Monday, November 21, 2011

Giving Thanks

My son wants to succeed on his own.

I ask questions:

Is your homework done?

Do you need me to look it over?

Do you have any questions?

Did you call your partner about completing that social studies project?

I receive responses:




We can’t do it now because we didn’t bring home the instructions and the textbook, but I’ll talk to him tomorrow.

Seventh-grade. 13-years-old. 4 classes. 4 teachers. Transition.

He wants to attend Harvard. He plans to volunteer because it’s not just about grades, but also being well rounded.

Should I hover, interfere? When I push, he pulls. I was a seventh-grade teacher, so I know how to help. But I need to let him make his mistakes, right? I fret.

He comes home, telling me about students who don’t care, don’t work well in groups, bringing his grade down, while he takes over parts that aren’t his or gives up.

What do I do now?

Math test. Mediocre grade. My husband helps him understand the material.

I ask about that social studies project. Is his response a real answer or an excuse?

New rules: No video games or You Tube until homework is done. Don’t save your work until nighttime. Make sure you write your assignments down.

I spy a Halloween worksheet. Not done. A week after Halloween.

Am I nagging or helping?

Progress report. I unfold the paper with trepidation.

His grades are lower than last year’s.

I’ve failed.

Do I yell? Say how disappointed I am? Have the teachers e-mail me weekly with updates? Make him show me his agenda? Demand he go over each and every assignment with me?

I thought we were past this type of intervention after fifth-grade.

Before I say anything, he says, “I’m sorry. I’m really sorry. I’m so disappointed in myself. I’m going to do better.”

He means it. I can’t say anything to make him feel any worse than he does.

My son, my husband, and me - we talk strategies, priorities.

We buy another agenda. A blank slate.

The three of us head to parent-teacher conferences. I brace for what I’ll hear. I’ve prepared what I’ll say. He’s better than this. I’m better than this. How did we all let this happen?

Teachers offer suggestions. They’re upbeat about him as a student. They remind me that other seventh-graders are struggling with the transition too. This is a progress report – not a final grade.

I know all this. It’s easier for me assure my students’ parents. It’s harder to be a parent and let your child flail.

These teachers say something else…

My son greets them each time he comes into the room. He asks about their weekends. He says goodbye at the end of the class and at the end of the day. Sometimes he thanks them at the end of a lesson.

One teacher said, “I don’t know if I should say this, but I look forward to speaking with him. He makes my day.”

My son reddened to the tip of his ears.

I went to the parent-teacher conference thinking I was going to hear certain things about my son. I left proud of him, but not for the reasons I expected.


  1. How wonderful and inspiring. Nice to hear how proud you are of your son.

  2. Sounds like you've got a wonderful, responsible son. I can't imagine how difficult it must be not too hover too much, but it sounds like you're doing your best.

  3. Awwww your son is just fabulous! Of course you are proud of him!! He brings joy and happiness to all around him and he is one determined young man! His own unique star continues to shine bright and beautiful! Yay! Take care

  4. Sounds like he's doing just fine. You've raised him well.

  5. Sounds as though with those social skills he won't go far wrong.

  6. This is a tough age/time for kids. It sounds like you are doing a good job raising a great kid. I think the rest will fall into place. :)

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  7. OMG, I love this. My son was in gifted-talented last year in 4th grade and left with straight As. This year, he's lucky to get Bs and struggles with homework (but somehow is still in GT, I have to say). And I worry. And worry and worry and worry.

  8. Your son sounds like such a wonderful young man. I think seventh grade is a difficult transition time, but I'm sure he'll do well. :)

  9. He can learn the stuff he needs to improve his grades. The personality and manners, not so much :-)

  10. Awww...Going to Junior high is a big transition. I think that he recognizes he might need to focus on his studies a bit more. I'd make sure you asked him about his day every day, ask him how you can help....and compliment him for all the positives you see or hear.

    Social skills are so important and the ability to communicate with both adults and peers. It sounds like he has this one down. :D

  11. I sure don't miss those grade-is-slipping days, but your son is a gem and is growing up. Aw, those darn growing pains, but they're all part of the process. You're going a great job. Pat yourself on the back!

  12. My granddaughter Hope was making all A grades in middle school and is finding the transition to high school difficult. They just need to find their sea-legs maybe. You son sounds like a wonderful young man to say these things to the teachers.

  13. Awwww, Theresa, that's what counts, isn't it? Good manners and being a good person.

    I have a nephew and I always get involved about his studies and ask my sister all the time about this. I also talk to him about his grades...I worry a lot whether or not he's doing well. This post makes me realize grades aren't everything.

    Thanks for sharing! :)

  14. This is beautiful. I love those serendipitous moments.

  15. Such a lovely post. As they get older, we do have to let them make their own mistakes, it's hard to stand back though?
    He'll be fine, Theresa, he sounds like a really well-balanced boy and sometimes our kids surprise us as I told you recently about my own boy.
    Its such a roller coaster being a parent.

