In the summer of 2006, I was Terminator Mom. Or at least, I put on my Terminator Mom hat to do battle with Senior Kidlet’s writing composition woes. He was between third and fourth grade, and on his report card his teacher had named him a “reluctant writer.”
When I was a child, my grandmother had the habit of teaching me a lot of things before they were taught at school. Over all, I did not much care for the extra work. Some stuff were okay: The abacus was very cool. But don’t ask me about the joys of getting up at 5:30 am to learn English, about the most painful and futile exercise imaginable. So when I became a parent, I vowed never to impose such trials on my children. These kids would play all they want and have a proper childhood.
Alas, sometimes teachers express concerns and parents have to step up the help at home. So reluctantly I entered the battlefield and had Senior Kidlet do three-paragraph essays a few times a week–the kind he’d have to produce on his assessment tests.
He improved some, but not remarkably. Suddenly in the middle of that summer I got a full request from Kristin Nelson, so had to finish PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS, which she read very quickly and came back with revisions. Revisions were finished just before I started grad school and needless to say, with school and a difficult-going second book happening at the same time, I didn’t spend too much time on Senior Kidlet’s homework for the next year and half, and in my mind Senior Kidlet remained a mediocre-at-best writer.
Then, in the spring of 2008, just before the end of 5th grade, Senior Kidlet brought home a book of poems that he’d written at school, to practice the poetry forms they’d learned in language arts and also as a teacher-directed Mother’s Day present.
Now this was a child who used to moan at length “I don’t know what to write about” every time he had to write anything. The refrains of those complaints and my memories of sitting long hours next to him nudging him on were still fresh in my mind. I expected minimum effort and output to get through the project, and lo and behold this was what I came across:
Midnight is like the bottom of an abyss,
And witnessing a dementor’s kiss.
Midnight is a dolphin’s sonar and a whale’s song,
Accompanied with, an evil heart’s throng.
Midnight is as cold as ice,
Along with the rushing flow of stale rice [sic].
Midnight is a rotten berry,
And the moldy flesh of Styx’s ferry.
Midnight is the reek of rancid fungi,
With a slice of old spinach pie.
Now I wasn’t entirely uncritical. I asked him how the heck was stale rice going to flow. He told me it was really hard to find words that rhymed with ice and we had a good laugh about it. But beyond that, oh baby, was I delighted.
Especially with “Midnight is a rotten berry,” something I’d have been proud to have thought up myself.
Parenthood has a way of turning assumptions on their heads. How humbling it was to see that I’d underestimated him and how wonderful it was to be proved wrong. Children grow into their own capabilities, in their own time.
And what a pleasure to put aside my Terminator Mom hat and, for once, just applaud from the rafters.
(Though it is a total indictment of my disorganization that it took this long for the poem to appear here, given that I’d told Senior Kidlet nearly 10 month ago that I’d do it. The poetry booklet just kept disappearing on us every time I got ready to fulfill my promise. When I finally found it again this time I did not let it out of my sight. *g*)