Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Getting to the Root of Things

Last week I received letters from each of my children's teachers. And each one resulted in tears. My tears, not my children's tears.

Neither letter contains anything that signifies the end of the world. Neither is beyond remedying. So why the tears? Worse than the tears--why the ache in my heart and stomach?

I'm not one of those "helicopter mothers." While of course I take pride in my children's accomplishments (geez, they are 8 & 5, accomplishments sounds a bit much, no?), I don't live through them. So what on earth is my deal?

I thought about it all weekend. I think that I'm particularly sensitive to any hint of rebuke from teachers because of an incident that happened when I was in first grade. I was shy (and anxious!) and did not want to read aloud to the class when called upon. I can still see the illustration accompanying the text about a mail man in my mind's eye. The teacher called me to her desk, and asked me to bring my reader. She took the reader from me, as punishment, and I recall going back to my desk crying. I didn't go home and tell my parents; they eventually heard it from the teacher herself at parent-teacher night. My mother, also a teacher, was furious that I'd had a book taken from me.

After letting the tears out, and having lots of time on Yom Kippur to ponder this, I re-read the email from my daughter's teacher. I can see that I read the note as an indictment of my parenting. Add that to my sensitive nature, and this apparently unresolved first grade incident, a 24 hour fast, and boom. It ain't pretty. I hope that I can excise the hurt that I am still carrying around, and figure out how to hear from my children's teachers without reverting to that crying first grader.


Suna said...

Wow, hard to believe we were there on opposite ends of the country going through similar angst. I have now had emails from three of my younger son's teachers, each telling me he doesn't complete his work. I cried and cried--he has some sort of "issue" that makes assignment remembering harder on him than others (it even showed up on his IQ tests), and can easily shut down when a classroom gets overwhelming for him (spent a year in a special classroom after he completely STOPPED in 4th grade).

I keep wanting to "fix" him. Blaming myself. Blaming the fact that I have to work outside the home now that I am a single parent. Blaming myself for not making HIM take responsibility. In other words, wildly swinging in mood and attitude.

Yep, lots stems from my childhood, where I was so sensitive to criticism that I tried to never make a mistake. No pressure there. Of course, my kids have better self esteem, even the younger one, so they don't beat themselves up. And I wonder "how can they accept not making all As, doing all their homework and being the prize pupil?" Then I realize they'll probably end up less neurotic!

What am I saying...I guess that you aren't alone in trying to get to the root of your attitude, so you can work through it. We are both good parents, and our children are not our clones. I am trying hard to keep that in mind!

Donald Douglas said...

That's sounds like a difficult situation. I do think we all have our own stories like yours.

I'm sure your teachers mean well, and by all means don't give up "helicoptering" - schools need more of that, not less.

Burkean Reflections