Being a teacher is hard. Being a mom is hard. I don’t think there is anyone who would debate these two statements (especially in light of what’s going on right now with kids and parents being thrust into the homeschool/virtual learning world). Even for me, this has taken a considerable amount of adjusting, patience, grace, deep breathing, and a few bottles of wine. I mean, you would think this would be pretty easy for me. I’ve been a teacher for 19 years and a mom for 17, but even for me, I’ve had to give myself a bit of a learning curve to finally feel somewhat comfortable with our new routine.
However, some things have become even more obvious during this time, things that I’ve seen from my own children, my students, and their parents. Although there is no manual and no one-size-fits-all for how to parent, there are some things that I’ve learned over the years and have had to take into consideration during these last few weeks that I thought would be helpful to share with others.
So here we go. Here are 5 lessons that I’ve learned (or that have become painfully obvious) during the past couple of months.
#1 –Have your kid’s back, but don’t be naive. As much as we all want to believe that those little people who came from us are sweet, innocent angels who could never do any wrong, we need to be realistic. Think back on your own childhood. How much mischief did you get in to? What sneaky things did you try to get away with? I’m sure you’re smiling as you think back. I know my siblings and I are still confessing to our parents things we did when we were kids, things that would have gotten us in some trouble. Our kids are no different. When Mom and Dad are away, the kids will play. So while it is natural to want to take up for your kids when you think they’ve been wronged, sometimes your kids have done wrong.
“He said he didn’t know he had to turn in the assignment.” “She said she’s never been late for your class.” I can’t tell you how many parent-teacher conferences have started with upset parents, ready to go to bat for their kids, only to end with up hurt and confused parents who have just learned that it was all a lie once the truth was actually revealed, parents who took their kids word first and never considered an alternative. I’m not saying to never believe your kids, but just like you question the cable person on the phone about whether or not what they’re offering is really the “best” price, dig into your kid’s stories and remember all of the ridiculous excuses you used to use to get yourself out of trouble. And then question your kid again.
#2 – Practice with-it-ness. If you’re a teacher, you know what I’m referring to here. In the classroom, teachers get evaluated on how “with-it” they are meaning are you the teacher at the board in the front of the classroom with your back to class as they throw paper balls at you and sneak out of their seats or are you the teacher who is able to intercept a note being passed, correct the student who just mispronounced a word while reading out loud, and give the death stare to the student who was about to shove that cookie in his mouth all without missing a beat. Sounds crazy, but when you have 30 students in a class at one time, being focused on only thing at a time can lead to total chaos, so teachers are expected to have that “with-it-ness” about them to know what is going on around them at all times.
The same is true for parents. You can’t be so focused on one thing that you don’t take time to notice another. Yes, as parents, we have a lot on our plates: work, kids, bills, health, etc. Having to work late or having a lot of stress shouldn’t negate your duties as a parent. As parents, we still have to stay alert and be aware of what our kids are doing. Nobody is perfect, but there are some things that we need to stay on top of, for our kids’ safety, well-being, and their futures. Who are they spending time with? How much time do they spend on the phone? Do they really NEVER have any homework? Has their mood changed lately? What time are they really going to bed at night? I’m not saying that you will always know everything your kids are doing, but I am saying do your best to be all up in their business as much as they won’t like it.
#3 – Come into the 21st century or your kids will get a way with murder (of course, not literally). Oh, my dear parents, your kids are so much smarter with this technology thing than you give them credit for. And if you don’t learn what they know, you will be left in the dark especially if they have their own smart phone, tablet, and/or computer. You’d be surprised at just how much there is out there for your child to get into and to see. This goes right along with #1 and #2 on this list. You’ve got to be alert and know what’s going on. There are specific apps your kids can download in order to be able to search the internet undetected. There are seemingly innocent apps that seem like harmless fun that gives them access to other videos and people you may not want them interacting with. Do some research of your own; there are many articles out there that describe all of these different apps and sites. (This is one of my favorites websites: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/)
With that being said, you need to be comfortable with the technology yourself. I’m surprised by the number of parents in our county who still don’t know how to access their student’s grades online. And now that we are all a part of this virtual learning world, how many have no clue how to monitor their child’s work when their kid is at home with them. Just like you were thrown into this this homeschool teacher role, teachers were thrown into the online teaching world and had to basically teach ourselves how to use all of these online tools.
Helping my 3rd grader navigate through his work while asking my 11th grader how to get from here to there online, has helped me considerably. Have your child show you how to log in and then learn to navigate it yourself. Click around on the site, look at the classes, the assignments, calendars, and the gradebook. Your not “knowing” how to do it shouldn’t be a reason your child gets away with not completing the work. Just like you’d research the best medicines and doctors for your child if he/she was extremely sick, learn how to navigate their online world. You’ll be surprised how on top of things your child will be when he/she knows that you are on top of it as well.
#4 – Prepare them for when you can no long carry the weight. I just used this analogy with my 17-year-old the other day. I told him to think of adulthood as a heavy weight that he must learn to carry. When you’re born, your parents hold all of the weight for you, but as you get older, you begin to share some of the weight. The older you get, the more weight you start to hold and release off your parents. The idea is that when you become an adult, you will be able to carry the full weight on your own. However, what I’ve seen many parents doing is holding all of the weight for their children constantly and then expecting to release them into the adult world and just letting the weight drop on them. Unfortunately, your child will not have developed the muscles needed to carry that weight, and they’re going to be crushed by it. Is this making sense?
I just mean that we have to start giving our kids more responsibilities as they get older, holding them accountable for their actions (i.e. getting the grade they deserve if they didn’t do the work), and allowing them to make mistakes and learn and grow from them. We can’t run around trying to make everything right and easy for them. You’re an adult. You’ve experienced plenty of life. How nice has it been to you? How often does someone come along and lighten the load for you? Help your child develop the muscles needed to navigate the adult world so they’re better equipped to stand strong under the pressure.
#5 – Everybody doesn’t get a trophy. As much as we would want our kids to be good at everything they try, we know that that is just a fantasy. Our kids are not going to be the straight A student, star athlete, musical prodigy, child entrepreneur, who volunteers at the nursing home on weekends and never has to be asked to clean his/her room. Our kids are going to have their strengths and their weaknesses. AND THAT’S OKAY. You’re not in competition with anyone else to have the best “child” and your child should have the opportunity to explore and discover what they love and excel at without the pressure of having to be perfect.
The problem comes when we as parents don’t want to acknowledge that our kids aren’t going to be great at everything. We have to be willing to let our kids struggle, be disappointed, not make the team, not get honor roll, not be the next TikTok star, and accept who they are. And when they find that thing that they are great at, we need to be their biggest cheerleader.
One of my biggest pet peeves at work is parents who tell their kids that they have to get A’s in a certain class, like if they just believe that they’re suddenly good at math or will themselves to be a stronger writer, then they will automatically become it. Or parents that make their kids take higher-level courses because it looks good on paper, but all the while the child’s heart isn’t in it and they find themselves drowning in work that they can’t understand. Encourage your kids to try new things and challenge themselves, but also let them know that they won’t be great at and love everything they try or have to do and either way, you will accept and love them.
Allow me to say “Thank you” if you’ve read this far. LOL. I hope this offered you some insight. I’m not a parenting expert nor do I claim to know it all. Believe me; I am taking my own advice as well because I’ve experienced all of these with my own children. My prayer is that we will unite as that village and truly work together to do what’s best for this generation and the generations to come. I’ll give you a little of what I’ve learned and look forward to learning from you.