Saturday, May 25, 2013

Parenting Ruminations


“Mum, my teacher said that you should give her a call” Hailey said to me as I was about to bid her good day at their school’s administration block. I normally take her to this point and let her run the rest of the way to class. She had neglected to inform me that her teacher wanted to talk to me from the previous evening and the whole morning as we got ready for school, up until the point when I was just about to head to work. Sly, this one.

I inquired why her teacher wanted to see me and she gave me nothing. Clearly, she had done something wrong and withholding that information till now was in an attempt to avoid the barrage of questions that would follow.

Forget the phone call. I decided to go with her to her class and talk to her teacher in person.
When she saw me at the door, her teacher came outside. Asking Hailey to join her classmates, she closed the door behind her and turned to me.

“Hailey refuses to do the work she is given in class. You need to talk to her” she said.

I was somewhat relieved. For a moment, I thought she had insulted someone!  Or kissed a boy, God forbid! Or stolen something!

Wait a minute…why should I talk to her?  I have done my part; Hailey  does her homework without fail. Now she wants me to make her do her class work as well? If you ask me, this relationship we have with Hailey’s school is not a fair and square nusu mkate arrangement. It’s more in the ratio of quarter:three quarters, with the parents taking the lion’s share of responsibilities.  In my day, if you refused to follow the teachers' instructions you faced their full wrath and your mother didn't even have to hear about it. I guess they are aiming for more involvement from us parents, huh? After all, they are our kids, aren’t they?

Nevertheless, I promised the teacher that I would definitely talk to Hailey.

She refuses to do her class work? I can handle that, can’t I? Maybe I should just lock her up in her room and cane the defiance out of her? No, that would be tantamount to killing a mosquito with a hammer...PLO Lumumba once advised against that.  Maybe I should say no TV and deny her the previledge of watching her favorite episodes of 'Dora the Explorer' for two days? Four? A whole week perhaps? No, that would be pushing it. Kids cannot handle restrictions of more than a day or two -I must have read that somewhere. I could simply ask her father to talk to her? Yeah. I wish... no, no, no I got this. I GOT THIS!  I am perfectly capable of handling a boycott of class work. After all, it's not like she was found smoking marijuana? Md will handle the really heavy stuff during the insufferable teenage years: Tattoos, piercings and boys.God forbid! I might be tempted to kill the boys, and so he might as well step in, if for no other reason, to keep me out of jail.

My mind detoured  to how hard it was to sometimes handle stuff in Md’s absence. On rare occasions, I have answered his phone call with the words “Talk to your daughter” and handed the phone to the 'culprit' who wouldn't go to bed, who won't eat their food or who pinched, slapped or pushed their sister. He has a way of talking them into doing anything.

Focus, Renee! Focus!

Parenting. You buy a brand new cooker and they send you home with a 20 page manual with instructions on how to use it, plus additional precautionary measures to avoid damage. Then you get a baby and what do you get? Nothing. No single page manual on how to handle him or her. They send you home with just the baby and ugly stretchmarks, flabby tummy and painful stitches to boot!

Focus, dammit!

Fine, maybe I should just talk to Hailey as the teacher suggested?

The light bulb in my head came on. Talking it is then!

“Hailey, I need to talk to you” I said as I put a tea bag in my cup during breakfast the next morning.

She sat next to me with a cup of milk. She looked at me, clearly sensing that something was up.

Face her. Maintain eye contact.

I shifted  my body to face hers and stopped what I was doing .

“Your teacher says you are not doing your class work anymore?”

She looked away saying nothing.

“Why? Are you OK?”

“Yes.” She said

“Are you sure?” I asked

“Yes.” She nodded for emphasis.

“Then why are you not doing your work?”

She had nothing to say.

“Do you want to become number one?”

She nodded her head, her eyes lighting up.

“In order to become number one you have to do as the teacher says. If she gives you work in class, you have to do it. Am I clear?”I said firmly.

“Yes”

“Should I be told that you are not doing your classwork again, you will be in trouble young girl”

“I will do it” she replied, obviously eager to end the conversation.

Good. I think I got through to her. Didn't I say I got this?

“Finish your breakfast” I ordered.

When Md got wind of the incident, he insisted on talking to her anyway, to drive the point home.

“But you are not getting out of handling the tattoos, the smoking and the boys...” I said 

“Smoking tattoos??? Which boys?” he asked, confused.

“Never mind” I replied as I handed Hailey the phone.




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