Before I part ways with my children each morning, the thing I really want to know is "are you happy"? Because school days can be long and time away from parents can be difficult, and the thought of climbing uphill all day just saddens me.
But it occurs to me that sometimes, we aren't supposed to be happy. Sometimes, we're supposed to be contemplative, angry at ourselves, or even sad.
Parenting has not been easy these past few weeks. Connor has developed an awful habit of lying. He typically lies to explain why he didn't do something that was expected of him. The lies aren't intended to harm anyone, they're just intended to save himself.
On top of that, Connor wants to spend every waking moment reading Garfield or Star Wars and playing on his iPad. I understand that. These things are fun. He's willing to do the bare minimum at school just to get to quiet reading time where he can indulge in the books he loves. Occasionally, he'll schlip schlop through his work (as my mom would say) doing a poor job and then spend literally hours at school reading.
This annoys me greatly.
For starters, I think his teachers ought to be doing more to engage him. We've met about this on more than one occasion, I toss out ideas, they agree - and then unless I follow through, we're right back to where we started. At the last of these meetings, I asked that the teacher require him to write a book summary for each book he finishes. I figure he ought to at least get a little writing practice during the day (something he could benefit from), and there ought to be some cost associated with reading - to hopefully encourage him to stop sneaking so much reading time.
This lasted for about three weeks. And only when I demanded Connor show me the reports.
Connor's response? "There were no forms in the classroom." This, of course, is ridiculous. There are piles of forms to write summaries on - the kids can turn them in for extra tickets, which can be redeemed for things like sitting by a friend in class (something Connor always seems excited by).
And so I emailed the teacher, reminded her we had come to this agreement, and asked her to enforce it. She did. Once.
On the one hand, I don't blame her. If you have a child sitting quietly reading and a child unable to complete an assignment, you need to go to the child with the greater need. Engaging Connor just can't be the priority. But on the other hand, Connor is deserving of attention, too, and just because he's in need of something beyond the minimum doesn't mean his needs should be ignored.
Next up came a challenge to read books about nature. After reading the books, the child was required to fill out a summary, turn it into the library, and be entered to win an iPad or Kindle. Connor desperately wants an iPad upgrade. There are a few games he wants to play that won't work on his current operating system. But does Connor - a kid who loves to read - bother participating in the contest? No. I bugged him about it a few times, and then I told him his free time books were to be nature books.
The first book, which he laughed as he read the whole way through, went fine. (So it's not like I'm asking to read something he doesn't enjoy!) For book number 2, he opted to copy the summary from the back of the book to his worksheet - and then lied about doing this. See a pattern? We talked. He rewrote the summary.
Book three? Before he started to write the summary, I asked him what he had read that day. He knows he is supposed to be reading books about nature for the contest. He chose instead to read a Hardy Boys book during free time in the classroom. I was annoyed, to say the least.
And so I told him that although I had planned on upgrading his iPad, I was no longer planning on doing this since he couldn't even be bothered to read a handful of books to try and win one. This definitely caught his attention. As he muscled through writing the summary of book three, he got a bright idea. He popped his head up and told me that the reason he hadn't read a book about nature during class - even though he knew I had told him to do so - was because there were no books about nature.
I'm a sucker. I totally bought it. I told him I was glad there was a reason, and even though he could've brought one of the many books from home, I realized it was possible he simply forgot to do so. I told him I would reconsider purchasing him the new iPad. Until after Connor went to bed and Ed planted a seed of doubt in my mind about the truthfulness of the story.
So this morning, I asked Connor if he really tried to look for a book about nature, or if he had lied about that. He paused. He started to stammer. I explained to him I was asking because it was difficult for me to trust him after his previous lies. I told him I would walk him to school today and we could look at the books on the shelf together. And then after a little more backpedaling, Connor admitted that he had maybe glanced at the shelf for a book about nature, but hadn't really looked for one.
He's making me crazy. He wasn't particularly happy when he left for school today. I do feel badly about that. But I'm coming to realize that maybe he needs to feel bad about lying, bad about not following directions, bad about annoying me so much his tech upgrade is at risk.
Hopefully things will turn around soon.