The moment when I realized that I was a “do as I say, not as I do” type of mom was a Sunday evening, around 9:00 p.m.
There I was, hastily scribbling answers in the workbook I needed to complete for the sign language class I was taking. In spite of having weeks to complete the assignment, I waited until the last moments to do the work for this particular unit. Browsing the syllabus, there seemed to be scores of videos to review, practice, and answer. The clock was ticking down.
As I rushed to finish the last upload, proud that I had a whole HOUR before the 11:59 p.m. deadline, my teen, Madison, wandered into the room and peered over my shoulder to ask what I was doing. When I admitted that I was finishing my homework, she asked why I had waited so long to complete my assignment. I made some excuse about not having time. My teen, having perfected the raising of her eyebrow, raised one in my direction. She responded that she was surprised that the school only gave me a few days to complete the assignment. As she turned and left the room, I uploaded the video in shame, making a promise to myself and her retreating back that I would not put myself in the same position again.
Madison’s reaction and her words are words I have said to her many, many times throughout her high school career. Sometimes they are said to her with a hint of a smile as we work through an assignment, spending a few minutes with our heads together, figuring out some problem. Sometimes, these words are tinged with sarcasm when she “suddenly remembers” that she has to type and print something for class right before bedtime. These words are always said with love. It frustrates me to see her struggling to get through her school work when all it would take is a little time management and preparation to complete her work. “Eat the elephant one bite at a time” is something I tell her, as she is furiously typing, attitudes in the house on high. But then I realize that my words, when uttered by the self-proclaimed “Queen of Procrastination,” ring hollow. In order for my kid to change her ways, I need to acknowledge my faults.
Thinking back, procrastination is something that I come by honestly; it’s a family trait. My family would arrive late to events. We have missed more overtures and opening numbers than I care to share. It’s not that we don’t value your time, it’s that collectively, we underestimate the amount of time a task will take. When it came to homework or assignments for school, there was always time. Teachers could give extensions, and deadlines could be pushed back. The time it would take to get something done would become flexible, causing a false sense of work ethic when, in fact, I would be messing around and not working at all. The completed project would be… passable, but with tell tale signs of a rushed effort. Instead of fighting this impulse, I decided that this was how it would be and that was life.Unfortunately, Madison has picked up my terrible habits. The cute title I gave myself is now a hindrance instead of a quirk in my character. The tension I feel as I race to complete an assignment mirrors the frustration she voices about getting her work done for school. I am aware that she is watching what I do and that has propelled me to make some changes to in my work behavior.
Instead of telling my teen how to behave, now I lead by example. After so many lectures, talks, and fights about getting her work done one time, showing her by example is, by far, the best bet. When I turn off the television and start typing a paper, I am trying to demonstrate that choosing a priority is not creating a punishment. Together, we will realize that spending time getting things done is a skill, something she will be thankful for in years to come. Knowing there will be no more mad dashes to complete work and that we will have time to catch errors is priceless! This new way does make for smoother evenings and smoother evenings are more conducive to study.
So, we have made a good start. I can now say with confidence to do as I say AND as I do…except when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep. But that’s a story for another time.