Mack, my 8 year old, was doing his homework today. We had come up with an outstanding solution to our daily math flashcards fight by having Mack choose another way to do math facts. The three minute chore would turn into 20 minutes, and I thought I might lose my fucking mind. And yes, I had tried everything both positive and otherwise. So I thought I had won one for parents everywhere. I was ready to go on my road show, telling people that a great way to eliminate fights with children who have trouble sitting still, was simply to ask them to find a better solution. It was simple. I was awesome.
So I walked in while my son was doing his division facts on the computer, and he was racing a couple other kids somewhere in the cyber universe. My son had scored 20 points out of a 500 point possibility. In other words, if he had answered 20 questions in a minute, he might have scored 500 points. Instead, he had scored 20. Conclusion: he might have gotten one answer right… And I was confused.
“You got what? A 20?” I say with mild surprise.
“Mom, why are you watching me? I don’t like that!”
“Is that because you are napping during the race?”
“Moooommmm, no….”, he says with half a smile.
“Did you forget how to do division, son?”
“Mommmmm, I did my best!”
“Did they change the answers to division?”
“Mom, seriously. Just let me do my thing.”
And knowing that he was trying to get on with his less than mediocre appearance at the race, I just waded through the waters, not really knowing where I was headed.
“Well, honey, I am just going to sit here and watch while you take this next race. I really want to be sure this is benefitting you.” I smirk to myself.
“Fine, but I’m doing my best!”
And I watched my son act as if he was taking his test in another language, without subtitles. He was answering some as addition, some as subtraction, some as multiplication, and one as division. They were ALL division. I decided to do a quick experiment.
I waited for the next test to start and as he was about to move like mo-freaking-lasses (word hint: molasses, slow like molasses). I started yelling, “You know that! Answer it! Quick! Next one! Go! No, not addition, son. It’s division. Go, go go!”
My son looked at me to retort. And I yelled, “Argue with me later, young man! Right now, race!” I said. “Go!”
And when my son finished the one minute test that felt like much longer, he looked at me wild with frustration. “I don’t know why you have to watch me! Why can’t you just let me do my thiiiinnnngggg!”
“What’d ya score?” I asked, and pretended not to know how annoying I was.
He looked down and saw a 350 score in front of him. I looked at him with my “told ya so” look, even though I shouldn’t have. And he crushed a smile in its wake, right from his lips, but not before I was forewarned that it had been called to action. He was proud.
I looked at him with a huge, ridiculous grin. “THAT, my son, is what I am talking about. THAT is what you are capable of, and THAT is why I am watching you. You sold yourself short, and THAT is the kind of work I expect from you. No more 20’s! You hear me?! “
He kept crushing the smile and finally let it go. “OK, mom. But I still don’t want you looking over my shoulder.”
And without losing the last word, I responded, “Then you better not let me see you ‘not trying’. Life is too short not to kick some ass, baby.”
“Mom, what does ‘kick some ass’ mean?”
“It means to be good to others and always do the right thing. Now get back to work. I love you.”
And that’s the parable of the kid who is lazy sometimes. I don’t think the lesson is to stand over your kids and yell, but it might be that some people have to be pushed harder than others. It might be that being the nicest mom on the block isn’t always the best. It might be that one day my son will thank me at his graduation speech for making him try harder, but probably he will just say I was the most annoying mom ever. But there it is. Enjoy with a cocktail and let me know if you get it. Go, go go! I’m watching you!