Friday, August 3, 2007

I am a bad Amma.

This is a long post, so let me apologise in the beginning.

Yesterday was a bad day. It started off fine. till 7 pm, it was fine. At 7 pm, Sonny boy and I sat down to get his homework done. And the day started to go bad.

Sonny boy had been down with a severe cough and cold the week before last, and he'd even been having antibiotics. He was not well, so he did not go to school for a week; and he was not well, so he did not do his homework for a week. But the next week, when he did go to school, his books were marked with a red question mark. Of the kind we used to dread getting in our answer papers. (Amazing how teachers retain the same handwriting, over the ages.) Of course Sonny boy was blissfully uncaring. And I had no cares either, inititally- after all, H/W could be caught up on.

But come the end of that week, his H/W book was marked with a list of last week's (the week he was absent) and the current week's H/W, and we still had his earlier H/W to catch up on. Man! This had to be the mother of all homeworks!

Sonny boy and I commenced briskly last Mon evening. Our weekend had anyway gone for a six. All oral stuff was a breeze, and Sonny boy being pretty fond of his books, was already familiar with most of the regular big x small, tall x short, in x out, on x under stuff. What he did not like was writing. And in writing, he particularly hated writing numbers.
Let me add here, that while he LOVED scribbling around indiscriminately with his pen/pencil/crayon, he did not take kindly to being required to colour within limits, or along lines or curves. He has a mind of his own and doesn't like to be told what to do, and doesn't do what he is supposed to , if he can help it.

But things were not too bad. We arrived at compromises.

"You want to play with Thomas?"
Dull eyes and sagging shoulders perk up instantly. Enthusiastic series of nods.
"Ok, then let's finish this page of straight lines."

"You want chocolate/chips?"
A hopeful gleam enters above dull eyes. Confirms that chocolate/chip is indeed available. Looks at me with a isn't-this-too-good-to-be-true expression. He knows his Amma, you see.
"Ok, you can have it after we finish writing the number 2."

And tho' shoulders slumped a bit, we went on.

We finished straight lines, vertical lines, oblique lines, curved lines, and numbers 1 and 2 by Wed, before trouble started. Since Sonny boy was as yet unused to holding his pencil, I used to help him grip it, and we progressed alright on Mon, Tue, Wed. By yesterday, he was used to the concept of sitting down and writing for half an hour to an hour. That laziness had worn off, and he used to come and sit at the table without much fuss. So I thought it was time he gradually learnt to grip his pencil by himself too. This was more because, with me guiding his fingers, Sonny boy tended to let his attention wander.

We were doing 3. We'd already finished three lines of 3 on Wed, writing over the dots... We started off with the next page, where only one column had the dotted 3 and the remaining columns had to be done by yourself. There were some 7-8 columns and about 10 rows. I guided his fingers over the first 3 rows. Gradually started letting go with the 4th. Tried to make him concentrate. But he just wouldn't. HE JUST WOULDN"T. He refused to draw without my fingers on his.

By now he could sense that I was irritated, bordering on frustrated. He started getting more distracted than ever, and worried of upsetting me. After three whole rows of writing and bleating 'threeeee!' on Wed, yesterday, when I asked him what the number was after making him write it, he said 'Five!' And then immediately on seeing my look- 'Sorry!'
But no effort to concentrate... I showed him 1 and 2 in the earlier pages, and he said those two numbers correctly. Then I showed him 3, and he said 'three.' Fine. I took another book, searched out 3 and asked him what the number was . "Five!!" I showed him 2 and asked him -"what?" "Five!!"
I totally lost it. I screamed at him. He cowered before me, started crying.

My Mom was there and she intervened. Took him off to play with the magnetic numbers I had bought for Sonny boy the previous day, trying to get him to look at numbers as fun. (But we hadn't yet had time for the fun part.) She told me to change his mood and then get him back to studying. But then, when you get home at 7, and you have to go to bed at 10 so you can wake up at 7 the next morning, there isn't much time to let his mood change, is there?

I waited on tenterhooks for 15 minutes. No sign of Sonny boy's mood taking a turn for the better. And that irritating "Five" hadn't disappeared either. He kept naming all the numbers except 1 as "Five!" I decided that enough was enough- there were still some 6-8 more pages of HW to be done- all writing stuff. And when would we finish if we were to wait for mood changes?

I requested my Mom to go into her room and shut the door. Husband was already wisely behind another door. Actually, he helped at times, but he was slow, and I HAD to finish everything by yesterday, for H/W had to be submitted Fri morn. Besides, in the last H/W, for things to be coloured yellow, Acha had helped Sonny boy colour green, and that had earned a red question mark as well. So I thought it would be better to do it myself. Wrong thought.

Things went from bad to worse, and Sonny boy just did NOT concentrate ONE bit on what he was supposed to do, whereas I kept going from mad to madder to maddest. The house was filled alternately with my shouts of frustration and his shouts of rage, till finally I decided that we were not going anywhere and at this rate, he would probably end up hating studying. We stopped. Homework unfinished.

But I was still mad at him for not trying to do what I wanted him to do. Once he'd gotten away from his writing, Sonny boy came around to nestle with his Amma. But I steadfastly maintained that I did not like little boys who wouldn't do their homework, and I did NOT want to play with him. He burst into tears again. I felt like the meanest Mom, but I was too upset after our recent bout to unwind so fast.
I should never have let myself get so mad. I should not have let the pressure of unfinished homework get to me. So what if it was not done completely? It was just some pages of stuff he was behind on, because he had not been well, and we'd been overloaded with guests. Why did I have to create such a bad memory for him? He's not going to like writing any time soon now.

