I’m a hands-on mamma but I keep my hands off homework

Re is learning how to count. And add. And write. From a parent’s point of view, these are too many milestones too soon. I knew it would happen one day or another, but I wasn’t really prepared or ready for it. There are all these schools of thought of when a child should write, and frankly I have no opinion on them. I think there’s a time and place for everything, and I’m in no hurry to find answers.

This might seem like a dichotomy, but I think I am a hands-on parent with very little interest on academic milestones. When the teacher tells me that Re has a great vocabulary and loves working with his hands, creating and telling stories and sharing knowledge, I go oh! And then she quickly goes on to add that he has little interest in written work. I continue gazing at her, unflustered.

People often asked me why I don’t home-school, since I am “doing such a good job” of him otherwise and I feel like saying, yes I am a good mother, but I’m certainly not suicidal. Given that I’m a teacher, that seems to be a very inappropriate thing to say, but that’s how it is. I don’t like mixing mommyhood with teacherhood.

Re has been given 10-12 worksheets which I am supposed to help him “solve” and after putting it off for days, I finally got down to it and shuddered. Wait a minute, I don’t remember my parents ever sitting with me and ‘helping me study’. What just happened here?

I tried. I did egg him on and facilitated a few worksheets (on a train trip, no less) and I lost interest faster than him. There’s a reason we are a team.

We think we are ready to grow down with our children but it’s harder than we think. A part of us is so adult and programmed that we cannot imagine taking ten minutes for what should have taken one. It’s easy to know a seven times table, but much hard explaining it to a child. I know parents who “take their kids’ lessons”, who practically study with their kids, take days off when they have exams and whatnot. I have no such intentions. When it comes to it, I will run. In that regard, I am quite like my parents. I can be your leisure, but I can’t be your school or your work, I will tell Re when the time comes. There’s only so much of me and I’d rather give you the good parts.

When did school become an insufficient place for education and things had to be carried forward to the home front? When did parents start doing holiday homework, projects and whatnot for their kids? Thank god it was different in our times. Knowing my mother, she would have probably said something like I wasn’t paying attention and knowing my father, he would have said don’t you have better things to do in holidays than studies?

This whole thing of parents meeting teachers was also quite alien to my childhood.  My father could barely keep track of which class we were in, and mom’s PTAs always clashed with our PTAs, so in the end, I went for my own PTA and also those of my siblings. When parents meet me now and want to know how their child is doing, I often wonder what they are going to do with the information.

People found my mother’s hands-offness from our studies hard to believe, because she was a teacher; it was assumed that she would replicate at home what she did at school. She did no such thing, because she was busy nurturing herself. She was learning to sew, emboss, paint on fabric, bake and sing in her leisure time. And I’m glad she did. We had so many textures of mom to choose from. Dad was the same. He would potter endlessly in the garden, planting, replanting, collecting seeds, reading up on new species, making files of his numerous paper-cuttings. He was always happy to have conversations about words, places and people, but often, these couldn’t be contained in lessons. He had far too much gravitas to fit into a book.When it came to studies or schoolwork, we were on our own. Guess that’s why we could do life on our own quite early.

So teachers, if you are sending homework my way, I ain’t doing it. I have better things to do.

(This post first appeared as my column in Pune Mirror on 10th November, 2014)

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8 thoughts on “I’m a hands-on mamma but I keep my hands off homework

  1. There is a reason I like you so much, and always have. Your writings assure me that I am not alone in my crusade of bringing up normal children, not robots meant to achive XYZ in life. We were brought up the same way, and I know what joy it is to have parents who dont breathe down your neck. I also know doing — or not doing — a certain set of things does not make you a sucessful person in life, being happy with who you are, knowing how to think, being independent does. You speak my heart, Lalita. 🙂

  2. i also think alike…..but at times I feel am I doing the right thing?…the guilt takes on me that due to my work schedules I am not helping her in her studies….Belive me ….her class books are incomplete because she does not write down fast and she is seven but still she is not fluent in reading like her class mates….but then I think …I learnt to read on my own and so will she …may be with a little delay but she will do so eventually and at that time she will manage her own studies…..

  3. Yes, I can tell you, you are on the right track, my son is 19 now. Comfortable with girls – doesn’t view them as things, loves animals, kind with kids and goes out of his way to talk a little to lonely elders in the building. That is the nice human part of him.

    School and college is easy. Now for the professional courses, it is a totally different ball-game. He tells me that I was way too soft as a mom. That I should not have let him play so much and instead should have given him an early sense of responsibility.

  4. This started happening when things became competitive and when schools started giving toooo many holidays to please every religion every culture and every political group.

  5. my mother too is a techer and she had exactly the same approach as your mother’s when it came to studies 🙂 i’m happy my mother’s different from my friends’ parents.

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