Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Parenting is really hard. Thank you. That is all.

Okay, so after that yummy lunch of pigs in a blanket yesterday we were all so logey and full that we all just collapsed into naps. You know how filling those bread-wrapped weenies can be. So I never got around to the rest of my story.

Thursday was the kids' last day of school for the week. Brownie night is always a crazy night and homework gets done late, dinner is put on late, I start hitting the bottle late - it's just a late night all around. But even in the midst of all of the chaos, Abby found time to hand me a bundle of papers. I tried to shoo her away, but she kept insisting I look at them. It was a grade card - well, they don't have actual grade cards anymore, they're just computer print-outs - and a note with the words "ENCORE ALERT!" emblazoned across the top. I had no idea what an that meant, but it didn't take me long to learn. Encore is a noon-time in-school tutoring program

for children who are about to fail a class.

Now, for those of you who have known me since childhood you will remember that I have always been a rather studious person and took learning very seriously. (Now, after three kids, my brain is the consistency of oatmeal, but that's neither here nor there.) Stacie had the most endearing name for me - The Walking Dictionary. Teachers would come to me if they needed a definition or a spelling. I by no means have an off-the-charts IQ, in fact I think I just barely eeked into the Gifted and Talented program in school, but I was always considered smart. I was never seen without a book in hand, I would freak out at the sight anything less than an A on a paper and oh my gosh, when I got that first C in Algebra I in 9th grade, I nearly hyperventilated. I was called Teacher's Pet from first grade on and actually, being called that didn't bother me. There was no cramming, no last minute getting a paper done - I was a hard-core, blue-blooded, dyed in the wool NERD.

Now, my daughter has been pretty much my mirror image for oh, about 7 years now. She's a phenomenal reader, always reading way above her grade level, never bringing home anything less than near perfect on papers in every subject. She has always loved school and it was never a challenge to her. But for some reason, third grade is about to kill us both. In second grade her lowest grade was a 78 in penmanship. Penmanship! In other words, she had sloppy handwriting. And even that was brought up to perfection once they learned cursive. (She's a horrible printer, but has beautiful cursive handwriting. Go figure.) What I'm getting at is - for some reason third grade has caused my child to channel her father.

Mr. Diva grew up dirt poor. They didn't even have an indoor toilet until he was in upper elementary school. His father was a mean drunk and after he left, that left DivaMa-in-Law to raise three boys by herself. She worked during the day and then went to school at night until she got her LPN license, then worked nights as a nurse. Mr. Diva and his brothers had no one at home to help them with their homework and so it never got done. School became considerably harder and harder and they eventually began giving up. In fact, Mr. Diva is the only of the three that even graduated. I am not blaming their mother because that woman came close to dying trying to keep those boys safe, fed and clothed - she did the best she could. But what I'm saying is, school and learning was never a priority for my husband. He hated school and could've cared less what his grades were. If he passed, great. If he didn't, eh, no big.

It seems my oldest child, my mini-me, my studious little gorgeous intelligent bookworm doesn't care that she is nearly failing Social Studies. She also doesn't care that she now has to take in-school tutoring. The only thing she's pissed about is that she can't spend noon recess with *Chance*. I have tried to evoke emotion out of her over this. She refuses to emote. And even Mr. Diva has gotten in on the game because of her lack of caring over it. He is adamant that his kids do well in school and have more opportunites than he had. So at first he was pretty much chilled about it, saying "Missy, you better get that grade up. You're capable of A's and you know it," but now this blatant "I don't give a shit and you can't make me" attitude is pissing him off as well. Now he's right with me with the threatening and the cracking of the whip.

Now, at this point I'm sure y'all are snickering at the insane mother who is obsessing over a Social Studies grade. Go ahead. But I really feel like I have reason to be upset - she's being a real shit about this! I want her to at least care.

I called DivaMom about it and she, first off told me to call her teacher at home over the weekend. I've called Sam's teacher at home several times, but I had reservations about calling Abby's teacher. I really don't know her that well, but I really do like her. So I decided to call her on Friday. She wasn't home. I left a message and then jumped every time the phone rang the rest of the weekend. She called me back Sunday night and after I thanked her for returning my call she thanked me for caring enough to call her at home. I felt so much better!

She and I discussed the grade. She said that if Ab starts slipping like this in the future she hopes to give me some fore-warning. It snuck up on her and she apologized for blindsiding me with it. She explained the Encore program and said that Abby had to spend at least one week in it and she really felt like after this week she could return to cavorting with her *Chance* at recess. She also offered to send home extra work this week. I told her that would be great and to just inundate the child as far as I was concerned. Then I mentioned that Abby really just wasn't upset about it at all. She laughed and said the whole class has been pretty lackadaisical since Christmas break and "If she comes home saying I've been cranky, she's not lying. I've really be ranting and raving at them!"