Why o why does a three and a half year old have so much homework? I had thought Montessori meant that you learnt through play. Then how this? Actually if we had been regular with our study time, we wouldn't have had a problem. But isn't 31/2 too young for study timetables? I am totally depressed and woe begone.

Sometimes I wonder if my going to work is the problem. Is my having so little time and so much to cram into those hours that is the problem? Then how do other working Mom's manage? And since I can't afford to quit my job, what do I do as Sonny boy grows older?


Asha said...

Three and a half years is definitely too young. The problem is with the educational system in India. I don't have any idea how I will manage all this!

Rohini said...

Hell, don't blame yourself for this. Expecting a 3-year old to have this kind of attention span is beyond ridiculous. Maybe you should just do it at his pacr - after all, at this age does it really matter if they don't ace everything...

And why do you blame your status as a working mom for it. He would have still been unwell and behind his work had you been a SAHM and only the most angelic of mothers (and I wonder if they exist or whether they are figment of imagination we create to torment ourselves) would have lost their temper...

~nm said...

I do not understand what school gives a 3.5 yrs young child so much homework? Sorry I just can't.

Its not sonny boys problem. Sorry but it definitely isn't.

Something to Say said...

So much homework for a 3.5 year old. Please dont blame your working mom status - I am a SAHM and I feel the same way.
Maybe you can have a word with his teacher - and take some more time for him to finish the HW. Besides once kids know something is irking you - they just want to push you to the limits - just to check what the limits are.
Its only homework - not worth mom and son being mad at each other.

WhatsInAName said...

Sounds so familiar !!!
I was after my daughter till I realised that she has started hating maths! I guess when it comes to our own kids, we lose patience.
I think you should just leave it at that and be a bit slow. Maybe even talk to the teacher ! Tried it?

Usha said...

Change the school - this is sheer madness. And the poor child has been sick for a week. This is how we ensure that children begin to associate school with drudgery and studies with punishment.

dame's diary said...


Your evil twin sister here !! Hang in there.He is only 3.

This too shall pass.

Don't quit your job. Quit the school!


karmickids said...

AM with you here, brat gets homework too, but its mostly stuff he needs to make or paint and he finds it fun...the standing line sleeping line stuff is there too...that we slip in and finish off in five good minutes when the father is sitting around being a policeman. But its really too much homework they are giving out these days for such young kids... I try to make it a game and compete with him, I can do it better, which generally gets him raring to show off...

Just Like That said...

Asha- Yeah, seriouly wish our educational system would get better and easier on kids.

Rohini, Nm- I think it was a mix of
1.being frustrated at work,
2.having no maid at home for the last one month,
3.having absolutely depressing guests plonked at home for a week, 4.feeling guilty over not being with Sonny boy as much as I would like, and
5.on top of it all seeing that red question mark. (I still see red when I think of it!)
I just didn't submit H/W on Fri, Hubs told Princi that he would submit it after he had finished it... worked without losing my temper/almost had fun on the weekend with the H/W and finished it.

STS, WIN - yeah, definitely not worth me getting mad. Actually he's quite a sweetheart, and I know it. I just hope he remains that way!
I have spoken to his teacher earlier, but she just makes a bigger issue of my 'needing to spend more time with the child', and doing things together. I think she has contributed more than a fair share to my guilt over working...

Usha, Dame - yeah, that's what my Mom said too- not to start getting him to view school work with dislike. What I hated in myself was that I could allow myself to forget that he was just 3. And if I start letting the pressure get to me now, what was in store for us in the coming years?

The school is actually quite ok, but his present teacher is a PAIN. I don't think she is one of those fun, friendly types (his teacher last year was a pet). We are having our parent-teacher review on Aug 14th. Think I need to bring up this issue.
Problem is , in this school, I am almost the only working mother, haven't met any others who work. If there are any who work, they are too busy to come ( I see some granparents/fathers). So there have never been any complaints over the work load. But to be fair, the whole of last year, there was no problem for me either.

Kiran- Before this H/W overload, I had a chat with the Princi over the huge amount of writng Sonny boy had to do. What she said was that they taught all the stuff in school, and the writing part had to be 'practised' from home.
'The child has so many distractions at school, and it isn't possible for us to make him write lots from school'
So they give puh-lenty of H/W, so that for working mothers like me, there is hardly any time to have fun with the child on a weekday- one day lost means that much extra work on the next evening. Crossing my fingers and hoping it gets better and we manage to have our fun still...

Moppet's Mom said...

I've been out of everything for the last couple of days, and don't really have anything to add to what everyone's already said.

Hugs to you and Sonny boy - don't let school bog you down so early - not getting an A in nursery won't hurt him any way :-)

Twisted DNA said...

Working mom or a SAHM, bad mom or a good mom or a super mom.. none of these moms would've been able to make the 3.5 year old to hold the attention for that long. Hell, I can't hold my attention for that long.

From what I understand of Montessori philosophy, they don't traditionally assign any homework. It is ridiculous to give homework for a 3.5 year old, whatever the quantity is.

Swati said...

Ohh JLT ..all is a passing phase patient. This much homework is bad for 3.5 year old kid.

upsilamba said...

late visiting.
reading all the comments I am pretty sure you have it all figured out.

Feeling for you and Sonny boy. Stop blaming yourself and no, its not the working mom thing.

off to catch up on you..

rbdans said...

I somehow missed adding you to my reader. Visiting after a long time and catching up on the posts.
Girl, he is only 3.5 years old. Other comments have already pointed it out, it is ridiculous to expect him to sit in one place and do "homework". And please don't take it on yourself, you will only make things worse. The smarty pants that he is, he will write when its time :)