A huge part of me is looking forward to the end of the school year. Of course, there is a tiny part that frets over how I am going to keep my kids occupied during the summer break. And I know that tiny part will grow into a major part once school is actually out. But for right now, I look forward to the end of the year. When the majority of my children were still too young for school, I longed for the day that they would all be working towards becoming educated individuals. Don’t get me wrong, I still love the fact that they are all working on their educations. But I don’t necessarily love the extra work that it means for me. I know that makes me sound like a lazy, good for nothing mom. And those of you who might be ready to cast judgment, just you wait until you are in the same boat.
You see, school isn’t the same as what I remember when I was growing up. I had to do my homework, study for tests, and turn in the occasional book report or project. That was it. All stuff that I was capable of doing without any parental assistance or supervision. Quite a few years later, education has done a 180 degree turn. Gone are the carefree days. Long gone. Say hello to tests that require so much preparation, the school sends out memos months in advance. School funding depends on the results of these tests, so no one can afford to screw up. In turn, the curriculum revolves around these tests. Talk about pressure on the students, teachers, and parents.
The tests are only part of it. I could write a book about homework. Remember when you had to learn multiplication tables? The most important thing you needed to know was that three times three equaled nine. There was no requirement to explain how you reached that conclusion, or how you could break those numbers down into simpler components. No fancy schmancy names for the ridiculous steps in the process, just uncomplicated memorization. Now, I have actually had to resort to internet research in order to help kids with their homework. I used to think I was pretty smart, but I have really been second-guessing myself lately.
Projects are another thing. Thing One and Thing Two each had to turn in science fair projects this week. The instructions were surprisingly easy to follow. I didn’t even need to have a dictionary on hand to understand them. The most important instruction of all was for the parents to allow the student to complete the project themselves. I took that instruction pretty seriously. Each kid chose a topic they wanted to present and got to work. And they did a pretty good job, if I do say so myself. I had a major proud mommy moment.
This morning, those feelings of pride were reversed. I felt like the biggest failure in the history of parenthood. As I pulled up to the school, Thing One and Thing Two hopped out of the van proudly clutching their first major projects ever. Until they saw everyone else’s. Seriously, some of these kids’ projects looked like they were put together by a team of mechanical engineers. How were we supposed to compete with that? So I hung my head in shame as I pulled away from the curb, mentally kicking myself for not jumping in and helping the way my mommy instincts had encouraged me to.
I was having a pity part at my desk when a colleague asked how the projects turned out. I explained why I sucked so badly at being a mom, and she basically told me that doing the project for them wouldn’t have taught them anything. By completing it on their own, they learned a little bit about taking control of their education and will be more productive members of society as a result. Can I tell you how much I appreciated her in that moment? My mood turned positive and stayed that way for the rest of the day. I don’t have all the answers when it comes to being a mom, but no one else does either. I do the best I can with the resources I have, and I think that means that I might actually be on the right track. I love my children with all my heart, and I hope that I am everything they need me to be in order to grow up and be great.