Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Therein Lies the Poop

Last week was parent/teacher conferences at the kids' school. Conferences are always a mixed bag around here because, while I love hearing about how charming and socially adapted my children are, I always dread that academically I will get a bad report from the people entrusted to teaching my children what my husband calls "book learnin'". And if you'll recall, it was parent/teacher conference day three years ago that Abby called her 4th grade teacher "dude". There's a reason I dread them.

As a kid, I loved school. I lived for school. School was wonderful and amazing and exciting and OH SO FULL OF LEARNING. AND BOOKS! Even though I struggled in math I still didn't get my first F until Algebra I in 9th grade. I was a straight A student (except for dadgummed Algebra) from K-12. I aimed for perfection and was determined to achieve it. Failing wasn't an option.

My husband was the youngest of three boys who was raised by his mother alone (because his father was an abusive, deadbeat alcoholic who split for the hill when the boys were little) worked three to four jobs and went to school at night to become an LPN . School was merely something he had to do because the law required it. He struggled with reading and English and if he couldn't figure the work out on his own it didn't get done because his brothers didn't/couldn't/wouldn't help him. His mom did the absolute best she could given the circumstances. Paul was the only one of his brothers to graduate high school.

So the fact that I have always been anal retentive about learning and grades paired with the fact that Paul was determined that his children have all the opportunities he didn't, has always made parent/teacher conferences very stressful for the both of us. I am, however, careful to not put undue pressure on my kids because I'd rather them not end up in therapy, chain smoking on a couch, talking about how they could never live up to expectations. And maybe mentioning wire hangers.

We have never expected perfection from our kids, but we expect effort. We don't pay money for good grades on the report cards, but we do praise the heck out of our kids when they try. Noticeable and marked improvement on the final report card in May gets them a special day alone with Mom. One year it was a manicure and ice cream for Abby, Kady got a movie and we didn't even sneak treats in my purse, but bought them at the actual concession stand and Sam usually chooses McDonald's and a movie with contraband treats. The grades don't have to be A's, but they have to be their best effort.

From Kindergarten through 2nd grade I got nothing but "brilliant!" from Abby's teachers. From Pre-K through 3rd grade I got "brilliant!" from Sam's teachers. Kady's in 2nd and I'm still getting "brilliant!" from hers (and I am secretly hoping she doesn't follow in the footsteps of her older siblings). In 3rd grade Abby decided that school was stupid and quit trying. She developed a fierce and sudden case of apathy and it's taken from 3rd grade until now to convince her that school is not the enemy. She is finally making decent grades again. Not all A's, but good solid B's and C's. I'm ecstatic. Starting last year Sam decided that since school was no longer super duper easy that he would just give up and not try. He's smart, but if he has to work for something a little more than he feels he should have to he throws his hands in the air and possibly throws himself face-first into his beanbag and cries all evening and throws Legos and rips up school work that I later have to tape back together while he pouts next to me. Kady has nothing lower than a 97% in anything on her latest grade report. Her older siblings may very well corner her in an alley and beat her with a tire tool in the near future.

On conference day last week Sam came in from school and said, "I have something to tell you.....no wait. I'll just let Mrs. K." I said, "Oh no you don't, mister. You just spill it." Then he tearfully proceeded to tell me he had failed a Social Studies test that morning thereby dropping his overall grade to 67 (a D) and thereby landing his butt on academic probation and thereby getting temporarily kicked off Student Council until the grade comes up. He failed the test because he thought studying for it was lame.


Right now Sam is just disorganized and well, honestly puberty is kicking his butt. He is dealing with emotions and weird feelings and body odor and basketball and bullies and school is just pretty low on the priority list in the midst of all the other stuff. His teacher said I should be super thankful he's not girl crazy on top of it all. Thank God for small favors. She also said his whole entire class has checked out for the time being and they are all goofy as run-over dogs, so not to worry too awful much about it. Just encourage him and all that. Try not to beat him. Get him to focus and stay organized. Riiiiight. Ever tried putting cooked spaghetti through the holes in a screen door? IT'S SIMPLER.

So last night he brought home a study guide for a test today. We went over and over and over it and really, if he doesn't ace that thing I'll be surprised. Oh and you can quiz me on the port cities of the eastern colonies and I will SO KNOW THEM. At one point while we were grilling him he decided that the commercial on TV was way more engaging (TV OFF at that point) and I have a cold and am testy as it is and hooooeeee I just kind of uhm.....lost it.

I was sitting here on the couch lecturing the heck out of my only son, the son who will someday (hopefully) carry on the Hoover name, the son who will give me my only daughter-in-law, the son who in Pre-K said I was his best fwend....and he was getting closer and closer to tears..... and I thought I was getting through to him. And then his father decided to get in on all the parental lecturing fun. That is never, ever good.

Have I mentioned once or twice that my husband is a redneck?

Once, while lecturing Abby the man said, "And listen here, missy. Let me just tell you how the cat ate the cabbage." The correct colloquialism is "how the cow ate the cabbage" because....uhm....cats don't eat cabbage as a general rule. And cows do. And while Abby didn't catch it I, however, busted up laughing and the severity of the lecture was lost.

Last night was no different.

I told Sam I had noticed that after he uses the website the teacher set up for spelling practice he has consistently made a much higher grade on his weekly spelling tests, rather than the weeks he plays around at addictinggames.com when he just thinks I don't notice what he's doing and he bombs the tests pitifully. I said, "Now son....the proof is in the pudding.....studying gets you higher grades, plain and simple." And my darling husband, so willing to support me in my train of thought said, "Yeah, son, like your mother said, the poop is in the pudding."

He knew as soon as he said it it wasn't right and he ever-so-slightly leaned over to me and quietly asked, "Uh....why is there poop in the pudding? And why do we care? I don't get it."


Robin said...

You might want to have his ears checked...they may not be workin' correctly! What Roy doesn't hear he just makes up what he thinks he heard and we have some really funny sayin's!! Just as good as poopy puddin'!

Melessa Gregg said...

That's awesome! And I wish Dave had Paul's attitude. He is also a redneck, but his thoughts are more along the lines of "I didn't go to college and I turned out just fine. Don't push 'em." And while I don't want to push them too hard...none of my kids are exactly overachievers (except for Caroline) without some encouragement from me. Anyway, be grateful for Mr. Diva-and I know you are. :)

Megan said...

Have I mentioned that I can NOT wait until my little Q-Tip starts grade school? Cause I can't WAIT until my little Q-Tip starts grade school!

Did that sound convincing? Cause that's what I was shooting for!

kellisor said...

This cracked me up. Thanks for sharing it.

Kim J. said...

and THAT my friend, is why i love me some Hoovers!lol that made me spit sonic sweet tea almost as far as the 4th of july video when sam blew up the pudding cups!

Kellyology said...

I just love it when the husbands jump in after only 1/2 listening. LOVE it. LOL

I have the opposite problem with school and pressuring the kids. Mine have a father who got a 4.0 in graduate school, only missed one day in class his entire collegiate career, and expects a LOT from his children. He tracks (more like audits) their grades every week on-line and Friday is pep-talk day. Yeah. No pressure there. My kids are going to have breakdowns by 13. Good thing they have an underachieving mother who sits next to their father rolling her eyes at every word he says and can explain to the wackadoo what it's like to be, oh, I don't know...NORMAL.

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