I have made a horrible parenting mistake.
Yes, yes, yes, more than one, but this one is huge.
This week has been a struggle getting my daughter to do her homework without having a meltdown. The rule follower/attempted perfectionist that inhabits my brain has certain standards in mind for my kids. The parent in me is trying to tell that rule follower/perfectionist to shut it. No one is listening.
Last night, I was listening to my daughter read aloud. She has to do this for 20 minutes a night. Some nights, 20 minutes can stretch well over an hour because the rule follower in me only counts the minutes she actually spends reading and not the minutes where she tells me about her day (again) or asks if she can get some water or tells me that she's hungry or finds something to argue about or the time she wastes asking me if it's been 20 minutes yet.
The perfectionist in me cringes when she reads in a monotone voice, when she mixes up the order of the words when she reads aloud, and when she doesn't factor in the punctuation so that when she reads 'Today was an exciting day! We had our class zoo trip today. We all got to hold a snake, let a bird perch on our shoulders, and pet the stingrays!' - it comes out like this: 'todaywasanexctingdaywehadourclasszootriptodayweallgottoholdasnakeletabirdperchonourshouldersandpethestingrays.'
::bangs head against wall:: I have no idea why that bugs me so much, but it does. Oh, does it ever!
Last night, the monotone effect was more pronounced than usual. I was sitting beside her on the couch and after 20 minutes of reading what sounded like one really, really, really boring sentence, I had no idea what the hell she had just read. I was focusing so much on trying to make sense of what I was hearing that I couldn't tell you a single thing about the chapter other than the main character's name was Clementine (and I know that because of the book title) and something about a missing rat.
With the reading having been completed (sort of), we started to tackle the attached homework assignment...pick one of five questions and answer it with 1-2 sentences.
I'll spare you all the details, mostly because I'm trying to shove them deep, deep down inside so I can look at my daughter without hearing the angry, hurtful words she hurls in my direction when life isn't going her way.
Basically, she didn't know what she had read either. You KNOW it's bad when the person who read out loud can't even decipher or process what she read...for 20 minutes. I had to go back and re-read the chapter to even have a clue myself. Yeah, it was pretty bad.
After many minutes of back and forth which can be nicely and quickly summed up with she wanted me to tell her what to write and I refused, she complained about having to do homework and I was unsympathetic, and she threw a hissy fit to try and get her way and it didn't work.
ENTER HUGE PARENTING MISTAKE
Are you ready?
I started off with excellent intentions (said the group of people standing at the gates of hell looking all confused and fake-innocent) and was trying to ask her why she was having so much trouble with the reading assignments this week.
She gets to choose what to read. I'm sitting beside her the entire time giving her my full attention. We've been reading together pretty much since she was born so this isn't a new concept, it's now just a required concept. She was reading really, really well in kindergarten before we moved (she's now in 2nd grade). She was reading much better last week. So what's the deal and why the change?
Her response? I don't know.
And that's when I did it. Opened mouth, inserted foot, and kept on going anyway. It went something like this:
I don't understand. You are a really, really smart girl. Your reading this week has been agony on both of us. You are completely ignoring punctuation and are avoiding any expressive reading. You read so beautifully last week I don't understand what's happening this week - especially today. You were reading better in kindergarten than you read today.
(Wait for it...wait for it....)
You have my full, complete attention. How much more attention can I give you than my full attention? When your brother was in second grade, I didn't help him with his homework because you had started kindergarten and needed my help. He just did his homework, I checked it, and that was that. But you're in second grade now and it seems like you are regressing instead of progressing. What's going on? If you had to do your homework by yourself, I'm not sure you could get it done. Please tell me what is going on with you. It's like you are smothering your abilities and it makes no sense.
Two words for that little speech: Cringe. Worthy.
My two kids are night and day different. It's like expecting an apple to taste like a cantaloupe. My son had never needed the kind of attention that my daughter seems to require. And, while it's true that I really, truly don't understand it, that little frustrated, poorly executed lecture was a Total. Parenting. Fail.
Hear that sound?
Well, that's the sound of her college fund being spent on therapy.