quirks that make them amazing.

Do they make me crazy? Yes, they do. But the thing is, sometimes - okay, more than sometimes - I'm the one who contributes to the craziness. Which brings me to Lesson 467: how you can sabotage your children in school and provide precisely the distractions they need to avoid studying.

I know, I know. I'm not a complete idiot. I've read all the guides to promoting proper study habits. How you set up regular "study hours" and give your scholars a comfortable space to complete their work in relative peace and comfort. How you can help them break down the school work in manageable pieces and encourage ongoing attention to each subject, whether it involves written work, practice, memorization, reading, studying or simply reviewing. How you can help them get a jump on the year by encouraging and monitoring their summer reading habits.

Yes. I know. I've read the same brochures, books, pamphlets and websites as everyone else. An involved parent leads to a successful student. Get to know the teachers, the curriculum, and the administrators to help chart a course of success for your child.

It's not that I haven't done at least some of this stuff. I have. But as my children near the end of their public school education, I also have to admit I've been the problem from time to time. I have.

Take the other night, for example. My two seniors were studying for their last quiz of the year in one of their subjects. I suspected they were pretty well-prepared but it didn't matter. I spent ten minutes discussing their review process, worksheets, and discussion questions. I mentioned websites they should check out and how they could best prepare for this last test.

I meant it, too. I really did. Except what did I do? Instead of giving them the space they needed, I interrupted them. And why? Not because the house was on fire or I fell down some stairs. I think we can all agree that either of those events would warrant an interruption.

It wasn't either of those things. I had just finished reading the Andy Borowitz column in the latest copy of The New Yorker and thought it was one of the most hilarious things ever. I knew they would think so, too, and I just had to share it with them. So I did. And they laughed and enjoyed the piece as much as I.

I can't think of even one chapter or even one footnote in any of those guides or parenting books that encouraged interrupting your children as they study for your own pleasure or their amusement. Not one.

So I wonder this. Some years from now, will they think about those final days of high school and remember those last couple of tests? Will they think about how they studied under less than ideal circumstances: their mother hopping into the room and reading a New Yorker column aloud? Or will they just remember us taking about 9 minutes to laugh together one evening as they studied for a test?

I hope it's that last one. I hope someday the tests and the grades and GPA and class rank and every other number we use to measure people up to a certain point in their lives is a very vague memory. But maybe they'll remember the night we laughed about the Borowitz column.

Mother Inferior Lesson 467: how you can sabotage your children in school and provide precisely the distractions they need to avoid studying - by sharing a laugh. Even in the midst of senior finals, it feels like the right idea to me.


Richard said...

I think reading the Andy Borowitz column to your sons was a good thing to do. Let's hope they remember it long after forgetting how to use the electron mass method to determine Avogadro's number.

If you like Borowitz's humor, here is web site, updated daily (usually) with a lot of similar tomfoolery:

renee said...

Thanks Richard! I appreciate the support. That makes one vote for inferior mothering!

And you won't be surprised to hear I LOVE McSweeney's and yes, have brought some articles I've read there to my sons' attention as well.

As for me, I didn't remember (maybe I never even knew) that there is even such a thing as an electron mass method of doing anything. And I thik I've turned out mostly okay.

thanks again for the post -