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Yesterday, my son reminded me to please not forget to fill out his field trip permission slip.
"You know how you hate bringing stuff to school," he said.
He's right; I do hate bringing forgotten items- homework, lunches, projects- to school, and I rarely do it. Years of experience as a teacher and a parent have proven to me that constantly "rescuing" students doesn't pay.
A True Story
When my darling daughter was in the 4th grade, she suddenly began forgetting to bring home the books and materials she needed to complete her homework. Her school was only two blocks away, and I would rush her back there to get her book or whatever it was she had forgotten. Wasn’t I dedicated? Didn’t I do whatever was necessary to help my child succeed in school?
I did it, but I wasn't happy. I told my daughter that she had to be more responsible, she must remember to check her backpack before she left school. Blah, blah, blah. My daughter would promise to check her backpack every day for the rest of her life. And she did- until the next time she forgot. Then we did our song and dance all over again.
One day, my daughter forgot her math book. Again. It was late afternoon, and I wasn't sure if her teacher would still be at school. Frantic, I called the office. What luck! Not only was her teacher there, she would be happy to drop the book off on her way home!
Let's stop here for a minute and imagine this from my daughter's point of view. Every couple of days she gets to postpone doing her homework; she gets escorted back to school; sometimes she even gets to track down her teacher in the teacher's lounge…what fun! And now her teacher was coming to her house! This was definitely more exciting than math homework.
I was just about to tell the teacher that I would come and get the book when I had a revelation-- a vision, really. I saw my daughter in high school, maybe 17 years old, smacking gum, text messaging some ne'er do well on her cell phone and mumbling, "Can’t do my homework. Forgot my book."
I couldn’t let it happen! This foolishness was going to stop.
I thanked the teacher for her extraordinarily kind offer, and told her that the book could stay in my daughter’s desk. This was becoming a problem, and my daughter needed to remember to become more responsible.
My daughter was shocked, then embarrassed, then angry. What would her teacher think? How was she going to do her math homework? Well, she wasn’t going to be able to do her homework, and for one quick second I wavered. Then, I remembered that it is always harder to the right thing (not get the book) than the wrong thing (get the darn book).
Some lessons you have to learn the hard way. Not turning in your homework (especially when you’ve actually done it), shivering on the playground because you can’t find your coat, missing a field trip because you left the permission slip at home all week- these are the kinds of lessons we want our children to learn the hard way so that they won’t have to learn the really hard ones later.
The only way our children will grow into confident, capable and responsible adults is if we treat them like capable and responsible children.
So, once in awhile, bring the forgotten item. Just don't make a habit out of it.
By the way, my daughter is now in high school and remembers her books every day.
Let's not talk about the texting.