Wednesday, February 17, 2010


2 : something that sustains or fuels

It's been a rough day of mothering and I'm not quite done yet. The day started fine. The alarm went off. I hit snooze (as I am known to do). I curled up behind J. Rubbed his back. Rubbed his head. Snuggled with him as we woke. It was a gentle start to a day that would not stay gentle for long.

Fast forward a few minutes to me, downstairs in the kitchen, making lunches for school. As I grab something from the refrigerator, I see A, sitting at the counter, huddled over a paper, pencil in hand. "What are you doing?" I ask, suspicion gnawing at my heart, my mind. "Umm, this math packet was due yesterday. I forgot," she says quickly, apologetically. "Again?!!" I say, voice raised, red, angry.

Before you judge me too quickly (but still, go ahead and judge me, I deserve it), this is the fifth project this year she has forgotten, left until the last minute or turned in after its due date. So I was justified in my frustration that we were right back at this place. I was not justified in expressing my frustration - it did nothing to appease the situation, or to make either one of us feel better.

After uttering "Again?!!" in frustration, I know that I can not talk to A about this rationally. I turn, leave the kitchen to find J. His reaction is even more vehement than my own and he quickly hands down her punishment: no reading. She may not read at home, during free time at school, anywhere. Not until we tell her we have removed the no-reading penalty.

I don't know your children. Maybe this would feel like no punishment at all. Ahhh, but not to this child of my heart. J knows as well as I that the way to her heart is through a book. It's not exactly like taking away bread or water - you truly must have these to live. And while I'd prefer not to contemplate it, even the Truss family can live without books. But it would be a lesser kind of living, wouldn't it? It would be like moving to a high altitude area. There's oxygen, but not as much of it. So for the next few days, A is going to the proverbial mountains. No books, living on thin air.

All of this is before 8 AM. I then (unwisely) pack my day full of time studying the Bible with other women, lunch with my husband, physical therapy and then back to pick the girls up from school. You may have already deduced that this is too much to do in one day when I've been stuck at home for weeks and have only recently been able to get out of the house at all. So my energy is at a low ebb when I pull into the drive with the girls.

I ask A to sit down at the dining room table to get started on her homework. She opens her backpack and says.... "I left my math packet at school." What would you say at this point? I'm not even sure exactly what I said. I know I asked her if she did it on purpose. I asked her if she thought leaving it at school would mean she didn't have to do it. Then I asked her what she thought we should do. She had no suggestion, so I left the room to call J for advice. No answer.

Meanwhile, B brings me a note from her teacher. Third grade, for those of you who don't recall, is all about multiplication. Facts must be learned, memorized, memorized and memorized. We all do it. B made it through the first batch (0 to 5) with no problems, but she has struggled with 6s, 7s, and 8s. In fact, she's taken the timed test three times and not passed. Her solution? Today she wrote the math facts on her desk. . . so that she could look at them when taking her test, of course.

When I asked her what this is, she told me it wasn't cheating because that means copying someone else's work. I explained to this child, who is far too smart for her own good, that the point of the test is that you do the work right then, not that you have done the work at some point in the past. I then told her that her consequence would be writing a note to her teacher to apologize and taking the multiplication test I was about to create for her.

This reasonable (in my mind) consequence resulted in sobbing, near hysteria from my lovely eight year old. To my credit (or the Holy Spirit's?) I kept my tone of voice level, my mouth - and mind - calm as we talked about this. I told her she could cry for a while longer, but that if she continued to act this way, she would get another consequence.

Then I walked out of the room, feeling completely unequal to my current parenting tasks, and called J again. No answer. This time I left a message. He called back and our talk left me feeling a bit better, if still overwhelmed.

So the day wears on. I'm not sure who is the most tired - the mom, who has been doling out punishments, making the peace, teaching the math - or the girls, who are making poor choices at every turn. We could each use an oxygen tank - a big, fat book to take us elsewhere, make us forget about our cares. Sadly, that's a consequence we're all facing right now - no time or permission to read when there are behavior corrections to be made.

But I'll give you one guess as to what I'll be doing as soon as I put three lovely, sinful, challenging, beautiful girls to bed (early). . .


The Mom said...

Here's praying that the day is ending better than it seemed to be earlier. I am sure that you can hardly wait to that good book. You will SURVIVE these parenting challenges, of that I am sure. Aren't you glad not to be eight or nine or ten again? I certainly am!

Variations On A Theme said...

Ah, yes.... We have also failed that multiplication thing three times. B and Olivia are smart girlies. They hate to memorize. Normally, things come so easily, they can figure it out quickly. Of course, I keep forgetting to help her memorize, but....that should be her responsibility, yes?