The Writing Mamas Daily Blog

Each day on the Writing Mamas Daily Blog, a different member will write about mothering.

If you're a mom then you've said these words, you've made these observations and you've lived these situations - 24/7.

And for that, you are a goddess.

Thursday, May 08, 2008


Newborn Again

I might as well be cradling my first newborn now that my son has turned thirteen. I have no idea how to parent this teenager.

I'm unsure how to guide him through the demands a teenager faces these days. Take, for example, the huge amount of complicated homework assigned at his junior high school. He is expected to do far more work than I was at his age and the consequences of his failing to do so are severe.

More than half the students at his school are in GATE classes so the advanced placement program originally designed for a handful of truly gifted students has become the norm. And worse, receiving anything less than an A grade on their work is considered failure.

Pity the B-average student.

A friend of mine believed her son would learn best by being left alone with his assignments. She didn't nag him to finish nor punish him when he failed to do so. A bright boy who was GATE identified in the first grade, he nonetheless forgot to pass his work in or lost it in the black hole that is his backpack.

Despite test scores proving his high intelligence, his C-average grades prohibited his entry into his two choices for public high school. He recently learned he was assigned instead to the large, urban campus identified by school and government officials as “troubled.”

That seems like a high price for a thirteen-year-old boy to pay for a mediocre report card.

I compare that to the mother of my son's classmate who shared with me last week how exhausted she was after staying up until three that morning finishing her son's science project. That was the same science project that sat at open house next to the one my son completed without my help. I studied the two projects propped up on poster board and noticed how neat and mature the other boy's presentation was. The vocabulary in the narrative attached to it was beyond anything I'd ever heard him utter.

What could possibly be fair about the grade his project would earn compared to that given to my son?

Yet, I feel certain sympathy for the other boy's mother, a compassion that comes from knowing she was doing what she thought her son needed.

I struggle constantly with such questions -- how much to guide my son, how much to pressure, how often to leave him alone.
The world is different than when I was a teenager. The life skills my son will need to succeed are different than what worked for me. My mother tells me she faced the same concerns when I was a teen -- the world I came to age in was different than the one that saw her transition to adulthood. She, too, had to feel her way through my teen years and trust that I would survive her imperfect parenting, which, of course, I did.

It's just the way of things, I suppose. Society evolves as humanity's time on the planet lengthens. No generation is identical to any other. No era of childrearing foolproof.

And so I offer my son what I promised him the first time I held him in my arms -- that I would parent him with everything I have: My instincts, my common sense, my unconditional love. I promise again that I will do my best -- my imperfect, often-flawed best.

By Laura-Lynne Powell


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There has got to be a balance. There is a HUGE difference between support and control. Not every kid is an A student and many successful adults did poorly in school. I pity your "helpful" friend's kid when he gets to college and his mom isn't there to help him. I bet she writes his college applications and essays. The other one whose mom let him be may surprise everybody. Maybe a high pressure high school was not the place for him. He may not even be college bound. That is not the worst thing in the world.

The best help you can give your son is your LOVE. Give him the tools he needs to do his work, a place to do it and room to ask for help when he needs it.

He will find his way. With your love and support he will be able to succeed and be proud of himself.

Good luck!!
You've beautifully articulated a very complex problem. It reminds me of the time my daughter's perfectly charming 3-D tableau of the Ititarod got a second place ribbon at the County Fair, surrounded by blue ribbons. My friend joked, "That's what you get for letting her do it herself."

I hear that many teachers are assigning in-class-only work to avoid the problem of parents taking over.

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