  16. I'm probably over-emotional right now but this brought tears to my eyes. I love how sweet your son is. That's wonderful that the teachers were eager to see him every day. His personality is also a big part of success and it sounds like even through the transition and the certain struggles he's still knocking it out of the park.

    What a great mom you are. What a great son you have. This really made my morning!

  17. Seventh grade is the hardest grade. It's SUPPOSED to be hard. For some reason. Your body is out of whack. Your mind is in fifty different places at once. It's never where you want it to be. Your friends are changing. You are changing. Everything is changing.

    It sounds to me like you guys are doing everything right. All three of you.

  18. Awh what a great post. I am glad it all ended well. My mum used to badger me all the time about homework. She was never happy with what I produced and she paid for extra correspondance stuff that I loathed. We even had to do project books about our holidays!

    I guess all I needed was for her to say that she had every confidence in me, that she was proud of me and that she loved me regardless of how well I did.
    I have a degree and a post graduate diploma, yet I still feel the marks from the 'could always do better' stamp on my forehead. ;O)

  19. He wants to succeed, so he will Theresa, you have done to instil the desire in him with good parenting.

  20. Sounds like you're doing all the right things and have every right to be proud. To be raising a respectful/thankful boy-child in this day and age can't be all that easy.

    I think letting him know you are there if he needs you is the most important one. Nagging rarely works, but praise does. Setting a few boundaries (homework first, TV/video games later) is perfectly normal and I believe healthy.

    Listen, watch and be there.

    Have a wonderful and joyous Thanksgiving.

  21. What a great kid! I know where you're coming from with the homework thing but it sounds like he has a handle on things and is a well-rounded young man who will achieve his goals. With my older boys I hovered and nagged about homework and it made things worse. So with the younger ones I let it go and decided to let them own their own school career. They did fine and it was so much less stressful for them and me.

  22. This made me cry, Theresa. I read it to my daughters.

    Sometimes, I get caught up SO MUCH in what they could be doing better, I forget to celebrate what good people they really are.

    You should be proud of your son. He sounds like a wonderful kid.

  23. Even before that last part about the conferences, I was going to say that your son sounds like a responsible young man with goals and dreams. You should be proud!

  24. What a pleasant surprise.

    I think your involvement will be the key--keep up the good work, and I would not be afraid to push.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family Theresa.

  25. Yeah I think I remember 6th and 7th grade as being kind of a difficult adjustment time.

    Our parents were divorcing so no one even looked at our homework. :) It was all up to us.

  26. I'm no position to say anything about parenting... But I can say (from personal experience) that there is more to life than academic achievement.
    Laying the foundations for becoming a stand up kind of person, as you seem to have done, is of incommensurable value, and it is a quality that will doubtlessly serve him well in the future.

  27. What a wonderful story. You are certainly doing things right. 7th graders are a struggle - especially boys (at least in my house - and we have 2 boys and 3 girls so lots of experiential data :)) As parents it is SO HARD to watch our kids not do what we know they can, but they need to learn it for themselves, come to understanding in their own time. And boys, it seems, take a little longer in this department, No matter how much we might want to, we can't do it for them. The fact that your son is so obviously a wonderful person should tell you how many things you're doing right, and that he will most likely figure it all out and be just fine. You'll look back on this when he's at Harvard and wonder why you ever worried :)

  28. Hi Theresa .. sounds like things are working out ok - just early teenage life ... your ethos is rubbing off on him big time - he'll be fine.

    Enjoy Thanksgiving with family and friends .. and bask in the encouragement your son gets from his teachers - what a great read .. cheers Hilary

  29. Sounds like your son has got a good head on his shoulders, and a great support network from you and your husband, should he need it.

  30. Oh! Oh, you know what? Learning is important, but treating people kindly? He's got the most important lesson down, by the sounds of it.

    I'd be proud, too!

  31. This is beautiful and so lovely of your son. It says something wonderful about you, too :)

  32. Yay - happy ending!

    It's scary how much of this post I relate to - 7th grade is tough! Extra tough because we didn't have any of these issues with my older daughter - but she's her and he's him. I'm sure the right balance of how much/when to step in and when to back off and let him figure it out for himself is different for each parent/child team (I've found encouraging organization is the best role I can play), but you'll find that balance. I'm happy to report that so far...searching for some wood to knock on...8th grade is sooo much smoother.

    It's awesome that you've raised such a polite and sweet kid. :)

  33. Loved this happy ending! Thank you so much for sharing this because it was a lovely, inspiring tale.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  34. hi miss theresa! noahs just way lucky hes got a mom that could care so much and wanna be a big help for him. i do my homework right after school but it was hard cause i could rather be playing a computer game. now i got use to it. maybe could do that. noahs just way cool! :)
    ...hugs from lenny

  35. I enjoyed this post and the ending is lovely. Your son is amazing (he has a pretty amazing mom, too).

  36. A lovely real-life story. It is so hard to know how much intervention is needed when students are at this transition stage. Year 7 is often a time of disappointments, but in the social skilling area, looks like your son comes up trumps and this is just so important.

