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Back in my teaching days I had students who put in time and effort, and almost blood, sweat, and tears toward getting out of assignments. This baffled me. While I had to appreciate their drive and determination, I couldn’t figure out why they couldn’t just save themselves some stress by simply doing the assignment. I’m happy to report the tradition of procrastination is still alive.

We all do it. It’s not just the kids. My grandma calls it cleaning the closets. She usually does this when she has a major church assignment like teaching a lesson or giving a talk (sermon) in front of the congregation. She knows the assignment is important but suddenly she realizes how disorganized her closets are. I think there is some value in cleaning out the closets. It’s a distraction that allows the mind to work on the assignment. Even if you don’t think that’s what your mind is doing, it is. That’s why we get brilliant ideas in the shower. Our minds have been working on a solution subconsciously until voila! A brilliant idea is born.

Cleaning the closets is not what my children do though. They get an assignment with a due date weeks into the future. They understand this particular assignment will represent a huge percentage of their final grade. The teachers send home plenty of notifications that the kids are working on the assignment in class but if they are behind they should catch up at home. I ask daily how the assignment is coming along. The response is always the same: Everything is great, Mom! Can I go play?

Two days before the assignment is due I’m finally shown the final product to proofread. For a fact based brochure it reads more like a Dave Barry column. What few facts there are seem to have come directly from TV ads. Oh boy. Now I know I have BS’d my way through many an assignment. I want to believe I did a better job than that.

It’s a struggle. But every time the laptop is shoved in my face as if I will let my fingers type out something that magically resembles truth, I get upset. I’m not doing the work. Not my job. It’s not my fault that my child has wasted away all the prep time. This child was told to gather actual facts at school today while the class had time to work on the project. And this child didn’t do it. I don’t know what he/she/it was doing while everyone feverishly worked on the assignment. All I know is it isn’t my problem.

I have a friend who unfortunately only had one child. She certainly wanted more. With only one child to take care of, she can’t help but micromanage. Every time I visit with her she asks me how to deal with different situations. It all boils down to the same answer.

Take a step back and allow him to do things on his own.
If he fails, he fails. At least he’s failing now when the stakes are low.
Let him learn.
Trust that you have taught him what to do and let him choose.

I want to fix this problem my child has created. At the same time, it’s a wonderful learning opportunity. What will children learn if parents hover close enough to fix every mistake? I didn’t waste time. My kid did. The assignment is due, it’s time to pay the piper. If they fail, they fail. That’s life. Maybe next time assignments will be taken a little more seriously. Maybe next time all the little steps will be done on time so the big assignment will be easier to finish. For now we are dealing with two months of work in one night. *sigh* It’s a painful dose of reality but it may be the only way to learn. Some people have to touch the stove to know it’s hot.

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