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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Background Parenting


I consider myself to be a valuable support person and have always loved being in the background of projects.
When it comes to my children’s formal education however, I am an involved parent. Actually I am involved in many areas of their lives. Never the less, being involved looks different as children become teens. Although I have never done any school work for either my daughter or my son, I do provide them with an environment conducive to pursuing an interest, completing a project, researching and writing endeavours and any other venture that is assigned or chosen. I offer tips and look for tools that might assist them. I engage in dialogues with them surrounding topics and offer to edit writings for spelling and grammar only, and only then do I make suggestions and then “bite my tongue”.
It has always been important to me that my children take responsibility for their own learning and demonstrate their knowledge and skills. My responsibility lies in helping them realize their gifts and talents and encouraging them to use these for their greatest good.
When my son Max entered Grade 10, I knew it was time to head even further back into the background. I knew that the pattern had been set from the time he entered school. A pattern that I was grateful he followed: when one gets home from school, one’s backpack goes on the hook and is unloaded, all notes go in mom’s inbox, the lunch kit is emptied and hung on its hook, a half an hour is spent physically riding a bike, jumping on the trampoline, playing basketball or drumming and then any homework is completed. While Max did/does any homework, I make dinner and have conversations with him about the topics he is studying. At 16 years of age, he knows his body well and knows that if he does not get his work completed by early evening, he is in dire straits. He is a person who needs his sleep and crawls in bed at 9:30 p.m. on school nights.
So what does it look like to step into the background of a child’s life?
I attend all school meetings, follow the school’s website, read school newsletters, have loaded the school calendar into our own online family calendar, regularly check my son’s online grade keeper and discuss this openly with him, subscribe to any teacher blogs, attend parent/teacher interviews, attend all events that Max is involved in with regard to sport or music and I am available to drive and chaperone school events. 
And then… I trust him to make good decisions surrounding his school work, behaviour and ethic.
At the close of a recent PTI with one teacher, I mentioned that if there were any issues, to please let me know so that I could be aware of these and work with him for Max’s benefit. The teacher looked me in the eye and told me that if there were any issues, he would take them up with Max. At this I smiled warmly, thanked him for his time and said goodnight. When I climbed into the car, I started to laugh and I have been smiling warmly ever since. Of course this teacher will take any issues up with him! This is what I have been preparing Max for and I am in awe that he is responsible and makes good decisions. Will he always? I don’t know. He is only 16 and has an entire life to be lived yet. What I do know is that I have guided him well and it is now time to move back just a little bit more.
“If I’m young and stupid, at least I’m doing it while I’m young and stupid”… (Hedley, 2009)
…Ellyn