While I am a parent, I try desperately not to make this blog exclusively about the joys and challenges of parenthood. It’s not that I don’t appreciate a good mommy-blog. I have a number of mommy-blogs in my Google Reader that I read on a regular basis. They offer perspectives on child rearing and the state of motherhood that I find thought provoking and entertaining, and I can’t fault good writing.
But when I introduce myself to people, I say that I’m a writer and follow up with other descriptors like Jewish, first-born and lady-loving. If you’re really interested, I might include my sun sign or the fact that certain food aversions make me a social outcast. Much as I have tried to acquire the taste for cheese, beer and coffee, I cannot. When friends open up a cold beer on a sweltering summer’s day and take that first sip and exhale a sweet sigh of satisfaction, I envy them. The smell of coffee induces a gag reflex so powerful that I could never kiss a girl after she had been drinking coffee no matter how delicious she was. I digress as per usual.
I was supposed to be setting up my mommy-blog entry by explaining that whether I speak of parenting or not, this blog will never be a mommy journal, so you should read it anyway even if you are not here to read another mommy blog. The fact is, I am a mom, and that does inform who I am and how I see the world and what I do every day and the kinds of conversations I have with my children or other parents. So, here’s my mommy moment for you.
Asher gets a list of spelling words every week. On Monday, homework requires him to sort the words in categories relating to diagraths, dipthongs, modified vowels, etc. On Tuesdays, he must write sentences including all the words on his list. Wednesday’s worksheet usually entails some sort of word scramble or puzzle and Thursdays he must study the words for the spelling test on Friday.
Every Monday, I pull out his folder to review the words and take deep breaths when I get to the challenge words the teachers add to the standard curriculum list. It is my job to find devices to help Asher remember how to spell the difficult ones.
I say to myself, “How the FUCK am I going to help him spell photosynthesis?” or “Fahrenheit?!? Is it because you want them to learn about failure?!?” or “What kind of ASS LICKER expects a second grader to know how to spell schema and how the HELL are we going to include it in a sentence?!?” (Not to say that there is anything wrong with ass licking if practiced by two mutually consenting adults.)
Satisfaction of a job well done is not enough to motivate Asher to study all week to get a perfect score on a spelling test. I pay him. There. I confess to you that I pay my kid to learn. But, it’s more than a case of bribery. This is a lesson in the value of a good work ethic. If you work hard, you will be successful...and you will get paid. Obviously, there are no guarantees in this world that hard work will lead to cash, but it’s a better lesson than Do as little as you can get away with doing and hope for the best. The financial reward is also an exercise in math and goal setting. We added up how much money he could earn if he did well every week for the entire school year, and he earmarked the year-end total for a variety of things that he wants to buy.
In addition to his success thus far with spelling, we have become quite the team, Asher and I. Every Tuesday, Asher likes for us to create the longest sentence possible for the sentence assignment. We spend time together coming up with tricks and devices to conquer each word. He willingly subjects himself to practice tests during the week. What began at the beginning of the year as a chore bordering on a nightmare has become a way for us to connect that playing with beyblades did not offer.
Beyblades: Where you battle spinning tops after yelling "LET IT RIP!" My inner Beavis and Butt-head finds this amusing.
Each Spelling Test Friday at breakfast, I remind Asher that I’m proud of him no matter what his score because he has done his best and worked super hard to learn words that many grown ups can’t even spell and that he should feel proud of himself, too. He nods, and I choose to believe that he understands what I’m saying. To date, he has done very well, and we’ve begun marching around the house in joyous celebration as soon as he gets home and shows me his triumphant score.
Last week, we had another tough list. He just couldn’t absorb the tricks I tried to teach him, and I couldn’t come up with easier tricks to use instead. Thursday night’s practice involved keeping hope alive as well as preparing for a fall. I sent him on the bus that Friday with a big kiss and I a reassuring hug, and I hoped that he would not be upset if he didn’t remember everything we had practiced. Before noon, I received a text message from Asher who was allowed to use his teacher’s phone.
Dear Mom, Guess what? I got 100% on my spelling test!!! I hope you are proud. Get ready to march! Love, Asher
I confess to you that I welled up a bit out of happiness and pride and relief. This would not be the week that I would reassure or console. I’d save the comforting for another Friday. This would be the week of much marching. And we did. All over the house.