Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Spina bifida and the 4th grade

Fourth grade is very much focused on teaching kids responsibility.  If you arrive to class in the morning without your homework, the correct answer is, "I forgot my homework," and not, "My mom forgot to put my homework in my backpack."  The girls pretty much took responsibility for their homework and snacks/lunch years ago.  They are the ones who pack up their backpacks each morning, but they are still kids and occasionally an item is forgotten.  During the morning rush a few weeks ago, I noticed Anna's homework binder on the dining room table.  I reminded her several times that morning to pack it up in her backpack.  I don't recall why it was still on the table that morning as homework is almost always packed up the night before.

After dropping the girls off at school that morning, I returned home and ate breakfast in the kitchen while perusing the internet.  I'd been home for about 30 minutes or so when I walked into the family room and noticed Anna's binder still on the dining room table.  CRAP.  My first thought was to not bring it to her at school, to teach her that responsibility lesson, to say, "Hey Buddy, this is what happens when you don't pack your bag."  That lasted for approximately 30 seconds and then I texted Rich and asked what he would do.  I was questioning it, and in some state of disbelief because I had reminded her many times that morning to not forget it.  So as I'm typing this text to Rich, I'm pulling jeans back on (I know, so rough) and getting ready to drive back to the school.

What are the consequences for forgotten homework this year?  You have to complete it in the classroom during recess.  And the homework that night before had been tough.  They haven't had homework that time consuming since that one particular night.  When I picked the girls up at school, I asked Anna what her reaction had been when she realized she had forgotten her homework.  She had held back tears.  Her concern was that she was going to have to redo that difficult homework during recess without any help.  If I hadn't brought it to her, I would have felt so incredibly guilty.

I questioned myself on that initial reaction of teaching her a lesson.  Would I have felt the same if Allie or Emily had forgotten their homework?  But I didn't have to remind them to pack their bags.  Was I frustrated because I had asked her many, many times that morning to get that binder in her backpack?  Here's the thing - we don't know exactly how hydrocephalus and the resulting shunt impacts Anna's brain.  We do know that there are side effects, quirks if you will.  That's a definite. After reading up on the subject a few years ago, it was obvious to us that, yes, hydrocephalus plays a role in her day to day actions.

I'm tough on Anna because she's tough on herself.  This kid has never said she can't do something because she has spina bifida. It's easy to forget that she had brain surgery when she was a newborn.  It's easy to forget that she doesn't have the same muscle tone as her sisters or her friends.  After one of our long bike rides along the Cape Cod canal this summer, I had posted a few photos on FB.  My sister-in-law had also posted photos of her kids with family friends biking along the same path.  A discussion started as to how far kids were biking and until that discussion, I hadn't realized that six miles for a kid is kind of long.  I knew that it wasn't easy for Anna but she had cranked along like a rock star.

Years and years ago, back at the beginning of my career in public accounting, I worked with a manager, who I was on friendly terms with.  We are actually still in touch today, all these years later, and he's someone I would work with again if given the option.  I remember during one of the review cycles, I felt like he was being overly critical of me.  He gave me a really good review, but the recommendations for improvement, I thought, were too much and points he wouldn't have given to lower performers.  When I discussed it with him, he agreed and told me that because I was hard on myself, a perfectionist, an achiever, he was harder on me when he wrote reviews.  That's something that stuck with me, almost like a lollipop moment, in my working life.  I never thought it would transfer over to parenting, but it has.  


Tracey's Life said...

I think that it is great that they are teaching responsibility and consequences for their actions. However - I also believe that each and ever parent still has to decide what is best for their children. Taking her homework to her is not negating responsibility in my opinion as it happened once. It was simply a nice thing to do. If it was a daily occurrence at an older age, you might have to rethink it. But she is still a child. I drove to my daughters college round trip three times because something important had been left home (medication, laptop charger and once was a tire that she damaged the wall on) Was I rescuing her or being nice? I like to think I was being nice too.

bearie1 said...

If she forgot frequently I would understand not taking it to her. But even adults forget something from time to time. I feel that you were showing your love for her by helping her out in this instance.

Sarah said...

I agree! Even as adults, we all forgot. Anna does tend to be more forgetful in general though. Lots of reminders going on.