Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The missing parenting manual

Today was a tough day as far as being a mom goes. Another call home from school about John's behavior, but this time, from the gym teacher. Seriously. The gym teacher.

There have been a few calls home from school in the last several weeks; trouble sitting still, trouble listening, trouble not talking, trouble keeping his hands to himself, typical stuff for a five year old boy. Today, he found a pencil on the floor in the gym near the bleachers and started coloring on the gym floor - because he thought it would be funny.

It's not that hard to get a confession out of a five year old, as long as you're okay with a teary one.

I'm not sure what to think about the misbehavior. I don't doubt that the ants-in-his-pants and motor-mouth are all legitimate complaints from the teacher. I also don't excuse any of the behavior, because he knows what's expected and what's appropriate behavior for school.

But I also know that for a kindergartner, an eight hour school day feels like an eternity. In his own words, "it's almost 24 hours, Mommy!!" Add consistently lousy spring weather that has kept them inside three days out of five to the rapid approach of year-end and summer vacation, and it's a recipe for a behavior disaster.

Of course, that still doesn't excuse any of his behavior. I like to think that we're reasonably good parents, who set limits, boundaries, and expectations of our children. When they cross those limits and boundaries, and when they fail to live up to those expectations, I also think that we discipline them appropriately. Discipline, in its truest etymology, expresses love, not punishment. I discipline my children because I want them to grow up understanding and respecting rules and boundaries, not because I want them to fear me.

Like so much as a parent, though, I second guess whether I'm doing it right. We've had enough calls home this year that I sound like a broken record, at least to me. I keep looking for the manual that tells me how to fix it, but our copy of the parenting manual has gone missing.

Oh, that's right. It doesn't exist. We have to figure this out on our own.

Today I'm especially thankful for a conversation with a dear friend this past weekend about that mythical parenting manual. I may not know if I'm doing it right, and there may be many more phone calls from teachers in my future. But if there was a manual, I think it could be worse - because then there would be no doubt exactly when I was doing it wrong.

So I'm okay if that manual just stays missing. I love my kids, and I do my best every day to be the best mom I can be. As long as they know both of those things, I'm pretty sure they'll turn out okay.


  1. Instructions are overrated. And your kids are lucky to have such a great mama. :)

  2. I will preface this with 2 things: first, no two kids are alike so any advice anyone gives you may or may not work. second, I am by no means a perfect parent and only offer this suggestions as one that worked for me in a similar situation. doesn't make it a good suggestion, applicable, or the answer to your problem.......

    that being said, Ryan couldn't sit still either and his acting out was very similar to John's. they noticed when they got to the point of sending him to the office, he calmed down enroute. (shocking!) we told the teacher that when Ryan started acting up to send him outside to do 25 jumping jacks. seriously.....and it worked. he had to do them away from where the class could see him so he wouldn't disturb the class more than he already had and obviously he couldn't go meandering off. I think once Ryan even sent himself outside because it felt the antsies coming on.

    but are an awesome parent and it is obvious John and Caroline know that! (((hugs)))

    1. I love the creative solution - his energy is off the charts all the time, school is no different, right? I think I'll talk to his teacher about something like that. Thanks for the advice - and the understanding. Moms of boys unite!!

  3. do not second guess yourself! boys have a hard time sitting still, especially at 5! despite that you think my kids are NOT the best behaved ever, they can be hellions, alot, especially the boy child! we may not get calls from school, but we get knocks on the doors from parents/or kids in the neighborhood about Ryan. he can be controlling and mouthy at times and definitely has a hard time sitting still, even at 8.5! I think doing jumping jacks is a great idea! one of my old neighbors used to run her kids around the hood before dinner, so they would sit and behave. I even have a hard time sitting still some times too! It will get easier! you are a great parent!