Stepping Up My Parenting Game

Life comes in cycles of wax and wane, ebb and flow. I take the same approach to parenting. Sometimes I’m sticking close to my kids, helping them with homework, actively teaching, enforcing chores, etc. Other times I’m much more hands-off, allowing them to struggle and fail a little so that they can grow by learning independence. I thought I was in a median stage of the cycle where I was somewhat involved but also allowing space for growth. Then, in the space of four weeks, three of my children demonstrated clearly that they need me to hang close for awhile. They need me to be actively monitoring homework, affirming their worth, helping them be responsible. So I had to shift gears and rearrange my task load.

Link was first in this cascade. He needed to have several important conversations with me and with Howard. Then he needed me to require him to do some English assignments that he was trying to ignore out of existence. Ignoring work is not good for him, he knows he should not do it. He feels bad about doing it because he can see failure in it. Yet sometimes he doesn’t see how to just sit down and do the work. I have to corner him, require him to face the work, and then suddenly it gets done. This time around part of the process has been talking to Link about the process. I’m showing him the tools I am using because someday I’ll turn these tools over to him. We’re pretty close really. He is getting more mature every day. But he’s not there yet. The transition to high school will open up a new social world for him and I know there are even more conversations coming. Right now for Link I’m tracking his school work through this last week of the term to make sure he gets things turned in. Then I can back off on homework for awhile. I’ll need to stay on alert for when Link needs to talk.

The second child to need help was Gleek. Her needs manifested about two and half weeks ago. It is going to take a while to completely sort because consultations with behavioral professionals are necessary to help me sort out her anxiety. We’ve assembled a stop-gap system to try to keep things at manageable levels for Gleek and her teacher. I’m paying close attention to make sure she eats healthy meals. I’m tracking to make sure she gets daily exercise. I’m also tracking all of her homework to make sure that she is ahead of schedule rather than feeling like she has to scramble to catch up. All of these things help her to be reassured and reduce her ambient levels of anxiety. She still spikes into upsets, but not as often and not as far. All of this is still settling and has not yet become routine. I’m still actively observing to figure out what needs changed, how things could be changed, if there are better options. I’m also noting how changes affect the shape of her struggles, because that information will be useful when we have appointments with the doctors. Or maybe it won’t. Maybe I’m just running around so that I can feel like I have some measure of control. I don’t think so. I think my steps are logical. Either way, I’m watching, thinking, observing, and hovering closer than I have for the past few months.

Last week Patch came to my attention. Sorting his emotions about life changes is a beginning, but I can see that there is more to do. He needs me to teach him how to identify his emotions and acknowledge the not-happy ones. He needs to feel in control of his life or to accept that some things are out of our control and we can be happy anyway. He needs me to track his homework and help him stay ahead of it because being unprepared is a huge emotional blow to him. So his teacher and I are writing notes in his planner. I’m sitting with him to enforce homework. And his bedtime has become a sacrosanct time except for the direst emergencies. He needs that quiet snuggly time to talk about the things in his head.

Through all of this both Gleek and Patch’s teachers keep saying things like “This is a pretty intense program.” It is all I can do not to laugh. The quantity of work to track for these two kids is minimal. Compared to the quantity of things I track daily across four kids and a business, it is nothing. However I can see how it would feel a bit much for Gleek and Patch when they’ve got other emotional things going on. So I’ll track for them, probably to the end of this school year. Of course by “track for them” I mean that I’ll require them to sit down with me and their homework planners every day. I’m using this time to actively teach them how to track work, and mostly that amounts to making sure everything gets written down. Because brains can’t hold everything.

I suppose I should count my blessings that Kiki doesn’t have any particular emotional or educational needs right now. She is sailing through very responsibly toward the end of her senior year. However I fully expect there to be emotional waves in the weeks to come, because the end of high school is a big life shift.

I’m hoping that this is the week when I can settle in and let the parenting shifts start to feel routine. That would be nice.