“F” Is For Flipping Out

I believe I am getting very close to losing my chance of ever obtaining the title of “Mother of the Year.”  Last night, I was casually looking over my son’s online grades (God love middle school for putting grades online).  As I scanned slowly down the list of classes—patting myself on the back for every ‘A’ and smiling at the ‘B’s’—I came across his math grade:  ‘F’.  We are a family—for good or bad—that doesn’t celebrate anything less than a ‘B’ and this was the first time in my parenting history that I saw an ‘F’ staring at me as if to say, “Ha!  Something must have slipped past your high-level parenting skills.”

Something has slipped past my high-level parenting skills—it’s called middle school boy.  His ‘F’ was not because he didn’t grasp a concept or has trouble taking tests.  It is the result of not turning in homework—homework that has been completed, but somehow never seems to make it into the hands of his teacher.  Since I can’t even seem to wrap my mind around this concept, I completely snapped—calling my son in from a late afternoon neighborhood game of football, marching him up to my home office, and yelling at him for being so irresponsible.  I can’t even remember everything that was coming out of my mouth.  I’m pretty sure some of the standard parenting phrases such as “I am so disappointed in you” and “I know you are better than this grade” were sprinkled in amongst the more immature statements such as “You will never pass sixth grade and will be living in my basement on the couch for the rest of your life.” 

My son just stood there looking at me as if my head was getting ready to explode and then his eyes filled with tears.  While my daughter is known to turn on and off the tears like a water faucet, my son does not cry.  He is the kid that spends most of his time being pounded on the football field or wrestling mat and thinks tears are only reserved for those moments when all other emotions have failed to work.  With quivering lips he whispered, “I am so sorry.”  “For what?” I snapped waiting for his sarcastic, middle school reply.  “For letting you down.”

Suddenly my anger subsided and the ‘F’ that was staring me in the face was replaced by the face of the boy I love so very much—even when his homework is wadded up in the bottom of a locker never to be found again.  Although the volume of my voice softened, my son still had to miss wrestling practice in order to get all of his past assignments completed and he was warned that if the grade didn’t turn around by end of week he would be grounded for the weekend. 

It is such a frustrating situation as a parent. You constantly feel as if you are balancing the line between inspiring your child to live up to his or her potential and crushing his or her spirit of independence.  Time will tell if my tirade of words worked for the good or not.  Until then, I have decided that my “Mother of the Year” dreams were pretty much dashed the minute my son walked through the doors of middle school.

Bring Back The ‘Great Pumpkin’

We missed the annual showing of “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown”—and, I guess we weren’t the only family passing on this great autumn tradition. According to a recent article in Ad Age, viewership for the “Great Pumpkin” was down 18%. There was a time when the “Great Pumpkin” was a must-see event. We would plan our entire family schedule around that one half-hour the week before Halloween—all of us sitting in the living room waiting in great anticipation for the Great Pumpkin to arrive in the pumpkin patch. I remember how excited I was to begin watching it with my own children—trying to recreate the memory for myself, but more importantly, passing it off to the next generation. But, this year it was different. Two of my three children had planned activities (and nothing says ‘Happy Halloween’ quite like a muddy, rainy football game followed by a band concert in a hot, stuffy gym) and by the time we got home, the show was over. Yes, I was sad that we missed Linus and his pumpkin patch, but I was more upset by my kids’ reactions to the news:

“Ah, we won’t be home?” Said Hanna. “That’s too bad. Maybe we could just buy the DVD and not have to worry about it.”

“Maybe it’s on YouTube,” replied Nate. “Then, you could watch it at your desk.”

“We’re missing what?” Asked Jack. “Who’s Charlie Brown?”

YIKES!! Not only did we miss the show, but no one really cared that we missed the show—except me. Is an entire generation missing out on one of my greatest Halloween memories? Soon an entire group of children will not wait with anticipation for the Great Pumpkin to arrive or think having toast and popcorn would make an interesting Thanksgiving dinner or laugh when Snoopy is the winner of the Christmas decoration contest. An entire generation without Charlie Brown’s holiday magic–hard to imagine isn’t it?

I am probably being too sensitive—after all, this was the first Halloween where two of my children went out with their friends instead of shuffling through the neighborhood streets with us. We had just one lone trick-or-treater on our hands and quite honestly, Jack would have ditched us for his own friends if we would have let him. It is just another sign that times are changing—kids are growing up—and those moments of childhood are truly fleeting.

I sometimes forget that they are getting older. In my mind Jack will forever want to snuggle with me on the couch, Nate will always run to me when he gets hurt and Hanna will ask for my opinion on everything from clothing to school. I have watched each of them slip further and further into becoming his or her own person—and while I like the people they are becoming, I sometimes miss who they used to be.

I know my children have to grow up, but I can’t help but feel just a little sad every time they inch forward on their own.  It’s just like watching Linus in his pumpkin patch—we know there really isn’t such a thing as the ‘Great Pumpkin’, yet we’re disappointed nonetheless when he doesn’t arrive.