Lately I am the homework monster. Mike’s “new” job has a long commute and a lot of afternoon meetings, so frequently I am picking up the boys after work, bringing them to my house, making dinner and checking their homework. Then Mike rolls in at 7:30 and I give him a kiss on the cheek and serve him dinner. (for the record, then he cleans ALL THE KITCHEN after the boys are to bed and I climb under my own covers with a glass of wine and a good novel.)
Nine is, well, NINE. he is not interested in doing homework. He gets it out at his sitters after school and does it to about 95% completion. I’ve been making a point this year to check his homework whenever he’s at our house, and make sure that his answers are correct and he’s done everything he’s supposed to do.
Thirteen is, well, THIRTEEN. and he REALLY doesn’t want us to butt in to his schedule and so for now, we are letting him check his own work. If his grades change then that’ll change too. We bought him a new planner and showed him how we get notifications from his teachers if he misses a homework assignment. He knows the plan and hunkers down to work as soon as we get into the house.
This week I spent nearly 2 hours with Nine going over homework. He’d left his homework packet at our house on Thursday morning, so he couldn’t hand in homework that was due on Thursday, Friday, or Monday. He didn’t tell his mom or his babysitter about it, and he passed it off to his teacher as a “dad’s house/mom’s house” issue. So he got a big talk. He had to finish all the homework he would have had to complete last week – a math worksheet, some reading, and a book report – and then we talked about all the homework he hadn’t gotten done the week before, how leaving homework at our house is NOT an excuse because hey: your mom and dad talk, kiddo, a lot, and how he needs to be more responsible for his own homework.
(This is all really crazy for me because I never did homework when I was a little kid. Don’t tell Nine.)
It turns out I’m the homework heavy. I’ve been talking to Mike all summer about Thirteen, and how to help him succeed at school. I totally laid down the law for Nine this week. Thankfully Mike backs me up, and the boys’ mom agrees too. But I just never thought I’d be the one enforcing this stuff for these little dudes, and I certainly didn’t expect it to take as much time as it does. HOLY COW DOES IT TAKE A LOT OF TIME.
I wrote in April about how much parenting I take on with the little dudes, and you know, I’ve been doing about the same level of engagement for a few years now. But no matter what happens I have a very little insecure stepmonster deep inside who manages to derail me frequently with whispers of “who ARE you, anyway, to force your value system on these children? They’re not even yours.” UGH. torturecakes. What a nasty little voice.
And you know, it’s KIND OF true. They’re not biologically *my kids.* They are, however, the kids I’ve got and the kids I’m caring for. So I have to remind myself to shut UP that insecure stepmonster voice. Kids LOVE structure. Kids LOVE having reasonable expectations placed on them, because kids also LOVE success and accomplishment, and with reasonable expectations there are endless opportunities for success and accomplishment.
Just by knowing me and seeing me as frequently as they do, the little dudes will pick up on my value system. If I chain-smoked and drank with breakfast and cussed all the time, they would notice that. If I went to church 5x a week and prayed before meals, they would notice that. I’m a reasonable person with very reasonable expectations: do your very best in school. No iPhones at the dinner table. We will all eat together for dinner. Eat vegetables every day. Read a book every now and then. Pretty easy stuff, right?