In Her Words
Parents who Push
Victory in a parent war skirmish
By: Shayna Englin
In the long list of things that have surprised me about parenthood, the parent wars are near the top of the list. Seemingly overwhelmingly large cohorts of my fellow travelers on this parenting journey are intensely competitive. From preschool on through at least third grade (the highest I can speak to, because it’s my son’s current grade level), school meetings seem to be the agreed-upon place for parents to demonstrate how much better they are at this endeavor.
When Caleb was in kindergarten, there were the parents who raised their hands to ask, “What if my child [who is a genius; much smarter than all of these other people’s offspring] is already reading Harry Potter? Won’t the little darling be bored, and how will you ensure that Sweetpea is fully challenged?”
When we graduated to PTA meetings with first-grader parents, invariably there was some couple that was clearly raising Einstein’s reincarnation and wanted to be sure the rest of us knew it. What better place than a public meeting to ask, “My child is doing calculus at home. What recommendations can you give me for translating the first grade curriculum into something he’ll be interested in?”
In third grade, the way to win the parent wars seems to be by demonstrating that your little whiz kid not only does her assigned homework in the car on the way home, but also completes the dozen additional (well above grade-level) enrichment assignments you’ve whipped up while she was in school. And, here’s the key–that she does it all without a word of complaint. She LOVES it. Because, of course, you’ve never let her watch television or play video games, so she’s not pining for anything less educational than hours of reading and mind-enriching activities.
The parent wars never make much sense to me. I’m completely up-front. My child is happy, and (I think) smart and plays well with others. My husband and I often have to cajole, threaten and bribe him to do his homework. He’s watched TV since before the recommended age, and probably for much longer at a sitting than the recommended limits. He’s a video game fiend. So… I guess those other parents win.
A recent PTA meeting, however, held a small victory for those of us losing the parent wars. We had one of the teachers come in to talk to us about strategies for helping our kids adapt to the new reading and spelling curriculum the school is adopting. When she asked the room for examples of how parents were currently motivating our kids to do the new and complex homework, the first hands to pop up were (of course) the uber parents:
“We sit down and go through the whole alphabet and come up with words for every letter that match the pattern. Sometimes, we sing it!”
“I don’t have to motivate him, he ADORES the new Word Study. I’m just challenged to devise more extensive word lists than he brings home from school. Can you send home more, please?”
And then, from the back corner, a brave mom:
“I threaten to take away TV time.”
Knowing laughter and applause broke out across the room. Amen, my friend. It does the trick.
Tell us: What kind of parent wars have you battled?