When Mike and I made it through kindergarten with just a few bumps and bruises, we thought for sure we'd mastered this whole elementary school thing. Ha! Silly us.
Actually, first grade went relatively well. Credit that to a wonderfully enthusiastic teacher and (no bias here) a bright little boy. Still, there was a learning curve for us and plenty of shockers along the way.
I won't mince words: Homework stinks! (on many levels). In first grade, they have homework every single night. Sure, they're not writing a thesis paper, just a couple of sentences, but, it is exhausting! (For everyone).
First, there's the whole procrastination game. I can't tell you how many times Will, thinking he was being clever, would try to engage me in some crazy conversation. "Mama, that sure is a nice T-shirt you're wearing. Where did you get it?"
Seriously? Did he think the mom wearing the tattered old top, pulled from the bottom of the drawer, would fall for that?
Apparently he did since I heard it a million times over the last nine months.
Then, there was the table sprawl. I'd look over and instead of sitting at the kitchen table, the little guy would be half way stretched across it. His face planted on the table, arm out-stretched and the sounds of moans echoing through the house.
Give him an A for dramatic interpretation.
Finally, I've learned to always check the homework. You never know what you'll find. Recently, I checked his sentences and imagine my surprise when I got to the final sentence: "My mother is crazy." Enough said.
Listen up parents: There are tight deadlines! If you're a working parent, panic seizes you when you see a note saying your child has a project due in five days. That may seem like a lifetime to some, but when you have homework and other commitments, that timeline shrinks immensely.
We've learned to keep a stock supply of poster board, glitter glue, etc. Also, there's something about dads. They dig into these projects like their life depends on it. Often times, the project winds up looking like it was designed by an aerospace engineer, not a first grader. In the end, it seems everyone walks away from the table feeling a tad drained.
Call me naive, but I never thought my sweet child would come home and give me the finger. Yep, he flipped the bird at us! I was torn between shock and a feeling of wanting to laugh hysterically.
However, before we could register any response, Will asked what it meant. Whew! He had no clue, but another child had shown him the gesture. It gave us an opportunity to discuss what's appropriate and what isn't - what will wind you up in the principal's office and the doghouse at home.
We've learned to approach each of these little "opportunities" with honesty and a sense of calmness. It helps keep the lines of communications open - and believe me, we've had plenty of these talks on several fronts.
I can only imagine what second grade holds for us. Hopefully, it's smooth sailing from here on out ... but, I'm not holding my breath.
Julia is a reporter for WRAL-TV and the mother of a grade schooler. She writes monthly for Go Ask Mom.