On this path called parenting we learn as we go. I have had the privilege of raising two children to adulthood and in a month the third will turn 18. I have made a lot of mistakes and blunder along the way but I really love the people they are and love watching the growth and change. I can see where we did really well and where our work as parents needed improvement. Makes me thankful to have so many kids so I can perfect this practice called parenting (hey docs practice medicine... I think that is what we parents do..practice).
Over the past few weeks I have been working with my daughter, Ms E, on an on going issue. I was cornered in the hall by a frustrated (rightfully so) library aide who could not get a book turned in by E. I spoke with E and she stated she could not find said item. Once it was found it was not in great shape. Apparently a brother had spilled coffee on said item and it was no longer fit for use. I then sent a note with E (first mistake sending it with the kid lol) asking for the library to allow her to work off the fine. Years and years ago I made the decision NOT to pay for library or other fines of the children at school. I sent in a letter at the beginning of the school year and let them know of my policy and asking for an alternative. The school had a policy that kids could work off their fines instead. I had already tried paying the fines and having the kids work for me... and I tried making them find jobs to pay off the fine... it ended up being a giant headache for me and with seven children I am ALL about eliminating excess headaches!
The former librarian and I saw eye to eye on the idea that kids have to learn to be responsible for items they borrow and the VERY best way is to make them be FULLY responsible. I also realize we have options larger schools would not be able to accommodate, which is why I have always chosen small schools for the kids. So, after a few times of said kids dusting and helping out at the library I can tell you the missing items diminished greatly! Unfortunately, this is life and sometimes we like to repeat lessons, just to make sure we really have them down I guess. Yesterday I received two calls from E to bring the book in and turn it in for her. I refused. I thought, 'this is HER responsibility and she will have to take it with her tomorrow.' I drove E to school with the damaged book in hand. She was almost beside herself with fear. I could see it written so clearly on her face. It would have been so much easier just to take the book in myself, but what does it teach her? So, we talked about it and she explained why she was having so much anxiety about it.
On a side note Ms. E suffers from mild PTSD which she was diagnosed with at an early age due to traumatic life events in her early years (ie dv in the household in our "previous" life) It RARELY shows itself (due to 12 wonderful years of healing and work) but when it does it, we swiftly take actions to decrease the heightened emotional response to situations. Part of that is teaching her the necessary skills to recognize the response, practice relaxation techniques and to make a plan to deal with the situation which is causing the response. When children have PTSD and they feel threatened, cortisol FLOODS the brain and they have increased heart rate, anxiety and fear. Even if a situation appears mild, it can feel rather big. Returning a library book to a frustrated library aide who raises their voice with a stern look on their face can feel like one is going to battle!
So, we made a plan. She would return the book to the aide with me waiting nearby to come in to help if the aide engaged verbally in a manner which would heighten E's anxiety and decrease her ability to handle it. She laid the book on the next and left the library... she was up the stairs when the aide raised her voice and told E to "Get back in here NOW" As she began to lecture E on the book it was my cue to step in. I politely told E to head to class. The aide retrieved the librarian (I haven't really worked with this new one before) and I explained our policy regarding books and how my wish was for E to be responsible and in years past I found I could not teach them responsibility if I was paying for the books. (Life is VERY different with 7 kids!) It wasn't going to work for him to supervise her trading off working for the fines as he had other responsibilities. There was the threat, of course, of not allowing our transcripts to be sent to the new school if I didn't pay the fine, which got my ire up for a few seconds, but I reeled it back in KNOWING we really were on the same page of teaching E responsibility! It was suggested I find the principle.
We have a wonderful principle, who has had the job of working with me for A LOT of years (seven kids remember...thank you Lord for seven well behaved, kind, and fairly responsible kids). I think we have the system worked out pretty well. I explained the situation to him, my desire to again teach responsibility to E, the need to make sure the book cost was covered, my desire to have her final day at Plains School be of a good memory not a bad one, and he graciously and immediately found a time and a job for her to complete her task of rectifying the book situation. Yes, me paying $20 for the fine would have been way easier then dealing with this mess, but it teaches E nothing in the long run and responsibility is one of those lessons it is worth a little extra hassle for me.
My point in blogging about this is not to disrespect the school librarian and aides because I know they work hard and deal with a lot of kids and the librarian has a real heart for these kids and our community. He is kind, considerate, and a great role model for our young people. I really respect the job he does. :) Over the years I have learned a lot in working with the school to teach my children values we all wish them to have. One frustration as a parent in working with anyone at the school or in the community is how to remain on the same team and full fill common goals, such as in the case with us both wanting to teach responsibility, without getting into a power struggle or walking away feeling like it was a disagreement. Our common goals in our community of choice should be to find common ground in every area we can and really be good role models. I'm learning more and more every day about this job of parenting and I am very thankful for the people who have helped me learn and grow along the way. I am thankful for the easy moments and the trying ones. Bottom line is if we can all remember we really are on the same team, keep our cool, not make judgments about others and really take the time to listen... we can teach the young people in our world some wonderful skills which they will carry into adulthood.
Teachers and anyone who works in a school have a very tough job. I admire the work and dedication it takes. My experiences have been positive with a few negative thrown in there but the bottom line is I have learned so much from it. When you become a parent your community broadens when your children are school aged, unless you home educate (which I have done on occasion). For parents and teachers or employees of schools reading this, if we can keep the focus that we are on the same team and are working toward the same goals which should be raising up well adjusted, honest, moral, and yes RESPONSIBLE children, then we can navigate challenges a lot more quickly and smoothly and the child WINS! I'm thankful I have had many such people to work with in our local school, and as we move I will take all the lessons I have learned along the way. I was thankful for the opportunity to practice the art of mothering today in the face of a very small obstacle. Successes through the struggles, no matter how small, teach me to become a better person, challenge me to become a better communicator, and give me opportunities to teach my kids important life lessons all the while praying "I hope I'm not screwing this up... one of us may need therapy later if I do."
Note: People have often asked why I'm so honest and open about our experiences with domestic violence. It is because when those of us who have succeeded in breaking the cycle and have moved from victim... to survivor... to over comer, we need to share the struggles, things we learned, and hope. There becomes this responsibility to reach out and share where I can, in a way which doesn't make this MY STORY, but educates others what occurs not only in homes where dv is present, but the seemingly insurmountable pressures and obstacles mothers, parents, children, and communities face even when the violence ends.