My dad is a planner, a list maker, an organizer, a rule regulator and a contract creator. As a kid, I loathed the “family meetings”, the inescapable discussions about curfews or “house rules”, and the endless lectures if you broke any of those rules. I didn’t just push the boundaries, I tried to re-draw them, over and over again. I was grounded a lot, and for good reason. One particular incident sticks out in my mind lately. At some point in high school my dad got completely fed up with my lackadaisical approach to homework.
Some days I would do it. Some days I would not.
So he created one of his famous contracts for me to sign, out-lining the consequences specifically in regards to crappy homework grades. I, of course, tried to find the loop-hole. In response to my breach of contract, he took it a step further by creating a weekly progress report. He required me to talk to my teachers, explaining that I needed their signatures on Fridays to confirm that a) all of my homework had been turned in that week and b) I had written down all of the assignments due on Monday.
No teacher signatures. No weekend privileges. That got my attention.
It didn’t take long for me to start getting my homework done in a timely manner in order to get rid of that whole contract/paper signing thing. I also remember distinctly saying to myself, “I will never do that to my children!”
Of course, “back then” my dad didn’t have the luxury of things like Parent Portal or Parent Connect, an online tool teachers use to post student’s grades and assignments each week. It is a great way to
spy check on our kids’ progress. Unfortunately, not all teachers update it in a timely manner or put in as much detail as others. I still have to rely heavily on my child to be personally accountable and honest about what work needs to get accomplished.
Sometimes it gets done. Sometimes it does not.
The Tortoise and I have butted heads numerous times about her study habits and approach to school. Although, we have seen a marked improvement in the last couple of years, it is still a heated topic in our house. Recently, there was some cause for alarm after looking at her grades on-line. Most exasperating was the fact that English needed the most attention, and not because she couldn’t do the work, she just didn’t put in the effort or ask for help.
“I’m not kidding around!” I vented, “These grades have to come up or you’ll start losing weekend privileges.”
“I know what to do, Mom” The Tortoise retorted, rolling her eyes.
“Then why aren’t you doing it?”
The Tortoise just stared at me blankly, probably trying to cast a spell or something that would cause a huge black hole to suck me up into oblivion. DW sat quietly finishing his dinner. Usually he was the enforcer, but something had snapped inside me that night.
“I bought you a planner pad to write down homework assignments and upcoming projects for each class. Where is that?” I asked.
“In my backpack.”
“Can I see it?”
“There’s nothing in it.”
“What do you mean there is nothing in it?” I barked, reaching for her backpack.
“I mean, there’s nothing in it!” she snapped.
“That’s it!” I exclaimed, “I’m giving you one week to pull it together. I’m going to check your planner pad every night and you better have written what you worked on and what homework was given in each class. And if you don’t, if you miss even one day, I’m going to start having your teachers initial on Fridays confirming you have no missing grades for the week and that you wrote down all of the assignments due on Monday!”
DW put down his fork, smiling.
The Tortoise looked at me in horror.
“MOM!” she shrieked, “You can’t do that! Do you know how embarrassing that would be?”
“YES! YES I DO!”