Wednesday, April 22, 2015

No rescue for the forgetful, most of the time.

The last few weeks have been a record of sorts. The kids have been losing things left, right and centre. I usually keep a stock of ready water bottles for them to work their way through and there are none left. There's also the more than usual amount of random-leaving stuff in school- coming home with other people's shirts- rubbish happening. Evan has had to pay for a new school shirt because he came home with someone else's without checking that it was his (we label all his stuff for this very reason) and Jordan has had to break open her piggy bank to buy herself a new water bottle having lost two within the span of a fortnight.

This morning, there was a wallet left in the car. I toyed with the idea of bringing it to school and dropping it off at the office for the forgetful child. Then I remembered that there was a circular sent round requesting that we not do that. It inconveniences the office staff and it doesn't teach the child to be responsible. After all, why be responsible if Mom is going to break her neck, rushing down to school just to drop off the *insert forgotten item*?

And so, keeping in mind the the twins had been sent off to school with their water bottles and lunch bags, there wasn't a need to queue at the school, find parking just to walk in to the office and drop off the wallet. They weren't going to starve and die of thirst and even then, there were water coolers around and they had had breakfast. 

There has been a lot of talk about this. Or rather, rescuing the kid to the point that the kid has no clue how to rescue himself or herself. Much like the animal in captivity who is unable to hunt and has to wait to be fed. The helicopter approach to parenting. 

I'm pretty tough on JED but it's all an act. Left to my true neurotic nature, I want to be the mother who rescues them, who rushes to school to make sure that they have whatever they need. I want to check their bags and homework every day and make them correct mistakes in their work before they pack it back in their bags. But I don't allow myself to be. It's a very steep slippery slope and I don't want to raise helpless children. I learnt long ago that the helpless children I see at 18 are helpless because they've spent their lives being rescued. 

The other part of the reason I can be tough is because Packrat is a toughie. He'll say they need to learn. Forgot to tell us that they had a test the next day or to study for it, they can do badly in the test because there was no time to prepare. Forgot to have us sign something, incur the wrath of the teacher. Didn't live up to their end of the bargain, live up to the pre-stated consequences. 

We've recently negotiated contracts with them. On the days that I work, I often spend a lot of time missing them and looking forward to going home and seeing them. That illusion is usually shattered the minute I step into the house met by undone or badly done homework and a house where the floor cannot be seen. So, last week at the end of my tether, I called up Packrat one day in tears and threatened to go on strike. 

So, he stepped in, spoke to them, told them that they were old enough to live up to the consequences of their actions and proceeded to draw up a contract with them. 

In a nutshell, their signing it would mean that they were agreeing to be responsible for their homework and revision. They were also agreeing to put in effort (we've emphasising that it's about putting in effort to do things accurately, neatly and not leave half of it blank rather than scoring good grades). They're also agreeing to facing the consequences if they don't do what they've committed themselves to. 

Tall order. But he thinks they're ready. 

But at the same time, I still cut them slack. I like how this article puts it. I tell them that if there is homework, they do that first. And if they've been at their work for more than an hour, I send them off to play with their word that they'll come back to finish it up and I make sure they do. If they are really tired and it's been a long day, I tell them to finish up the next day and quietly on the side, set them less to do the next day. I compliment them when they've done their parts and they still go out of their way to help each other complete stuff. They've got a log, to keep their Good Effort stickers and it's dated. 5 stickers a week for a passport to weekend TV. They haven't decided how many stickers they have to get to go to Phuket but it'll be significant. And Packrat has already stated uncategorically that he'll cancel their plane ticket and take the rest of us.

I don't know how long it'll last but the bottom line is that they gotta learn how to swim on their own and we can't always be their crutch. We'll step in of course, if it gets too much, but the lesson still has to be that. 


  1. We tried a contract with the eldest 2 yrs ago and it did help him be more conscious about his homework. However he still needs a lot of reminding to make sure that he keeps his stuff properly after doing work.

  2. That's an amazing contract! Wish I could do something similar for my freelance work and make clients sign!

  3. Sher, I don't think stickers will work so well with your clients! :)