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yesterday paul and i argued over a homework assignment. or rather--i tried to be helpful and supportive, he made snide faces and disregarded advice while still whining for it, i sharply told him i was done and made a halfhearted grab at his notebook, he shouted NO and stomped off to his room, declaring he would stay in his room FOREVER AND EVER AND I'M NEVER LEAVING AND I'LL DO THIS ALL BY MYSELF.

to that, i shrugged and said to myself, "what a good idea."

because the bitchery doesn't stop there, i proceeded to do my own version of his homework assignment ("write a story about an emotion you have experienced" or something along those lines):

emotion: frustration
triggering event: paul won't do his work.

My son Paul just started the 4th grade this past week. Because he is now going into the sixth year of his education, I had high hopes that he had finally acclimated to the school environment. However, these hopes were dashed as early as the night before the first day of school.

As we sat around in our living room on Monday evening, talking about what he needed to bring to school the next day and how we'd have to get used to the old schedule after a two-month break, we suddenly realized that one, he was woefully under-stocked in the way of school supplies, and two, he had apparently "forgotten" to do his summer reading log even after regular reminders over the past few days (which is when he actually remembered the assignment).

My overwhelming feeling was frustration. Sheer and utter frustration. I know he's a great kid. I know he's a brilliant kid. But I also know that he is a perfectionist, paralyzed by decision. I know he is more than occasionally lazy and unmotivated by anything other than what fits his comfort level and current interest. Reading is fun. Recording the fact of reading--proving that one has read--is lame and boring. Lectures are ignored. Questions are answered by silence, stares and sometimes even an insolent quirk of the lips that I feel must mask childish rage and misery. Paul and I are often at odds. I'm a short-fused individual, even under the best of circumstances.

The school supplies situation was annoying but fixable. He claimed to have a shopping list that must have been lost--WE must have thrown it out. He swore he left it on the tansu by the front door. If it wasn't there, well, it was clearly our fault. We were perfectly content to send him to school the first day with a pencil and a folder. His new teacher would send a shopping list home, we were sure of it.

The summer reading log was a different story altogether. His father had printed a few log sheets for him earlier in the week, and Paul heaved a world-weary sigh every time I asked him if he had worked on it. Monday night he finally sat down to do it, and Monday night he melted down at the concept coming up with TWO MONTHS' WORTH of reading data. (I sound like a jerk here because I could have/should have been following up sooner, and I acknowledge that. I was a self-starter, more or less, as a child, so I am probably not as attuned to his needs as I should be.)

So I offered to type one up for him (admittedly motivated by guilt), and that's what we ended up doing. Together we fudged a summer of reading logs. Part of the way through he decided that he wasn't going to finish it, and I nearly chewed off my tongue in frustration:



After constant prompting ("Then what did you read? For how long? From what page to what page?"), we finally completed it. He turned it in the next day. The teacher sent it back with a note: Nifty spreadsheet. So we saved him from his own procrastination AND made him look like a computer wizard at the same time. Great.

Maybe one day he'll learn how to do the things he needs to do without fuss, avoidance and tears. Maybe one day I'll learn to understand his modus operandi without the soul-knotting that trips my Hyde switch. Maybe one day we'll "get" each other. I just never thought that I'd have this kind of kid, and worse, I never thought I'd be this kind of parent.

i wonder how old paul will have to be before he can read this without needing therapy?



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