We read the books, attend the lectures, ask advice from professionals and those with experience, and still, there are things in parenting that catch us completely off guard. I was caught off guard today. I tried to brush it away, to dip into the knowledge acquired from books, lectures and discussions with professionals. I ended up yelling a little, expressing my disappointment and largely tried to avoid thinking about it. And now, when everyone is asleep, the clock is showing about 2 a.m. and I am scrambling, as usual, to find that piece of paper that I absolutely need, it hits me and I start crying.
In the grand scheme of thing it really is not that important. It could be one of those things I will not recall a few years from now. But it still eats at me. My daughter, my lovely, kind, bright, absolutely delightful daughter has failed her Hebrew test, and she failed it miserably. I knew there were problems in this subject; I spoke with the teacher several times. DD has been having academic issues this year, but eventually math and English have picked up. Hebrew - not so much. And even though I was aware of it, nothing seals the fact that my child is not succeeding in school like seeing the failing grade on top of the test paper. It sits there, along with the note that DD needs individual help in this subject, and I can feel it accusing me of somehow letting this happen, of being a bad, irresponsible, neglectful mother.
Rationally I know that I can't fault myself for every bad grade and I definitely shouldn't beat myself up over it. Yet I can't help but feel guilty: for being such a disorganized mess, for quite possibly passing this on to my kid either through genes or through observation, and possibly both. For working full time and not being at home enough to help her out or organize her studying time better. For not having enough patience when I do help out. For not having the means to hire a tutor and for not really knowing the subject myself. For taking time to myself when I could've been studying with her. It feels that it wasn't the test that she failed, it feels like I failed her in some major way.
I have always been a proponent of the very sound advice on homework: make it a kid's responsibility. My own parents never checked my homework and helped only when asked. It was never spoken, but I knew that school work, academic success and studying were solely my responsibility. And even though I was a disorganized mess as far as I can remember myself, the first time I struggled academically was at the age of 12 or 13. Even then, the onus of figuring it out was on me, with help available if asked for. And it worked; as far as I can remember, I have never failed a test. And I didn't expect my daughter to either, at least not at 7. Armed with my personal experience and all the advice from all the books I read, I planned to employ the same approach to my kids' academics as my parents. And it worked, until it no longer did.
It was apparent that I had to take over homework, in some way. DD obviously needed someone to explain what she missed in class, help her focus and organize her work, check answers and drill, drill, drill, But mainly help her focus and get organized. Ladies and gentlemen, how can someone struggling her entire life with organization and focus teach her child those same things? How can I help her fight the monsters I haven't conquered myself? Somehow I was always, or almost always, able to wing it, improvise, come through at the eleventh hour, which allowed me to compensate. I don't know how to teach that. I don't know whether I should.
I am not in despair. I am not upset at DD. Well, I try not to be even though it drives me up the wall seeing how easily she loses focus. We have a plan of how to improve. Isn't what this life is all about - improving? I should put getting organized on top of my "to do" list. Heck, it's been there as far as I can remember myself. But I must get better, and sometimes it is easier to improve for someone else than for myself. And now I have that reason.