It was too quiet. Usually her pencil flew across the page, eager to write with me. Today, however, was different. She sat morosely, sniffing, pencil frozen. I tried my hand at light-heartedness -silence; I showed her my poem in progress – silence; I nudged her with an idea – silence. 15 minutes later, the situation hadn’t improved. Time to text mom: “Please come now.” We waited under a heavy blanket of awkwardness. All smiles, mom came in and daughter burst into tears. She didn’t want to do poetry and listed the reasons why it was too much to surmount. Wise and patient, I was privileged to watch this mom calm her daughter, listen to her, empathize with her and then to tell her that she WAS going to do it. I was surprised, but pleasantly so. Willing to forgo a lesson that was pushing too many buttons, I set it aside as this mom insisted that her daughter push through her fears and uncomfortable perceptions and work harder. I was impressed.
So often, I see how we parents are too quick to give our kids a pass on something that the child deems too hard. In actuality, it is my firm belief that our kids are much stronger and more resilient than we give them credit for. This mom knew that. Happily, she’s not the only one. A few years ago, Terri knew that her son needed one-on-one instruction. She was right. Schooled that way, he blossomed and covered two year’s content in one year (and the next and the next). Pam knew that her son needed a boost, someone to encourage him and hold him accountable. Laura knew that after a year of single instruction, her son needed a peer group. Bethany knew that though her son felt he couldn’t work at a certain level, she put him where he’d be challenged and now he’s so proud of the work he is capable of doing.
These moms knew best! What I value about them is that they know their children. They know when to push and when to back off; when to wait and when to nudge. Allowing your child to make some of their educational decisions is considerate; but making the tough ones for them based on what is seen in them is wise.
My own son is a little smarty-pants and a fantastic reader (I burst with pride) but he won’t sign up for a challenge. So, I created one for him. It was as simple as handing him a fat book with a “Here. Read this. I give you a month.” His eyes gaped at Roots – the most obese book on our shelves. Other adults, feeling sorry for this kid’s poor predicament, lamented that even they, great readers that they are, hadn’t read that book. I toyed with the idea of letting him off the hook, especially since it was paired with his lack of verve. But I remembered these moms I admire and kept the expectation that he would finish it. Wouldn’t you know it? He did. And now I hear him referencing it proudly. And as for my student who cried over writing poetry? She dug deep and found that not only could she do it, but she did it so well that her peers admired her for her skill.
My kids aren’t old enough quite yet to realize how their mom has them figured out. True, they surprise me sometimes, but I want to be the first one to say “You can do this.” Sometimes we need to give them the mercy of bowing out of something, but more often then not, when all that seemed too hard is said and done, when they’ve listened to their moms, they’ll see that mom was right.