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Homework – To Nag or Not To Nag?

It was 10pm last Sunday night and I knew where my children were, two already asleep and my 12 year-old on the verge.

I went in to say goodnight and found my boy warm and mushy and wanting of hugs; which was perfect because I was exhausted, layered in my comfy pajamas and wanting to hug. I had just enough ounces of energy left to rub his back, almost ready for bed myself when he said, “Uh, I just remembered. I have homework and I might have a test tomorrow.”

Immediately I went from a sleeping dog to one who senses danger. I’m at attention, ears perked, heart pounding. As usual, I had reminded him about his homework at least half a dozen times; more, if you counted the silent but overt raised brow directed at his untouched backpack. In response, I had been ignored, grunted at and eye-rolled.

My bright goodnight smile darkened and my arm tickling sweet circles on his back halted. “Are you kidding?” I asked, although clearly it was a rhetorical question. He was not kidding.

And the mad scramble began…

The next morning when all that was left of the insanity was a harried overtired mom and a cranky child; we had a discussion on time management, his responsibility to his work and of not making me the nag. It was brief, as the circumstances seemed to speak for themselves.

Waiting till the last minute is something I have a hard time understanding. When I have an assignment, I’m at it the first chance I get. How else could I double check, edit or revise? How could I even sleep with the ‘assignment’ looming over my head?

The answer is that I can’t. Which is why barring a special circumstance, my children do their homework when they come home. This worked fine through elementary school, but now that my oldest is in middle school, the same rules don’t apply.

First off, he doesn’t always come home right after school. He plays on the school soccer team. He also plays in a basketball league and of course there’s his year round baseball training. On top of that he attends Hebrew school two days a week and has just started guitar lessons. I’m sure it seems like a lot but he loves and manages it all, and if something has to give, it gives. As long as it’s not his schoolwork.

Thankfully he’s a good student, but weekends are especially challenging and I admit to tossing semi-constant reminders  very subtly his way – ‘What would you like for lunch? Hey, did you do your homework? Okay, grilled cheese’.

But this weekend, I vowed not to be the nag and to make him responsible. So I reminded him on Friday evening and told him he was on his own. Then I watched the hours and days pass with mounting anxiety.

Would he forget? Could I let him go into school unprepared? I really didn’t know if I could, even if ultimately the lesson was to his benefit.

Thankfully, I wasn’t put to the test. Sunday evening I found him sitting in his room, his book bag flattened, an explosion of binders and books strewn about.  He caught my eye and gave me a self-satisfied smile.

At bedtime, as we were saying goodnight, wrapped in our warm sleepy hug, he whispered, “Mama, don’t stop reminding me to do my homework. It’s good.”

Nothing better than knowing your nag isn’t a nag.

It’s appreciated.

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Okay, so it’s 9:15pm. Baby steps.

Yup, I’m annoying. It’s a talent.

My six year-old rolls around the carpet of my floor while I try to squeeze in my half hour on the elliptical and try to finish up an episode of Masters of Sex, which is now on pause because of the rolling child who is supposed to be out front with my husband and his brothers doing yard work.

“What’s the matter?” I ask, each word a small puff of exertion.

His head is somehow underneath his behind and he mutters something I can’t make out. “I don’t understand what you’re saying when you’re upside down and talking to your butt.”

That gets him all silly. “Hi butt!” He says, “How ya doing?”

I wait for the ridiculous to work itself out so I can find out the actual problem and get back to my show. Finally, he sits up and the frustration bursts out in a gush, “I wanted to rake, but daddy said I can’t and he let everyone else!”

Apparently it is serious.

“Did you ask daddy if you could rake too?” I ask.

“YES!” He exclaims completely exasperated.

There must be more to the story but I work with what I’ve got, “Well, maybe there aren’t enough rakes. Did you ask to take turns?”

“YES!”

There is no way he did this.

“He wants me to shovel,” He complains. “I don’t want to shovel!”

“Shoveling is fun!” I say, “Why don’t you try for a little and then switch with one of your brothers.”

“I don’t want to shovel. I want to rake!”

I’ve got about 12 minutes more on this machine and I have exhausted my diplomacy skills. I can see that without physically going outside, my child will continue whining and waiting for my help. That’s when I stop trying to solve his problem and focus on a few of my own.

“Well, I know you haven’t brushed your teeth yet. Please go do that.”

He looks at me horrified. That’s not why he came to see me. He wanted retribution not a chore.

But that’s what I do to my children. Sometimes it happens right at the beginning and sometimes it closes out the conversation, but ultimately I seem to turn every interaction into a nag.

For example…

Imagine you’re contently sitting on the chair watching your favorite episode of Austin and Alley?

I’ll interrupt, “Don’t you have homework to do?”

Maybe you just finished your lunch.

I’ll remind, “Don’t forget to put your dish in the sink.”

You innocently walk into the kitchen for a hug.

I’ll note afterwards, “Gee, looks like the recyclables haven’t been done for a while.”

You’re happily brandishing a large bag of gummies from the candy store

I’ll scold, “You haven’t eaten dinner yet.”

You’re so excited that Daddy said you can watch a movie.

I’ll look at the clock, shake my head and tsk, “Sorry guys, it’s late and there’s school tomorrow.”

I’m the bearer of bad news; the annoying voice that always interrupts their games, their fun, their relaxation. I’m Debbie downer. I’m the waa waa waa. I’m… I’m the annoying mom!!

So be it.

At least I’ve managed a few extra minutes on my elliptical and my kid has clean teeth. Now get outta here. Don’t you have some work you should be doing? And comb your hair.

I’ve still got seven minutes.

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