Thursday, March 8, 2012

Mommy Rule #326 "How Do We Eat an Elephant?" Homework, Procrastination and Catching-Up

Justin is fifteen, but he has called me twice a night for the last three nights.

Not because he is a momma's boy, which he is *smiles*, but because he felt overwhelmed and needed some direction. I am always Momlette to Justin, so I knew right away something was up when he said... "Mom, I'm just... I'm just soo... urgghhh...."

 "What's up son?"

"I have a whole buttload of schoolwork to do and I'm grounded until I get it done."

Justin you see, likes to procrastinate. A trait I am afraid he learned from his mother. It appeared that 26 assignments was the magic number as to what constitutes a "buttload." Even better, he had three days left in the term.Ouch.

"There is no way I am going to get all of this homework done, and they won't listen to me."  I can hear that tone rising in his voice, the one that is means he is about to launch into panic mode. Years of experience have taught me, don't push him past that point. Once you do, you have lost him.

You have to calm him down first, and come at it from his point of view. So, we step back and pull in Mommy Rule #326, How we eat an elephant.

First we calm down, then we define the problem. The problem is, Justin has always preferred play to work. The consequences are, he now has three days to fix it.

It is a bit harder to do from several hundred miles away than it was when he was here, but I finally convinced him to get all of his school work out and look at it. He needed to get a clear picture of how much work he really had to do, not just the inflated image he had in his mind.

He found nine homework assignments right away that were done, he just hadn't marked them off. In a matter of seconds his task had been reduced by a third. From there he figured the rest out on his own.

"If I divide them up... that only leaves only 5 assignments a day!"

I reminded them that he had done this on his own, as angry as he was about being grounded he was the only person who could fix it.

And he did...

He called me that night to tell me he had made it to his goal of 5 1/2 pages without trouble. He was really pleased with himself and I could hear it in his voice. We even had a few minutes to discuss our favorite topic of ultimate seriousness, Star Wars trivia.

The next night when he called, he was upset again. He had to keep working on his past due school work until it was done, nobody else would let him just do five assignments a day. I waited for him to calm down again. "How do you eat an elephant?" I asked him.

"One bite at a time.." he answered.

He was going to be grounded until the work was done either way, so stressing himself out over it was only hurting him. He brightened again. True, 11 pages still sounded like a lot, but the 5 he could handle. When he called me to check in later that night he was still right on target.

On the last night, I answered the phone to "Hey Momlett!" So I knew right away he was feeling better. "I was just calling for my nightly home work pep talk."

The elephant had grown smaller and smaller, and he was finally feeling confident again.

He knows I know these things because we both have ADHD brains, and what works for the rest of the world doesn't always work for us. It takes a lot more energy for us to accomplish tasks than most people because our brain is always looking for a distraction.

I know what a struggle it is for me to work from home with the chaos that is our life. I have no office, I just move from room to room trying to find a place I can be as distraction free as possible. The bed, the sofa, and more often still the bathroom floor. Even with only the two girls home it can be hard to find a place to allow that focus to sink in.So I totally get where he is coming from.

I have barely learned to fight the distractions over 40 years of practice, so it will take him some time.That is one area I have always been thankful for the co-parents support. Where I am a scatter-brain my co-mom is OCD quality organized. In the time Justin has been with her she has reined in a lot of the areas I struggled with. It's good to know you have support.

Happy Un-grounding Justin, next time - just start with the tail!

PS I got 80%

Thursday, March 1, 2012

“No mommy... I do it by self.” Parenting is Letting Go

Hausrotschwanz Brutpflege 2006-05-24 211

Even before they were born, I knew that there would be things out there that would hurt them, it’s an inevitable part of human existence, but like any parent I still hoped that it was possible to just... you know... protect them from...  


Eighteen years in it hasn't gotten any any easier. From birth onward, parenting is a process of letting go.  Give them roots and give them wings, that’s what we were supposed to do, right?

Yeah,  it sucks.Our children have to grow up and we have to let them. They have their own lives to live. The growing up is the easy part... it's the letting them that gets rough.

Even now as my one and only adult child explores her new grown-up world, I am having a very hard time with the letting go part. I am a mother. I want to protect her now, as much as I did the first time I held her. And she just wants to fly.

As one phase of childhood makes way for the next, both parent and child are forced to adjust. From their first skinned knee to their first broken heart, those hurts will come, and most people will survive those hardships relatively intact. Trying to protect them does no good whatsoever, but would we really be parents if we didn’t try?

I constantly question my parenting, well... I constantly question everything but.. I have more help in some ares than most.

