Monday, January 19, 2015

Don't Let the Perfect Get in the Way of the Good...The Middle School Years

Don't let the perfect get in the way of the good!
Don't let the perfect get in the way of the good!

I find myself saying this a lot lately. I need to remind myself...constantly! I'm still adjusting to being a "working outside the home" mama. For the most part, we've got the hang of it as a family. But sometimes the laundry piles up and the kids' rooms need bull dozers in order to get through them, and there are late nights trying to help my youngest as she starts to do reports for school on power points and needs to save to USB drives, and type written reports.

But as my kids get older, it is so hard to find the right combination, the right balance to help and guide them. I don't want to be the helicopter parent that we read so much about nowadays. I want my kids to be independent. I want them to figure out problems on their own. I want them to be advocates for themselves as they get older as they go through middle and high school. 

My middle schooler is in seventh grade this year. He is in the middle of middle school. He is one of the middle kids in my family...and it is hard! I've been trying to give him more responsibility and me be less of that helicopter mom as far as school goes. We have talked about strategies he could use if he needs help in a class. We talked about using his resource time wisely, asking his teachers for extra help if he needs it, using the school website to check for assignments, and plan studying and homework around his after school activities. He knows what is expected of him as far as grades are concerned at school. I tell my kids that as long as I see the effort, as long as I see the hard work, as long as I see you using all the the strategies that we have talked about, that is what makes this mama happy. There have been times that I have rejoiced and did a happy dance with one of my kids who got a B- because so much work went into that grade, and there have been times I have given the mom speech about responsibility and effort for a different B-, the one that could have been a A if only the kid had put forth a bit more effort. It's not the B- itself that we rejoiced about, but hard work and effort that went into that B-. Its not the B- grade that I was upset about another time, but the lackadaisical attitude of the kid that got the B- when he could have gotten a much better grade. It's all about the attitude.

So at the beginning of this second quarter of school, I sat down with my middle schooler and I went over the to what to do if he needed help in a subject. I told him I wasn't going to police him. I hold him I wasn't going to hover. For me, this is a hard thing to do. I work in his school. I know his teachers. I know when his reading log is due and when his tests are going to be. So I try to guide and encourage, but not be that helicopter mom. 

Well, on Friday, I checked his grades online. It is amazing that we can do this as parents. I remember in the "old" days when you had to wait for the end of the quarter to see your grades on your report card, but now, you can check your grade at any given moment. This is good and bad. I've been trying to teach my kids to do it themselves. One of my high schoolers had a zero for a grade and didn't know why. The assignment was done and it was handed in. He spoke with the teacher and she called the house and came up with a solution for the missing grade. He told me later about the conversation. This mama wasn't apart of it. He did it himself. He was a self advocate.

But my middle schooler isn't quite there yet. When I checked his grades, a couple of his classes were a bit disappointing. Friday afternoon we had one of those talks.

Did you study a few minutes every night like we talked about?

Did you ask your teachers for extra help during your resource block?

Did you ask your teachers if they come in early or stay after school for extra help?

Did you make flashcards like we talked about for the vocabulary words?

I gave him consequences, not for the grades, but for the lack of effort...and then the mama guilt sets in. Should I have guided him a bit more closely? Did I give him too much rope to hang himself? Am I trying too hard not to be a helicopter mom that I dropped the ball with him. Does he need more guidance than his two older siblings because every kid is different and there is no cookie cutter solution?

He was angry and upset. I was angry as well, but also conflicted and reflective. He stormed off to his room and slammed the door. Not a good way to start our three day weekend. I stood in the kitchen and started cleaning up some messes. Unloaded and loaded the dishwasher, cleaned off the kitchen counter, and then started sorting through the mail. 

Bill, junk mail, bill, junk mail, and then there was an envelope from the middle school, addressed "To The Parents of..."

Dear Parents,
We are pleased to inform you that your child will be receiving an IMPACK award. These awards are presented to students for Inclusion, Motivation, Perseverance  Altruism, Compassion, and Kinship. 

My first reaction when I read this was, "Dam-it, he did it again!!! I swear he does this on PURPOSE!!!" 

You see, my middle schooler is the one who makes a joke out of everything. It is very hard to stay angry at him. I can be strict and stern and have on that angry mama face and he has these one liners that completely defuse the situation and I start laughing, but at the same time I start yelling at him, "I'm serious, I'm mad at you!!!" And it just doesn't work. He always seems to manage to get a smile out of me. 

So there I was, standing in the kitchen, angry at first because I wanted to be happy about this letter, I wanted to rejoice with him, but all I could think about was, "He did it again!!!! I'm suppose to be mad at him. He wasn't responsible about his schoolwork! He's not taking school seriously enough! I need to turn this kid around!" And then that phrase crept into my head again,

Don't let the perfect get in the way of the good!

None of us are perfect, we mess up as kids, we mess up as parents, we mess up because we are human. Life is the messy bits! So I showed my middle schooler the letter. He read it. A smile came across his face and he said, "See mom, I'm a completely different kid at school, I'm a good boy! I'm not all bad."

Yep, he did it again! Can't stay mad at this kid. He still has consequences for not following through with his schoolwork, but what a reminder to me that I shouldn't let the perfect get in the way of this "Good" boy. I don't know exactly what he did to earn his award, I will find out next week at the ceremony, but I certainly will be a proud mama when he gets it.

First day of seventh grade. See how happy he is about school!

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