I am my mother

7 Oct

So this morning I get out my trusty dusty spiral notebook to write a quick note to DynaGirl’s teacher, giving her an update on DG’s arm and letting her know we forgot to get DG’s homework when we left early yesterday for the appointment with the doctor.  I’m just getting started when DynaGirl says, “You’re writing another note?”

Me:  What do you mean?

DG:  Didn’t you just write her a note last week?

Me:  Yeah, but that was to let her know when I could come in this week to work in the classroom.

DG:  It just seems like you write a lot of notes.

Me:  Is that bad?

DG:  No, as long as people don’t start thinking you’re weird with all the notes.  Or that I’m weird.

Me:  Well, I was just letting her know that you need to sit out of PE for two more weeks and that we forgot to get your homework yesterday.  Is that OK?

DG:  Yeah, that’s OK.  I’m just sayin’.

She’s right, you know.  I write a lot of notes.  I like to communicate with my children’s teachers.  Is that so wrong?   But I know how she feels.  My mom was also a note writer.  But not just your run-of-the-mill-please-excuse-bythelbs-from-class-today kind of notes.  She wrote novellas.  Whether it be an early dismissal from class or an excuse for missing a day or a question about whatever, she was always very thorough.  One time in 5th grade, I did not complete a report on time.  I think we had a lot of family stuff going on.  My brother was sick and going back and forth to the hospital for treatments and my mom just didn’t have time to help me with the report.  She wrote a three page letter, front and back, to Mr. Caperton, explaining why I did not have the assignment and asking if I could have more time to complete it.  He came up to me during class.  In one hand he held the letter, the other he placed on my shoulder.  He looked at me, with what I thought was a glistening of a tear in the corner of his eye, and said in a tender voice, “Of course you can have more time.  Of course.  You turn it in whenever you’re ready.”  I remember feeling embarrassed, wondering what my mom had written in that note.  Whatever it was, it worked.  Like a charm. 

Last week, Mr. T had an assignment due that he didn’t get in on time.  Apparently, it was supposed to be the final draft of a paper they had written the previous week and then given to another student in the class for a peer review.  The kid Mr. T had given his paper to, didn’t give it back to him until the morning of the day it was due.  When Mr. T explained this to his teacher, his teacher gave him an extra day to complete the final draft.  Well, that night when Mr. T went to type up his final draft, he couldn’t find the rough draft.  He had accidentally turned it in with some other papers.  I asked him to explain this to his teacher the next day and see if he could have one more day to finish the assignment.  The next two days he had a sub, and I was worried that now that we were going into the weekend, his teacher would not be so understanding about an assignment being five days late.  So I sent him an e-mail explaining the situation.  I even threw in that I understood that now that the assignment would be so late, he might incur point deductions but I still felt strongly that Mr. T needed to finish the assignment.  I heard back from the teacher who said he would allow Mr. T to finish the assignment and that he would not be penalized.  He even e-mailed me again after class, letting me know that Mr. T now had the rough draft in his hands. 

At first I was a little hesitant to get involved.  I was worried about coming off as one of those hovering mothers that has to have her hand in everything her child is doing or feels the need to hold her child’s hand through everything he does.  I even let Mr. T read the e-mail before I sent it to make sure I didn’t say anything that he would find embarrassing.  Mr. T  was OK with it, and the teacher even thanked me for letting him know the situation.  I think he was just grateful to have a parent express some kind of interest in her child’s education.

So maybe my kids will spend the next 40 years mocking me for my penchant for note-writing, but I hope, at least someday, they’ll come to the same understanding that I eventually did with my own mother.  She cared.

11 Responses to “I am my mother”

  1. Alison Wonderland October 7, 2008 at 11:52 am #

    I don’t write notes. I’m not sure why, I just never know what to say. Even my notes to get the kids out early run along the lines of “Please let the Princess out early because I’m her mom and I said so.” End of story. (Ok so I do usually give a reason. Usually. Although I have been known not to.)
    It’s not that I don’t care (I don’t think) I guess I just feel like that is part of what school’s about, the kid figuring out how to work that stuff out on their own.
    It’s not that I think you’re doing it wrong. No, really. Mostly it’s just interesting how different the approaches of even the most caring mothers (that would be you and me) are.