    Being parents is no easy ride...


  37. Just showing that you care and are concerned is half the battle.
    Having parental support is more than many kids have these days.

  38. Your son sounds like a great person. :) I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving break!

  39. This made me teary. What a wonderful person you're raising there! I bet he will do better on the course work, but what he already possesses is even more important.

  40. I'm the parent of a fourteen-year-old boy. He aces his advance content classes and struggles in his regular. His grades are usually something like, 100,100,99, 100, 50,100. Why? I wish I understood. He's so smart. He just decides not to do something on occasion. It seems my son is polite but easily distracted. Has a good heart and never bullies despite the fact he's 6 feet tall. I still struggle, but try to focus on the man he is becoming more than his grades. We just want the best for our kids and it is such a tough age.

    What a great report you received!

  41. Harvard is a very lofty goal. If I were you, I would talk to him and tell him that all of the Ivy Leagues are just about as good (Cornell for one, Yale another). Tell him to aim for Harvard but to keep all of the Ivy's in the scope.

    This is something he is going to need a lot of support with, Theresa, but I'm a firm believer that if you don't go to one of these schools, you set yourself up to be a nobody in life.

    Don't believe me? Just look around.

    My advice:

    1) Keep grades excellent.
    2) Get involved with sports and music.
    3) Run for student body office/president asap.
    4) Document everything. You will need to make a video resume to send to the admissions. Plus practice that S.A.T. A 2200 score really helps.

    The sport I'd go for is ice hockey but really anything is good. (Oh and don't suck).

  42. Great that at that age he wants to attend Harvard. I would think that would take at least a little hovering on your part.

  43. Wow, Theresa, I think you can be proud of him based on what you say at the end. It's hard - DH and I were discussing these topics the other day and we don't even have kids yet! I can imagine that it would be hard to be a parent and step back and see the overall picture. I think all you can do is continue to be the parent that expects his best from him. My parents did that with me and I tried - for the most - part to live up to that.

  44. Aw, that's lovely! Sounds you've got a special son there :)

    Hope you had a great Thanksgiving.



  45. Theresa, your stories always bring tears to my eyes!
    So sweet. You must be one proud mom!!

  46. It's funny how that works. I used to be the same way with my daughters. I'd go to those teacher conferences expecting something bad and would get glowing reports that left me bursting with pride.

    The face we see at home is usually different when it's away. As long as we as parents provide balance, support, and encouragement I think the kids turn out fine.

    Harvard--now that's some big aspirations. I think he'll make it and do well.

    Tossing It Out

    Enjoy my delightful interview with Susan Kane on
    Wrote By Rote Saturday 11/26

  47. Girlfriend, you are doing everything right! I am proud of your son and I don't even know him. He'll make it. So will you. I heart you so much.

  48. I have parent teacher interviews this Friday. I have three kids, but I'm dreading the interview I'll have about one of my sons. I know it won't be sparkly like the one you have. His report card comments proved that. Le sigh.

    All we can do is support our kids the best we can. And it looks like you definitely are doing that, Theresa.

  49. Relax. Kids are going to make mistakes and flail sometimes. It's part of the growing process. Be supportive, talk about his desire to go to Harvard and what that will take. Let him know you'll love him no matter where he goes to college.

  50. What a sweet ending. Transitions are rough, hopefully it will smooth out.

  51. There is more to education than just the grades, and it sounds as though your son is well rounded and a good student. Getting along with others, compromising, communicating well, all help pave that way to success in life. Kudos to you for being aware and in tune to his schooling.

  52. You should be very proud. I struggle with the extent of interference, too. My daughter knows what needs to be done, but I can't help staying on top of things. I listened to a seminar from Dr Wayne Dyer on why we shouldn't be "helicopter" parents. Now my daughter reminds me that I'm doing just that. Sometimes, we have to step back, which is not an easy thing at all.

  53. I had an experiences similiar at my parent teacher meetings. I left those meetings with a smile on my face and pride bursting my heart.

    It isn't always about the grades. Yes they are important, but there is so much more to raising a well rounded child and it sounds like you have accomplished that. Be proud...the grades will come!

  54. Difficult years for sure! I remember grunting at my parents in a similar manner. But obviously, you're doing a whole lot right! He sounds wonderful, and someone to be proud of.

  55. I am teary eyed!

    It's so hard when it's our own kids - and we see it all from both sides. Sounds like you're raising a fantastic human being! :)

  56. Seventh grade is a rough transition year for every student. Remember that answers won't come easier to him because you are a teacher. He's the student not you.
    BTW he sounds WONDERFUL!


  57. Oh gosh. It was like reading about my own daughter. I enjoyed that post. It was from the heart. Your son is lucky to have you as his mom.