Sunday, February 15, 2009

Define "Homework"

I obviously neglected to read the entire parenting syllabus before my kids became teenagers. In fact, the older they became, the more lax I was in reading up on all their developmental milestones. I didn't start out that way.

I read "What to Expect When You're Expecting" and "Your Pregnancy Week by Week" from cover to cover for both of my pregnancies. Given that my daughter was 7 months old when I became pregnant with her brother, this was quite a rapid re-read for me. (I rarely read anything twice -- except for recipes).

I consumed parenting books like they were bloomin' onions and beer (favorites of mine) for their first six or seven years. How does each child track with their developmental milestones? I wasn't so concerned with them keeping pace with the Jones', but I was vigilant to ensure that hubby and I do nothing to impede their progress.

Nothing -- even teenager stories from friends whose kids are further along the development continuum -- prepared me for going through middle school again.

The Teenage Brain has moved into our home. Here's a recent example:
Home from school at 5:00 p.m.
Son: "Hey mom -- can I go play tennis with (insert friend's name here)?
Mom: "What homework do you have?"
Son: "None."
Mom: "Are you sure? Nothing due tomorrow?"
Son: "Nope."
Mom: "Okay. You can go, but you have to be home by 7:30 pm."
Son: "Thanks, mom! You're the best!"

Fast forward to 9:00 p.m.

Mom: "Hey son, go upstairs and take a shower before you go to bed."
Son: "I can't go to bed now. I have to study for my social studies test."
Mom: "When is the social studies test?"
Son: "Tomorrow." (said with an earnest tone)
Mom: "TOMORROW? Are you kidding me? You told me you didn't have any homework tonight!"
Son: "I don't have HOMEWORK tonight. I just have to study." (again, completely earnest; no sly tone)
Mom: "What part of "study" isn't homework, son?"
Son: "Homework is an assignment that is due. Studying is just reading the book and notes."
Mom: "What about WordMasters and compilation units?"
Son: "Those are homework."

Mom: "So how much time do you think you will need to study tonight in order to get an A on the test tomorrow?"
Son: "I don't need to get an A on the test. All I need is an 88 and I'll still keep my A average."

Mom inhales deeply and exhales slowly. Why is hubby out of town right now?

Mom: "Son, we have two problems here. First, studying IS homework. I feel you misled me this afternoon so you could play tennis. Second, it doesn't matter what your average will be, you are expected to get an A on your social studies test. You are smart and capable. You have 50 minutes to study, get a shower, brush your teeth and get in bed."

Son: "But mom..."

Mom: "No 'A', no tennis. You are good at math -- you can figure out how to accomplish all this in the next 50 minutes."

No one told me that investigative interview techniques would be required to get full information from my kid.

Another lesson learned... good thing he's adorable!

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