Tuesday, June 9, 2009

My Baby Guy

God! Zack! His report card! I'm banging my head against the wall. It keeps me from banging his head against the wall.

Did I mention?? Report cards came home today. I always shoot parents an e-mail home to give them a heads' up, because kids don't always hand-deliver those beauties right to their waiting parents. Working in the school naturally gives me an advantage as a parent. And I like to "pass the savings on" to my parent constituency. I also help them follow up if their kids happen to "conveniently" lose their report cards between school and home. Happens a lot, go figure. They're slippery, those report cards, you know?

Zack has started his middle school career in much the same way Everett did. With occasional bursts of encouraging success, a lot of enthusiasm for things not directly related to academics, and a host of teachers chanting "Lovely kid, but needs to chat less and pay attention more." Doesn't work to potential. Stock comment #4 on the computer-generated report cards.

I constantly re-evaluate my attitude toward my kids' education.

I'm not the parent of my parents' or grandparents' generation, who pounded into their kids' heads: "I had to walk three miles to school every day, and was thankful for the opportunity!"

I'm not the parent who pores over her kids' homework agenda every night. "Whadya have tonight? This, that, and the other?? OK, fine, get to work." That's what I do. Later: "Did you finish this, that, and the other? Yeah? Really? You're not lying to me now, are you? I'll find out if you are, you know!" But middle school boys aren't all that good at worrying about the future, be it three years or three days from now. And I'm not the parent who closely reviews the completed homework, nor am I the parent who re-does my child's homework. And believe me, they're out there, those parents. The parents who do their kids' homework for them. Anything for the grade. Maybe that's one of the reasons I'm such a reactionary.

Or maybe it's because I'm lazy. Kids do need help and do need guidance. But in all honesty, homework is the last thing I want to look at when I get home from a long day at work. Not because I work in a school. But because I work period, and I am tired. I'll never turn Zack away with his questions, and I will hound him to make sure he's in there doing it, but I'm not going in there and sit by his side and look over his shoulder. Some kids do need that. Absolutely. But what Zack needs is to come down to earth and pay attention to his responsibilities. And suffer the consequences if he doesn't. The school consequences. Failing a class. Reprimands from teachers. Not getting into the Honor Society. It's only middle school. He's got room to learn responsibility here, before he gets to high school where everything really counts. I just believe it will stick better if he comes to it on his own.

If. Everett didn't really get her act together until she was in the 10th grade, and she began to realize there was a golden future in front of her that she would not get to take part in unless she started paying attention, working hard, and striving for it. I'm hoping the same thing will happen with Zack.

True, they're different kids. He's a boy, she's a girl. He's the younger child in the family, she's the older. And they differ for other reasons too; they differ just because they do. Everett is very intense, Zack is easier-going. I've always characterized him as "the one who you will find in later life with the lampshade on his head." Which is amusing when you are humorously and semi-seriously speculating about a four-year-old. But maybe not as amusing when you fast-forward years later and push comes to shove. But we'll see. There's time yet to go, and I am determined to let him learn by his mistakes, and find his way.

I've said before that I idolize Everett. And I do. And I relate to her as a girl, in a way I will never be able to relate to Zack. It's different.

Though Zack captures in his personality more of my insecurities, more of my little compulsions, my little worries. He's not as strong-willed or focused as some. But he's very compassionate. He's deferential. He's devastated if he thinks he's hurt someone's feelings. He doesn't want to disappoint, which is a nice quality, as long as he can learn to direct it toward himself, as well as others. He needs to learn to make himself proud, too.

He's soft. He'd die if he knew I said that. But he is. He has a wonderful, sweet, inviting quality that draws others to him. He's charming, and has a disarming sense of humor.

But he's tough. And tenacious. He's not afraid. Watch him wrestle. He will always get out from underneath the stronger kids. As long as he has his coach there shouting instructions, he can always do it.

Eventually, he'll learn to do it by himself.

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