So after I got off the phone I went up to the living room where Mr. Diva was in the recliner and Abby was sprawled in front of the fireplace with a book. I relayed the gist of the conversation and then told Abby that she would have extra work PLUS her Encore work this week. Nothing. No response. I asked if she heard me. She mumbled a quiet yes. Then I told her that the grade had better be up by week's end or she was grounded. Nothing again. So I kicked it up a notch and said, "Young lady, I hope you're listening to me. If the grade doesn't come up, Girl Scouts go. Plain and simple. I will let YaYa take over the Troop and you and I will spend every breathing moment doing Social Studies. Do you understand?" She slowly looked up from her book, glared at me over her glasses and shrugged. She shrugged at me when I threatened to take away Girl Scouts!! Shrugged!!!

To keep from ripping her arms off and beating her with the bloody ends I calmly went into the kitchen where I held a tea towel up to my face to muffle my outburst and proceded to call my eldest child some really bad names, "little bitch" being the main one.

Last night, though, after one day in Encore and one day of not leading *Chance* around the playground like a googly-eyed puppy and one day of so much Social Studies she wanted to vomit she was much more demure. No eye rolling, no shrugging. Just a new appreciation for the city of San Francisco, its population, bays, bridges and cable cars. We sat at the table for over an hour last night learning allllllllllll about SF and it's more notable qualities. She thanked me for helping her.

Maybe she's not a little bitch after all.


Hillbilly Mom said...

OK, we knew our husbands shared a branch on the family tree. Too many coincidences.

HH had two brothers.

HH had a father who raised them. His mother was in and out of the mental hospital.

HH had no indoor plumbing. He took PE first hour so he could shower, and not have to take a bath in a washtub with water heated on the stove.

HH's father was blind, so didn't do much helping with the homework. They had no car. HH started working at 14.

HH didn't care about grades. He failed biology because he refused to make a bug collection. But he DID graduate.

I guess this explains why they act the same. They come from similar backgrounds.

Anonymous said...

I doubt this helps at all, but they always said that third grade is the "funk" grade. Priorities change, schoolwork gets harder.

And its good to know that there are others out there as anal retentive about grades as I am.
I do NOT, however, claim to have three Spanish anuses.

MamaKBear said...

My niece is in 2nd grade (should be in 3rd, but has been held back) and she's had the opposite problem.

Couldn't, or wouldn't do the work..couldn't read, spell her name or anything really.

Just recently, she's shocked us all by starting to bring papers home from school with 100's on them. It's like a light bulb finally went off in her brain and she thought "Hey I can DO this!"

Gonna be interesting to see how the school thing goes for my girls.

Redneck Diva said...

Lessa, kids are so hard to understand. My son, who is so much like his father it's scary, eats school up with a spoon! He LOVES IT and does so well with it. And I figured he'd do well in the social aspect and do mediocre with the work. Teach me to stereotype, eh?

Stacie, sometimes my words of wisdom come back to haunt me.

All of my children's bad traits come from their father. Who else could be responsible?

Hillbilly Mom, the similarities just keep getting weirder and weirder. I still wonder if they met if they'd hate each other...

Recklace, I knew when I read the teacher's letter at the first of school it was going to be a harder year, but I honestly had no idea it would kick her butt like this.

And I don't know...I think three Spanish anuses is a real conversation starter.

Andi, YES!! If I had smarted off to my parents the way my kids smart off to me sometimes I'd have been knocked into the other room. Maybe it's my fault for letting them get away with more, but I'm trying really hard not to repeat some of the mistakes my parents me and hopefully avoid some of the rebellion later on when the rebellion is much scarier.

Mama K, isn't it great when that light bulb goes off? I'm glad she's doing better!

Just be prepared...it's going to be hell. I just assumed that my boy would be my hardest child. Turns out he's so easy it's a crime. My daughters, however, cause me to bang my head against hard things and scream expletives into tea towels in the kitchen.

Jersey, yes...I think I do hear it.

And you may be really surprised with your boy. Sam is a wiggly little bundle of energy and does amazing in the classroom. But his teacher also lets the little boys with an overabundance of energy wiggle a little and sit on their knees and fidget. And they still learn! I thought you had to sit still to learn, but amazingly - and 45 gazillion little boys prove it - you can learn while you girate around like you have critters in your drawers. Hopefully Chase's teachers will appreciate his energy as well.

Queen Of Cheese said...

I tried to comment yesterday, but my computer wouldn't let me. Third grade sucks! Having to miss "boyfriend" time for Encore must suck too! Poor Abby, her mother expects her to LEEEAAARRRNNN at school, tell her she can come stay with me. We won't make her be smart at our house but she'll wish she was dead if she can't make a free throw!

We....the people

Originally published in The Miami News-Record, July 2020 Everything is different now. I’m not just talking about masks and social distancing...