Thursday, 2 July 2009

Learning lessons

When they were younger, it was usually my fault if my kids went to school without the requested toilet roll innards, pyjamas, or donation for the poor. The teachers sent notes home, and then e-mails so there was no excuse. As the mother of smaller kids, it's expected that you maintain control of those things, even if you make them actually find the pyjamas, or put the toilet roll tubes in their school bags.

As they approach their teens, you start thinking that you're not really helping them if you do everything for them, but at the same time, they still seem so little and after all, they still need your help. It's a fine line knowing where and when to stop.

When they hit the teens, the s**t hits the fan. My thirteen year old spent the last year telling us we were treating him like a baby. To be fair, he had always seemed fairly organised, so we slackened the reins a little. What happened? He signed himself up for every club, sport and Lego Robotic event he could and forgot all about his homework. He started missing assignments (and obviously not telling us), until his main teacher called us to tell us. When we threatened to crack down he told us he could handle things, and didn't. Next year it's going to be different; every time he misses a homework assignment, an extra curricular activity comes off the schedule. He wasn't ready for the long length of rope we gave him so we're reeling him back in for a while. He's probably not going to be very happy, but I can't spend another year chasing him around to do homework.

And the older one? She has only two years till she goes off to college so I have to let go on the management front. The other day she started a five week photography course at a prestigious college here. She's using my Nikon 35mm camera, and she's never used an "old fashioned" camera before. Did she think to get it out of the bag beforehand? Hell, no! Two days before the course, we realised it needed new batteries, which we duly bought. While gathering her things up to head out for her course on her first morning, she decided to put the batteries in and discovered that it wassn't working. All hell broke loose, and a lot of it was me registering disbelief that all this had been left so late. You know the scene - I won't repeat what I said because it was the usual rant.

So I dropped her off leaving her to face the consequences of turning up for a 5 week photography course with a duff camera. I think I was more upset than her - unless she was in shock. She wasn't saying much. Driving back, I tried to decide whether I should phone round to see if we could borrow a similar camera from someone. Should I make her do this? When would she have time, she was in class till 5pm? Once again, on the horns of a dilemna.

And then she texted me to say she had put the batteries in the wrong way and the camera was fine. Oh happy day.

But do they ever learn from these events?

Expat Mum


  1. I'm right there with you! I have three teenaged girls in my house, 17,17 and 14. My big dilemma is how I'm going loosen the reigns and really, I do need to. Parenting teens is not for the faint of heart! I'll be back here for sure...

  2. Well said , and its such a revelation we are not alone and this happens to us all. My daughters 17 and took her eyes off the ball last year (equive' sophoomore year) year 11...then she did catch up ha;f heartedly..this year same time jan/ feb eye off the ball again, I spend time chasing her for homework coursework and l'm the bad year I know it'll happen again and the teachers will 'she has pulled it out f the bag again, l knew she would!' are they fooled or am I too harsh.. Does she realy want to follow in my footsteps and work in Tesco/ then 5 yrs hairdressing only to leave it cos it was no pay...then 10 years retail...blah de blah..I got a good job at the end f it all and had a great buying career... but I put in the work to compensate for not working at school...but will she listen, Heck she won't....

    nothing is new, only to us..we expect our dear hearts to turn out better than us, why should they? If she want sot be a brarister wont she have to put the work in somewhere along the line, seat of the pants won't cut it. Will it?

  3. sorry about the spelling its half midnight and its too hot to sleep...or spell

  4. It's such a dance...and the sooner we realize we can't win right now, the easier it will be. If we are holding on, it is too tight; if we are letting go, it's our fault when they fall.
    They need a place to put the blame while their fragile self negotiates these tough years. We are that safe place. It is, after all, much harder for them than it is for us.
    I try to remember that everytime it hurts me.

    Well done, expat. Keep being there for her and for us!


  5. Hate to put a damper on your 'then their off to college' scenario. Junior is still living at home while at university. 'Have you got a pen with you?' is a popular early morning cry in our house. Usually followed by "OK, you can take this one but you must give it back to me." I'll leave it to your imagination to think whether they ever manage to return....

  6. My eldest daughter (the Teenager-in-waiting) who is 12 and a half and in her first year of secondary school has been finding out the hard way about organising herself. I realised I was doing her no favours by reminding her to get her things together, and to be fair she also took a more responsible role. We've had plenty of hiccups along the way ('I need a clean PE kit for a football match' at 8am) but on the whole she's doing ok. I'm trying to get her to get her stuff ready the night before, it saves so much time in the morning!

    Great post!

  7. Oh there's no way she's living here while she's at college! She keeps telling her friends I want her to go to Pluto State University, but I really think she (me) needs to get away for a while. We rarrely argue and she's a good girl, but I think kids need to spreas their wings.
    The middle guy, on the other hand, is grounded at the moment, and should probably be home-schooled until he's 24!!

  8. Oops - spelling. I don't have the excuse that it's late either!

  9. My child occasionally sits about the house in his boxer shorts, as he does not give me his laundry, so now I refuse to do it... Cruel, perhaps, but it's time for a few lessons and home truths, if he is ever to cope with going off to Uni and surviving on his own wits, rather than my Wits' Ends!

    Fabulous post, as ever, Expatty x

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  11. Love the blog!! I share my living space (!) with a very hormonal, stressed 15 year old daughter who holds us all to ransom with her bloody moods. My poor 9 year old son tippitoes around her, holding his breath in case she hears him breathing (I kid you not...) and, this is where it gets bizarre - I am a qualified practioner who delivers parenting courses. A true case of physician, heal thyself!!!!

  12. Great blog! What a find! (Thanks ExpatMum via PowderRoom Graffiti!) Have a 16, 14 and 10 yr old. (The 10 yr old is still cute, and still loves me.) It's the teenagers who drive me nuts. Giving them 'enough rope' is the hard part - and according to them it's never right and we are the strictest parents in the world. (And the most unreasonable when I "let them learn from their mistakes/laziness/attitude".

    I keep implying that they won't still be living at home when they're in their 20s! I'll be looking for tips here, I can tell you!