31 January 2005

Single...With Children: School Finals Teach Mother Another Kind Of Lesson

School finals teach mother another kind of lesson

Single with Children

By Susie Parker

Publication Date: 05/23/01

Lately, tempers have been running just a little short in my home. There hasn't been as much laughter, and one member of my family in particular hasn't been nearly as easygoing and patient. In fact, a couple of times this particular family member has slammed a door or two, usually after coming in from class.

There seems to be too much to do and far too little time to accomplish everything that needs to be done as the school year winds down. Deadlines are looming, and the hours are ticking toward a final that seems to have popped up out of nowhere, even though it was clearly stated on the syllabus handed out in the very first class. Of course, it's a fairly seasonal phenomenon. It's FINALS week.

From what I can tell, this family will be only too glad when things return to semi-normal and with it, hopefully, the laughter and silly antics that usually pervade the atmosphere in this place we call home.

Now, I hate to mention any names and point any fingers, particularly since the short-tempered, impatient family member/student appears to be ME! I've shared a lot of things with my kids over the years, and this spring I'm taking it just a little further, much to their collective chagrin. In fact, I dare say that I have a calendar on my desk counting down the days until I can deposit my textbook back where it rightfully belongs; on my bookshelf gathering dust. No one will be happier than I to see this symbol of high anxiety removed from our dinner table, our deck, our car and just about every other place it has turned up beside me in the past few weeks.

The funny thing is that taking this class has taught me a lot more than just the dry subject matter contained on its coffee stained pages. I've learned things these past few weeks that I didn't realize were going to be taught when I innocently signed up for this course a couple of months ago, but perhaps this "bonus lesson'' I'm getting is a re-education of how much stress and tension my kids, all kids in secondary grades I would imagine, feel about this time every year.

I remember things. Normally I would be cajoling my kids to study, reminding them of the clock and the projects yet to be done. I would be reiterating how every grade counts, how important grade point averages are and how one can't lose focus this late in the school year. I'm still doing that this year, but I have a confession. If someone were to make any of those statements to me this day before my final, they might very well be risking life and limb and be the recipient of a very harsh stare. I'm not about to surrender my parental responsibility and declare finals week party time, but I will admit that seeing looming tests from my two teen-agers' side of the lens has renewed my perspective on quite a few things I have forgotten.

Children, whatever their age, are just as capable as adults of feeling stress and tension and everything that goes with it. I used to wonder why I got the looks I would get when I asked about homework, pleading with me to ask about anything else. This spring I am reminded of why I got them.

I know I'm being examined closely, and for the most part I have tried to be upbeat and positive as we all set about our studies. They know I am embarking on finals for a subject I care very little about, but out of necessity must complete. They also are preparing for examinations in a few classes they feel no affection for. We have commiserated, and there is bonding in that. I even have acknowledged that I am forced to memorize formulas and facts that I can't imagine I will be able to honestly put to use in the "real world,'' the one I live in. But of course, it doesn't mean I can toss it all away simply because I can't imagine its "real world'' application. It's required of me, just as some of their least favorite courses are required of them.

When I got home from my last class before finals the other night, there was a certificate on my computer monitor. This certificate stated that I was the recipient of the award for the "World's Greatest Mom'' and was decorated with a very lovely computer-generated heart that dearly touched my own real one. I smiled as I picked it up, and I held it for a few minutes, rereading the kind words that forgave the short temper, the occasional slamming door and the unkind word here and there. Were I to somehow manage an "A'' in this class I am preparing to take a final in tomorrow, I can't imagine I could be as thrilled, as touched, or feel as special as this 8 1/2 x 11 inch piece of paper my son created made me feel. Most of all, I felt so very blessed.

Later that evening, I checked to see that Justin was ready for bed and that there was, at the very least, a clear path in his room, I wrapped up my son in a grateful hug for reminding me that regardless of the results tomorrow night, I am still a mom and will still be loved. When I got back to my desk and that textbook I can barely stand the sight of, rereading one more time my special certificate, I realized that next year, with a little luck and one more night of hard studying, I will not be taking this same class again.

I was wrong in my statement that this class hadn't taught me anything I could imagine using in the "real world.'' Perhaps the very best lesson I learned this semester was taught to me last night, after class, in my very own home and at the hands of my son. Knowledge is a wonderful thing, but love is absolutely priceless.

Readers can e-mail Susie at Suzyp2660@aol.com or write to her c/o Amarillo Globe-News, Features Dept., P.O. Box 2091, Amarillo, TX 79166.

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