Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Dear Alter Egos of My Children

Dear Alter Egos of My Children,

Why do you sometimes make me feel so inadequate when it comes to teaching my own children?  As a former teacher who always felt confident teaching her students, I oftentimes cannot seem to grasp the reason why my kids act totally different at home and in school.  My Dear Daughter and Dear Son are model students at school.  DS's teacher once told me at a parent-teacher conference that she wished she had 18 of him in her class.  DD also does well in school and borders on being a teacher's pet.  At home, however, it is a different picture.

This seems particularly true when it comes to sit-down pencil and paper work.  At school, DD produces excellent writing.  The samples I have read during the school year make me so incredibly proud.  They are detailed, descriptive, exciting, and well-written.  When I ask her to write at home, however, her brain goes blank and takes FOREVER to write half a page.  There are frequent sighs and frowns.  DS also does great work at school.  He brings home crafts and worksheets that show how much care and detail he puts into his work.  At home, he whines and complains about every workbook page that is not a maze or matching.  He demands help with cut and paste activities when he is fully capable of doing them himself.  He especially dislikes coloring, because the act of moving a crayon back and forth makes him "too tired."

It is obvious to me that they do not behave this way at school, nor would they ever be caught dead showing any signs of discontent or displeasure about any work at school.  My frustration over this double standard they both exhibit sometimes infuriates me.  They are infatuated with their teachers and want to please them.  Yet they only put up with their mother and do the least they can to get away with things.  Every time I call them up on this, they pretty much just shrug it off.  I often feel like my words are never as good as that of their teachers.

But one recent incident always helps me regain my balance over this issue.  Once at DD's violin lesson, as she was preparing for a recital, her teacher went over a section of a piece with her over and over and over, and I stopped counting after about 10 times.  DD is much more tolerant of her violin teacher's commands than of mine when I help with her practice at home.  But that particular day, the teacher noted every single inaccurate pitch, rhythm, tempo, and dynamics in that piece of music.  She played it so many times that I began to feel really, really sorry for her.  To her credit, she played and played without showing one ounce of irritation.  Secretly in my heart that day, I promised that I would take any attitude she has toward me during violin practices at home just to make up for this drill session from her teacher.  I was going to be her mother, not her violin teacher.

When people enter into a marriage, they say vows to publicly express their promises to each other and to bind the rest of their lives together.  But when people become parents, the promises they make to their children are unspoken.  There is no ceremony or words to show lifelong devotion, because it is an innate, inherent vow that is honored even before a baby is born, and will lasts a lifetime no matter the circumstances.  The roles we take on as parents are different than the roles that teachers take on in our children's lives, and I have to remind myself from time to time that I cannot simply demand the same behavior the kids exhibit at school in the home as well.  The home is where they can let go and fully be themselves, and where they can totally let their guards down.  The home is their sanctuary. 

This is not to say that I will allow my kids to walk all over me and display no respect, or that I will never teach them anything at home.  So, Alter Egos of My Children, you can just continue to do what you do so well when you are at school.  At home, you are released from duty and my kids can reveal their colorful (sometimes too colorful) personalities again.  And whenever I forget that I am Mommy and not a teacher, just give me a little nudge and remind me that the patience I provide them at home will actually make your work easier when they are with you.

So, truce?


1 comment:

  1. I love this blog and I find it interesting how we are all so uniquely specially different. Eventhough I am a teacher too, I find myself consciously not playing that role for Myles. As a matter of fact, I think I am too permissive and do not challenge him enough. Being my one and only, I tend to hold onto him too much. I want him to stay little and not grow up so fast. I see things for him as an end and not a beginning. What a terrible mom. Today is his 6th birthday and I am inspired by your desire for your kids to be the best that they can be and encouraging forward progress and growth.