  2. Julie October 7, 2008 at 1:01 pm #

    My mom wasn’t a note writer, but considering your success with this method, I may adopt it. I do wonder what I’ll be like when my kids get to that age…

  3. bythelbs October 7, 2008 at 2:29 pm #

    Alison—Now that Mr. T’s in middle school, he’s usually on his own. I actually had Mr. T try to talk to his teacher himself, but the teacher was gone at some conference the rest of the week. I thought I’d e-mail him to give him a heads up rather than have Mr. T try to explain almost a week after the fact. I don’t trust my grade schoolers to pass on information to their teachers. Either they forget or they say something crazy.

    Julie—I typically only write the notes to let the teacher know if I have to pick up a kid early or if we’re going to be gone and need to make up school work or to explain an illness or injury that will require some modification to my child’s participation in school. I like to feel informed, so I just kind of assume that other people do too, I guess.

  4. thewoobdog October 7, 2008 at 2:49 pm #

    Ok. That was hilarious. Seriously.

    My mom always made me write my own notes (usually in the car on the way to school), and then she would sign her name. I always thought this must appear suspicious to any teacher in their right mind… Especially when she started making me sign her name. (Gave me great life skills, though – I can forge any sig you give me…) 😉

    It does sound like you are successfully avoiding the current American fad of ‘helicopter parenting’, though – while still staying involved and interested in your kids’ lives. Kudos to you!

  5. Susan M October 7, 2008 at 5:02 pm #

    I always feel like an idiot writing a note. Because ever since I started working fulltime on computers I can’t write by hand to save my life. Words come out wrong; letters come out wrong. It’s just a mess.

    Email is much easier.

  6. bythelbs October 7, 2008 at 5:15 pm #

    Woob—I’d like to think I’m not a helicopter parent, but I do try to know what’s going on. I mean, they’re kids. They need some kind of direction or help once in a while, right? I’m their parent, so I figure that’s kind of my job.

    Susan—I definitely prefer e-mail, too. Mr. T’s school has a website where you can track their grades and assignments and click on the little link to e-mail the teacher. I love it. I haven’t figured out if the elementary school teachers use their e-mail much. If they do, I’ll definitely be switching from the handwritten note. I’ve started over many a note because I messed it up and was embarrassed to send something with a bunch of scratched out stuff on it.

  7. Julie October 7, 2008 at 7:22 pm #

    PS, I love the title of this post. What a compliment to your mother. I think she’s probably smiling right now thinking what a good girl she raised — concerned, articulate, funny, kind, and involved.

  8. Debbie October 7, 2008 at 7:25 pm #

    It is so hard to know when to jump in and write that note or email and when to just be quiet. And my kids are worried about the embarrassment factor too.

  9. madhousewife October 7, 2008 at 9:21 pm #

    I write more notes than I would probably otherwise be inclined to because PZ has always required more home-school communications. I don’t write as many notes for MB, but Elvis’s teacher encourages us to write notes about what he does at home, so she has something to draw on for starting conversations and increasing language. So I end up writing notes about him going to a restaurant and what he ordered and how he changed the batteries in his sister’s toy piano, and it feels kind of ridiculous, but she asked for it.

  10. flip flop mama October 7, 2008 at 9:41 pm #

    Good for you for being involved. I think there is a fine line between helicopter parenting by making excuses for their kids constantly but it sounds like you know where that line is and step in only when necessary. I don’t know how much of a note writer I will be when my kid gets older. All I know is once I learned how to sign my parent’s names they became much more frequent note writers. 🙂

  11. Boquinha October 8, 2008 at 10:48 am #

    Hmmm, now I feel like I’m repeating all the other comments, but I really was going to say (and am saying) that there is a fine line between helicopter parenting and being involved and I think you’re doing great.

    Besides, it’s not like you’re asking special favors for your kids–everything you’ve expressed is very reasonable! It’s when parents say, “Oh, well, he didn’t feel like doing his homework and stayed up watching movies so he needs another day and you better give it to him or else I’m talking to the principal!!” You know. That sort of thing.

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