Parenting – 2015-Style

September 16th, 2015
Aedan in Cub Scout uniform

One of the things that I consistently struggle with is parenting a student while having a background in education. Or maybe it’s just parenting a student in this day and age – I’m not sure which. All I know is, whenever something happens at school that I don’t agree with or don’t like, I have this internal conversation going on between what some might call Mama Bear Kristen and Educator (or Rational) Kristen. It’s usually a toss-up who wins, and I can’t tell if that means my son’s teachers love me or hate me.

For example, last night our son came home with his math homework completed (for once). He then showed us where he had originally completed half of it during class, but because it wasn’t done the way the teacher wanted (math problems written vertically instead of horizontally), his teacher made him cross it out and start over. This is what happened in my head at that moment:

Mama Bear Kristen (MBK): WHO DOES THIS TEACHER THINK SHE IS? WHY IS SHE STOMPING OUT MY SON’S ABILITY TO THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX? IS SHE REALLY MORE CONCERNED WITH MAKING SURE THINGS ARE DONE HER WAY THAN THAT HE LEARNS HOW TO DO IT IN A WAY THAT MAKES SENSE TO HIM? (Well, all this, plus a few more curse words thrown in).

Rational Kristen (RK): Alright, alright, alright, just calm. the fuck. down. You probably don’t even know the whole story. Maybe there’s more to what’s going on here, and you need to keep your cool in front of your son.

MBK: Right, right – you’re right. BUT HE’S MY SON, AND I DON’T WANT ANYONE STOMPING ON HIS ABILITY TO LEARN. I SHOULD EMAIL HIS TEACHER RIGHT NOW AND ASK FOR A MEETING…

RK: STOP! Breathe. And listen. I promise you, you are not hearing everything going on here, and you never will if you freak out.

While to the learned observer, my MBK reaction is obvious (seriously, if I was a porcupine, you would see all my quills go up and be ready for action), Rational Kristen usually wins out and waits to hear the whole story. In this case, the rest of the story goes that his teacher had already told them which way she wanted them to do the math problems, he just hadn’t heard her (or as we’ve come to understand, wasn’t listening).

Recognizing that this inner turmoil probably happens in most parents – and it’s hard to say which side is stronger for which person – I try to keep this in mind when talking to other parents – of college students or even students who are my son’s age. It’s hard to recognize that there is another side to the story when all you ever want to do is make life the best it can possibly be for your child. It’s hard to not allow yourself to be the protective mama bear when it seems like your child is hurting. It’s hard to be rational about anything when it comes to your child’s happiness.

But after years of working with college students, I also know that it’s a good thing to be rational, to let your child hurt in a protected environment, to experience failure. It’s a good thing to take a step back and listen to both sides of the story. And I hope that I’ll always be able to keep that in mind as I have these internal conversations, that I’ll be able to support my child while raising him to be independent of me and to learn to fail gracefully.

Because it’s hard, yo, this parenting thing. But I knew I wasn’t taking the easy path when I had him, and I’m not going to take it now.