April 14, 2014

be the heron

I'm not one to micro-manage my kids. I loathe reading charts that require my signature every day. I don't check the online grading rubric every hour. I'm not a fan of homework packets aka busy work. I don't need bedrooms to look like a Pottery Barn catalog. I shirk arranging play dates. I mean, how can parents teach their offspring to be forward thinkers and problem solvers if we are constantly doing everything for them. That's my philosophy anyway. I pat myself on the back for handing over the tools to be successful, but I struggle with "getting" my kids to be self starters (first grade buzz word right there).

When my son was in the fifth grade, his first male teacher seemed to share in my philosophy. He would supply all the information and then waited for the creativity and learning to begin. Some parents had issues with this educational curve and complained their children fell behind in certain subjects. Even my son's math grade dropped a tad. But this didn't make me worry.

I want my kids to learn about failing now when the cost is low, so they can gain and master the abilities of taking charge of their selves and their own educations. This way, when the cost is higher, say in high school and college, they will know what they need to do to get the job done.

Totally text book, right?! Sounds great in my head. Looks super on paper. And, for the most part, my non-helicopter-parenting style works. I deserve some positive reinforcement really. Go ahead, I'll wait.

That said, kids are innately LAZY. Mine are no exception. Especially my son. He rushes through things, often taking short cuts, he has to do just to get it over with. My middle has taken to hiding in her bedroom so that I forget I've asked her to help out. My youngest is currently the worse however. Unless it's fun or interesting, she finds every excuse under the sun to not do what has been asked or is required. I find myself trying to bribe and barter. When that doesn't work, I pull out the threats, mostly taking away things of value. This makes me angry, mostly at myself. Angry because I shouldn't have to threaten or remind my offspring how lucky they are every damn day just to get them to pick up their dirty socks. And, no, by picking up dirty socks, I don't mean stuffing them under the couch cushions.

I reminded myself of that fifth grade teacher this morning and a little pep talk he gave my son as the two of us sat across from him at conference time last year. He asked if we were familiar with herons, first looking at his student, my kid, and then meeting my eyes with his.  Of course, my child shrugged his shoulders being the spongy learner he is. And, then Mr. Teacher asked the same question but only directed it at me. All the sudden I felt my nerves swish around in my belly as if I was just handed a pop quiz. I replied ,and stuttered, that I knew it was a tall, long legged bird and one used to hang out at the swampy dairy farm I once lived on.

Mr.Teacher continued on about how fascinating herons are. And, if we ever get a chance to really observe one, we should. He explained how they aren't the most graceful and talented but they make up for that by being extremely patient and hard working. I began to catch onto the moral of the heron metaphor as he engaged my son in facts about herons' hunting techniques. Did you know herons will stand in one place, motionless, for hours waiting for the perfect opportunity to spear a meal?! And, not just any meal. The best meal. They will spread their wings out wide to create shade and a sense of safety for their prey. And, they will wait and wait and wait. As we know, waiting for that long is very hard work. He reminded my son that taking short cuts and rushing through things and not taking time to do our best work doesn't make for a big "meal" payoff in the end. Sloppy work only earns poor grades. He ended our conference with three words, "be the heron."

I've never, ever in all the years of attending (more school buzz words ahead) goal setting conferences, been brought to teary eyes as that one. That mild mannered, gentle voiced, unassuming fifth grade teacher inspired not only my kid to work harder, but me as well. Those three words have stuck with me in many situations since. And, sometimes I whisper them to my kids.

Be the heron.

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