When We Fail Our Children

Having just returned from our daughter Jane’s parent teacher conference, I’m trying to decide if writing about it is fair or not. This is her school, no? Sadly, although it is her school the conference is my failure. It’s not a small failure either, it’s my downfall as a mother, perhaps as a wife too.

I am completely and utterly disorganized. Not like, “ooh where did I put that” but more like, “Oh I’m so sorry we came to our parent teacher conference a day early.” To cap it all off, it’s not something I’m attempting to fix. I don’t feel broken, I just feel a little disheveled at times.

My daughter? She’s just like me. She’s smart enough to find the perfect tools to bury herself with. I’m standing in the shed, handing her a shovel. My husband, oh I can’t even talk about my husband because I’ve disappointed him so. Although opposites attract,the pendulum might be swinging too far on this issue.

My complete lack of organization has me not noticing Jane’s. Her
homework is a struggle because it doesn’t always come home. The
composition book has gone missing and I didn’t even notice. I can’t
help my daughter make her brain function in a straight line because I’m
hopelessly nonlinear. I spent Graduate School realizing that I’m
content juggling a few balls a time and embracing the zig zagging that
is rampant in my train of thought. I admit and recognize that I could
easily be labeled ADD, the problem is that my short attention span is
my best asset. ADD is not helpful when you have to teach your kids how
to study.

Jane isn’t failing in school. She’s not even getting C’s. Jane is getting some low B’s, and with another child it wouldn’t be alarming. It would be fine. Fine in this house, with this child, is just not good enough. Fine isn’t good enough, because we know from years prior that fine is the beginning of the slippery slope to not fine which quickly cascades into muck. Fine is the beginning of the end because our daughter is just like Mom. Watching our very gifted daughter be a fine student is a strain on our home.

You see fine means that I haven’t provided my daughter with study skills. Fine means that she’s not doing well on spelling tests, which is simple memorization. Fine means that Jane has too much time on the soccer field and not enough time at a desk. Did I mention that the only reason I bothered to show up to school was sports?

My husband is a hard worker, he’s the sort of guy who says to the first grade teacher, “So when it’s time to roll your sleeves up, how does our child do?” I sit quietly in the chair next to him trying not to guffaw. Do we roll up shirt sleeves when we’re seven? Does this remarkable man know that he’s married to the queen of the shortcuts? I gave birth in no small part so that I’d have playmates. When will they play if I have to stand over them and crack the whip for a study hour. I fight the urge to spray them all with a raspberry and scream, “Homework is stupid!”

How disappointed will my husband and children be when they realize that not only do I not work very hard, I’m unapologetic about it? Because fine, well, it’s worked out okay for me.

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  1. I would not call you a bad mother and I can tototally relate to disorganization as I suffered from it my whole life. I was never labeled ADD but I should’ve been. I remember in grade school staring out the window and realizing that the kid next to me was 3 pages ahead of where I was. I finally decided at 39 to try some medication…not because things were exponentially worse or anything, but at the time my daughter was 3 and I felt that as she got older…things might be more difficult for me to remember.

    I’ve obviously compensated as you have. I’m currently a STAHM however my recent prior career was a clinical social worker and I made due…but I was tired of “making due” I guess. I tried a few medications and then Ritalin came along. Holy cannoli! It was like 7th heaven! My whole world suddenly opened up and I realized how difficult life had always been for me. I don’t have the extraneous thoughts anymore plaguing my existence. I can’t say my organizational skills have improved a whole lot because honestly that’s a learned thing though medication does help me improve…I just have a lot of bad habits is all.

    I’m not advocating that everyone who thinks they have trouble concentrating or is feeling disorganized all the time should go on medication. I just know what worked for me. I’m not on Ritalin anymore, now I’m on Concerta and that seems to work nicely as well. Ever since the birth of my son 10 months ago…Ritalin didn’t seem to work as well.

    Though I compensated…I do not want my kids, should they wind up having similar problems, to have to compensate. I know what it was like for me and it wasn’t fun but your experience may not be as negative as mine was. My daughter is a lot like me in personality and I don’t know if she has any attention problems…but she’s not me and may not handle things the same way I did…she might fair worse or better, it’s too early to tell. If I see signs, I will try to teach her how to concentrate by looking at a person’s eyes, sit in the front of the class, etc. But if it appears to be impacting her in a seriously negative way in school, I will provide her extra help and if that winds up being medication, then that’s what it is. I wish I had some as a kid…I would’ve done better in school and wouldn’t have been called flake, etc.

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