Thursday, October 28, 2010

Three for Thursday: Rotting Jack-o-Lanterns, Homework Monitoring & Hockey Schedules

Rotting Jack-o-Lanterns

Once again, I have the scariest doorstep in the neighborhood.

Why? Because The Spouse and I have left the three jack-o-lanterns that the kids carved on Columbus Day weekend on the front steps. Now they’re moldy, collapsing piles of mush. So the question is, do I leave them on the doorstep to "scare" people on Halloween or toss 'em out to prevent the spreading of the mold-infested mush all over my doorstep? (I'm inclined to go with option number two.)

Homework Monitor: Helicopter Parenting or Responsible Parenting?

He knew that he had to finish the hat. The vocabulary word hat to be precise. Each member of my 9-year-old’s class was assigned a vocabulary word and was asked to create a hat which represented the meaning of the word without using other words.

For days I’ve been nagging The Youngest Boy about his hat – had he thought about what he’d like to do, had he pulled together the necessary material, etc. “You don’t want to wait until the last minute,” I told him as he'd tell me it wasn’t due until Friday.

When he presented me with his hat yesterday, I suggested that he needed to use something sturdier than Scotch tape to hold up this big piece of cardboard he wanted to attach to a hat. I offered to help him attach an elastic string to it later, later meaning today.

Then, as we were pulling out of the driveway this morning, with 10 minutes to spare before he was supposed to walk through the school door, The Youngest Boy started shouting that his hat wasn’t due on Friday, it was due TODAY. And because I was the one who suggested that he ditch the tape and replace it with an elastic but hadn’t yet done so, all of this was my fault.

I will admit that I didn’t exactly cover myself in glory when I reacted angrily to all of this. Luckily, The Spouse was still in the house, so I told The Youngest Boy to get out of the car and have his father assist him while I drove the other two kids to school so they wouldn’t be late.

Here’s my question: Where’s the line between being a helicopter parent (who is doing her offspring no favors by doing everything for them, coddling them, instead of making them learn to do things for themselves, always coming to the rescue) and being a responsible parent who’s trying to teach her kids, as they gain the maturity, how to be responsible for themselves?

Every day when the Picket Fence Post kids come home from school, I greet them, hug them then tell them three things: Go have your after-school snack, hand me any school papers you might have, then do your homework. Every day. Yet somehow, these directives aren’t followed by every kid unless I badger them. (I hate having to badger, especially when I’m on deadline and don’t have the spare moment to be the omnipresent Homework Monitor.)

Yesterday I uttered those requests then retreated to my office to do some work and didn’t check back with the kids to see if they’d followed through. As a result, The Youngest Boy waited until 4:30 to have his snack then was too full to eat dinner, left a significant portion of it sitting on his plate. The older kids forgot to give me papers that had to be signed and shoved them in my direction this morning as I was grabbing my purse on my way out the door.

Should I just let them fail, not sign their papers, allow them to miss their deadlines because they weren’t organized – including the 9-year-old – or do I gently remind them and keep on reminding until they remember to do these things on time and on their own? Or is the sweet spot someplace in the middle?

Hockey Schedule Madness

The Youngest Boy has been on his hockey team since August and, for the most part, the experience hasn’t been as horrendous for me as I initially feared it would be. Only once did I have a bad experience with over-the-top, insane hockey parents. (Their kids' team was thoroughly annihilating ours, yet the parents felt compelled to urge their players to kill ours and go after everything and everyone as though the future of humanity was riding on it.) The 6 a.m. games are killer though and I’ve only attended one of the two early morning contests, albeit grumpily.

But the fact that there are no regularly scheduled practice or game times is what's really proving problematic. We get e-mails, sometimes with very little notice, telling us when and where the practices are. And the games and practices are at all different days and times. Game and practice times, once scheduled, are often changed, sometimes at the last minute. All of this makes trying to efficiently run a dual-career household containing three children who are all in sports and two of whom are in bands, insanely difficult. When I receive an e-mail telling me that in two days The Youngest Boy has a practice at 5 o’clock, I may already have committed that time to something (or someone) else and might not be able to get my kid there because we might have lives outside of youth sports. (Yes, I know. That’s heresy. I’ll be burned in effigy before the 6 a.m. game this week.)

We just received an e-mail informing us about a Sunday afternoon game in November. The problem: One of our relatives had planned a birthday party partially around our kids' sports schedule. And the hockey game has now been scheduled for smack dab in the middle of the party. The Youngest Boy was supremely irritated when I informed him he was going to miss that game, but, as I told him, if this is the way the scheduling is going to be done in this league, they can’t realistically expect that people are going to cancel everything and all their work/school/family plans for youth hockey. At least we’re not going to.

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