My beloved eldest 11 year old son has just informed me that he has a science project due in a couple of days. About nine days ago, at the beginning of Spring Break, I asked my two young boys what assignments they had over the break. They said they had their usual independent reading, computer work, and that they needed to practice their instruments for band. Just to make extra sure I asked, “Is that all, no one has projects or anything that needs to be worked on?”
A definite, “Nope,” was their reply. I even asked them to check their school planners to make extra sure, warning them to keep the “Crazy Lady” from emerging from the dark depths of my insides.
Now, we have two days left until school starts up again. Today, after picking up my son from his late morning private drum lesson, he announces, “Uh, Mom, I forgot that I have a science project.” (Oh man, I can feel “her” emerging.) “I have to make a car that runs out of recycled items we have around the house.”
“WHAAAAAAAAAAT?!” The Crazy Lady has been unleashed! I became possessed by the Crazy Lady. My head probably did that Exorcist thing where it turns completely around before vomiting. Out it came, “OHMYGAAAWWWD!DIDINOTASKYOUATTHEBEGINNINGOFBREAKIF YOU! HAD! HOMEWORK?!”
“Uh, yeah, but I forgot.”
“AGAAAIIIIIN?!” I know that getting like this doesn’t help my son, but, it feels like it helps me. The thing is, I am well aware of where this gene comes from. I was the master of procrastination. Even in high school, I fell asleep on the bathroom floor painting my design on my kimono project for Asian Arts my senior year. I had weeks to work on it, but ended up working on it all day and night the day before it was due. It comes from my dad, he’s a CPA, and the nature of his job is to meet deadlines. He has proven, for the longest time, that his motivation kicks in on April 14th until the very last second on April 15th. I don’t know why I thought this procrastination gene wouldn’t pass down to my children. I still have the hope that they will be great planners and learn the importance of rewarding their future selves! Oh, and the impatience gene comes from my mother’s side. Even I, at 43, still struggle with this, but, I am determined that my children will be different!
My son, explains to me – as if he is the parent, “Mom, when you freak out, nag, or yell at me, it doesn’t motivate me. In fact, it has the opposite effect. It makes me feel bad and makes me NOT want to do it EVEN MORE.” I become emotionally confused. He’s trying to manipulate me, right? The Crazy Lady doesn’t know what to do! So many times, when my parents yelled at me, I wanted to say the very same thing! Whether he was trying to manipulate me or not, he knew how to make the Crazy Lady retreat. Out came the Good Listener.
“So Gavin, if yelling doesn’t help, what should I do instead?” asked the (suspicious) Good Listener.
“You should be patient and encourage me. That will help me want to do my project.” While the Good Listener is buying this, the Crazy Lady is on the side rolling her eyes.
“Okay, fair enough. However, you need to acknowledge the fact that you could have prepared better.” We agreed that we both had things to work on.
Despite still being suspicious, he was right. Encouragement helps us all do better. Impatience and criticism makes us feel less worthy and incapable. It’s not just the parents who guide the kids. In this case I was taught patience and compassion.
So the next time we have Spring, Fall, or Winter Break amnesia, I hope we will have the wisdom to be compassionate good listeners, and remember to DO OUR HOMEWORK!!