Monday, June 15, 2015

The List

There are only two weeks left of Junior year! What a year it's been — and it's almost over. In fact, I'd be waving my arms and cheering and doing a Snoopy dance if it weren't for the fact that between my daughter and the happy day she walks out of the high school for a much-needed summer break are final exams, a huge research paper and a strange but elaborate role play exercise about college admissions.

So many milestones. Although my daughter earned her driver's license last year (talk about a Snoopy dance!), it wasn't until recent months that she was permitted to drive her friends anywhere. School, concerts, laser tag, the stable. Suffice it to say she has enjoyed that particular privilege enormously. We left her alone overnight for the first time. (Thanks to social media and a helpful other-mother, I was kept abreast of the goings on at our house. But, my daughter and I have agreed not to talk about that anymore.) She took SATs, ACTs, two APs (and a partridge in a pear tree). We toured a couple of colleges in earnest.

And, whether it was deliberate or not, for better or worse, I've stopped micromanaging her homework.

Every concerned mom I know has to balance how much she helps. We all draw the line at different places. Some well-meaning parents I know have ghost-written papers (and even college essays). On the other hand, in a handful of particularly stressful situations, I've had (non-parent) friends encourage me to "let her fail," asserting that it would teach her a lesson and build character. My instinct has always been somewhere in between. I'm happy to edit and proofread, but not to write. I'll quiz her on history or science facts even when I'm bleary-eyed with fatigue. I'll gladly contribute my time as well as money to posters and dioramas. I've been known to run out for glue sticks and markers or buy the Kindle version of a book many hours after the library's closed.

'Pains me to admit it, but it's in my nature to nag. Or maybe it's just one of those skills we magically acquire after fourteen hours of knee-buckling labor. At any rate, for the past several years, much of my daughter and my conversation together has gone something like this ...

Me: What's your homework like tonight?

Her: Meh.

Me: Do you have much?

Her: Some.

Me: Well, why don't you get started and I'll bring you a snack.

Her: K.

This is followed by more specific check-ins as the evening wears on.

Me: How's the math coming?

Me: Do you need me to proof that paper?

Me: Can I quiz you on your French?

Me: Have you started studying for Physics yet?

(I won't waste your time with her monosyllabic answers. I'm sure you can fill in those blanks yourself.)

Lately, I've nagged a lot less. I may be overtired (or simply "over it"). Or it may be that I've started to trust her. Either way, I think we're both relieved by my newfound lack of involvement.

The other day, I was cleaning up her room for her (another thing I've been nagging about less). I was straightening her desk which was absolutely covered. My job was to make piles that would look a little neater. But, be assured I know better than to throw anything away. What looks like scrap paper with scribbles could actually be the autographs of a  favorite band. A used Dunkin' Donuts cup might have sentimental value. The number she wore on her horse's bridle in a recent competition will be added to her collection of similar numbers from similar competitions.

Under the aforementioned treasures, I found a list that included every school deadline between now and the end of the year. It was organized as a calendar and color-coded by subject. At first, ever the queen of organization, I was proud of the effort, not to mention the magic markers, that went into this list. Then, my admiration turned to anxiety as I saw assignments I hadn't heard about before. Was she really going to have an eleven-page paper ready in two days? Had she started studying for pre-calc?

I stopped myself and took a deep breath. She's on top of it, I reminded myself. After all, she's made it this far.

And, just look how pretty her list is.

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