I'm not just raising the three children I brought into this world, I am raising my step-daughter Jade full time as well. We keep having to rehash the same old argument about an adults right to happiness versus their responsibility to keep the children involved in their lives safe, but we don't seem to be getting anywhere with the adults. As a result we have a little girl who has seen and experienced far too much for her age. If trying to keep the other kids from growing up too fast is important to us, trying to keep her age appropriate is crucial.She's not having any of it.

With children ranging in age from 12 to 18, we are in the home stretch now. This is that phase that my young parenting self referred to as “the easy part.”

The naive little fool.

While I certainly do have more parental freedom these days, the kids have new freedoms as well... and it is all new and scary for everyone. I can leave the house a lot faster now than I could in the

A few of my old friends from high school are just starting their families. Their Facebook streams are filled with ultrasound images and proud first moments. I love seeing their children grow up, hearing about their joys and triumphs. I love watching the parents try to memorize each moment of their babies lives as if they can freeze it. They can't. Believe me, we have all tried...

We tried to pay attention, to hold on, to save every second of it too. Cooing, rolling over, sitting up. We watched their eyes light up when they learned something new too. Our heart swelled with pride but at the same time our heart broke just a little too. Each step towards adulthood is another step away from us. Away from the safety of our arms and into the world.

Then last week the daughter of one of my oldest friends announced that she got married. For a moment I was once again convinced that she skipped a few birthdays. The little girl who used to draw pictures of angels for me is a wife now. She will be a good wife, but damn if it wasn't supposed to be another twenty years or so before the possibility of growing up even crossed her mind.

Some are just taking their first steps, some are heading off to college, and some are getting married, and all we can do is watch them grow and let them go.We all say the same thing though: "It just happened so fast..."

I’m not ready to boot mine out yet, but I didn’t have to. Two months after Brooke turned eighteen she came home and said, “My friends and I found a house, and I’m moving out.” Our natural instincts are kicking in. We are getting on each others' nerves... she’s already beginning to hate me for meddling, so I guess it really is all on schedule.

I worry that I forgot to teach her something crucial. My late night checklist of “Things That Could Go Wrong” is in overdrive right now. I don’t get a retake here, what’s done is done. How did that experiment work after all?

In the spirit of honesty though, I must now admit that my daughter is technically only a block and a half away. She still comes over a few times a day. She raids our fridge, uses our washing machine, and hangs out to talk. She just sleeps somewhere else now. Just like that. She is still a momma’s girl; we are still close, but she is becoming what she was meant to be all along. An adult.

Jade, is the youngest and at the same time the oldest. She is headed for adulthood at a dead run and where we had to push my kids towards adulthood, with her we are having a hard time putting on the brakes. She's ready for perfume and makeup and curling irons.We want her back into Spongebob instead of Heartthrob.

Even my baby Mystery is slipping through my fingers. She will turn 13 this year. Officially a teenager. Ouch. Every time I look at her I see the signs of a little girl slipping away and that strange woman sneaking in and taking her place. Her hero isn't Scarlett O'Hara anymore, it's Elphaba Thropp. She doesn't want to be a vet anymore either, now she wants to be an attorney because they still help others but they make better money.

Justin's voice on the phone is not his voice anymore. He’s not a man yet, but... he is. I feel so far away from him and his life. From all of their lives. I am going from being the mom who knew all of their friends and their friends parents to not knowing where they are or what they are doing. Justin is still going to school with his Dad and I miss him. I still can't watch Toy Story without crying, but that's okay... we always have Star Wars.

That shadow above his lip isn't just a shadow anymore. He is taller than me now, and the distance between the tops of our heads keeps growing every time I see him. I knew there would be a day when he would look down upon me, but I didn't really think it would happen, not really. The other day on the phone he lectured me about his big sister. He informed me that she was growing up, and I might not like all of the decisions she is making right now but I couldn't protect her from everything.

He also reminded me that I did a good job, I gave her roots and I gave her wings. I did my job, she made it... she's an adult now.

My oldest moved out...Breathe momma, breathe...

I tell myself that she will flop and flail here and there and I will want to rescue her but she'll come to me when she needs me. If she really needs my help I will be here but now is the time to trust her. To trust all of them.

I have worked so hard to teach them how to make good decisions for a reason. I never wanted them to make the decisions that were right for me, or for their father, or even their future partner, I wanted them to make the decisions that would take them where ever they were meant to be.

I know, deep down they will all be fine. The toddler years just keep coming around again in new forms.

“No mommy... I do it by self.”