Caution: Parental Guidance Advised
Don’t worry, I’m not about to launch into a lurid tale of my sexploits (such as they are) or put up photos that nobody needs to see. No, this is a post about the start of secondary school and working out how on earth to impart self-motivation and responsibility into the average 11-year old.
My boy has been at his new school for over four weeks now. He has a time-table and the threat of detention which, you would think, would be motivation enough to bring some sort of order into his life and get him started on the path to self-responsibility.
No. In four weeks, the Man-Hog has already had to embark on several mercy dashes to school with emergency dinner money, forgotten PE kits and missing bits of homework. Not a day goes by that the boy doesn’t leave the house to get the school coach (thankfully holed up just across the road from the house) only to return again 10 minutes later when he realises he has forgotten a vital piece of kit. It is like watching the worst case of short-term memory loss in action that I have ever seen. It’s Super-Tween-Dementia and it’s getting worse.
I’ll admit the boy has led a very cushy existence to date. He is terribly cute and I am an incredibly guilty working mum, so having to remind him to clean his teeth, tidy his room and not leave his skateboard at the bottom of the stairs has never seemed a burden. Doing these things for him when he’s forgotten has also been my way, perhaps, of making up for only seeing him an hour a day. And it’s not that he is unwilling or stroppy about doing any of it. He just has to be constantly reminded. In the end, it’s often quicker to do it ourselves.
Aside from all that, I just thought that at 11 years old there would be signs of him taking some things on board for himself, at least the school stuff. But that is not happening.
I don’t understand it at all. In school he is learning new subjects, taking on new languages and creating plastic key fobs with joy and gusto. All of this new information is being retained and subsequently regurgitated at the dinner table, so I know it is not a learning issue. At weekends, he can remember everything he needs for football training including what time to be there, where the matches are and the scores for the previous 27 games down to the names of who scored. So it is not some rare form of childhood memory loss per se. What I think we are dealing with here is “selective responsibility” – similar to only hearing what he wants to hear, my boy chooses to take control of only those things that interest and have meaning to him. School bags, uniform, PE kits, homework and feeding himself clearly do not.
So, do I seek medical advice? Drill a hole directly into his brain and pump it full of omega-soaked fish oils for intelligence? Or discover the best way to apply electrodes to his head? How do I instill some sort of sense of responsibility into this boy? And where do I start? We are talking about an ability to retain certain information shorter than a millisecond. On occasion, our goldfish himself has had to lift the tank-lid to remind the boy what he should be doing.
It’s the most frustrating situation. I veer wildly between gentle lovely Mumminess: subtle clues and invention of clever codes, tick-charts and a plethora of colourful post-it notes dotted around the place; to very unlovely non-Mumminess: absolute screaming foot-stamping hissy fits when despite all of the preceding help, he still doesn’t get it. Is this payback for treating him like the precious last baby that he is? Is it my own paranoia having dealt with a parent who actually had dementia and my inate fear that it is, somehow, genetic? Or is he, in fact, a Scientologist? Outwardly human but with an alien inside his head being controlled by a higher force? Is Tom Cruise, a vocal proponent of the philosophy, also as disorganised at home? I would like to get Katy Holmes on speakerphone and grill her on her domestic arrangements. If she’s allowed to speak that is – hasn’t she been silent since the birth of Suri or was that only during it?
So here we are on Monday of week five. I deliberately left for work early this morning so I did not end up sinking my teeth into the doorjamb as the bumbling, fumbling forgetfulness started another week’s domination. So far, however, no phone calls home the Man-Hog reports. That could mean one of two things: success at last (please, God, Jesus and all the archangels of domestic bliss let it be so!) or….he’s missed the coach, forgotten where school is and now even where he lives and is still sitting slumped in a fit of befuddlement in the bus shelter opposite.
I don’t think I can stand to know which, in all honesty.
So come on, you wonderful supportive people, what suggestions do you have for correcting a responsibility-starved 11 year-old? Am I being unrealistic expecting it this soon? Do you advocate the carrot or the stick approach? Have I, regardless, child-pampered my way to my own private Hell? Would love to hear any and all advice.