Today I Feel Like a Failure as a Mom

Why do we, as moms, take so much on ourselves?

Right now, I’m looking at my kids’ standardized test scores with a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Both of them have downward trending math scores over the past year. My gut is telling me that I could have done something to prevent this. And I probably could have. I could have worked diligently on keeping up with our math skills over this past summer as I had the summer before. But, for some reason, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

My kids are awesome and smart and funny and kind. Last summer, I just wanted to appreciate them for what they are and not fight with them to achieve things (even those those things are easily achievable if I just fight with them a little). I wanted to love and enjoy my children. That is not to say that we didn’t work on reading and art and music and math over the summer. It just wasn’t a regimented daily schedule.

Don’t get me wrong, math is super important to me. I have thoroughly enjoyed my fair share of calculus problems (and by enjoy, I earnestly mean I enjoyed working my way through Calculus I and II in college). But I don’t want my job as a mom to be that of ‘sit down and do some rote work because you will be tested on it.’ I want my job to be a supporter of my child. I want my children to look to me for guidance and safety, for love, and, yes, for help with their homework.

I’m disappointed that I feel that I again have to assume the role of ‘rote-work assigner’ so they can climb back up to where they were before I assumed a bit more of a laissez-faire attitude. I’m also disappointed that I’m disappointed.

At this point, I have to mention that my daughter was chosen to be the one in her class that will meet and greet new students. She was chosen based on the kindness that she exhibits throughout her normal day. I find it pretty sad, however, that I waited until the 6th paragraph to bring it up. Instead of sitting here with a smile on my face, satisfied that I have done something right in creating such a kind and caring daughter, I am lamenting my abject failure as a mom for letting my kids’ math skills slide.

In any event, the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach persists as I plan how to incorporate practicing more math skills into our daily schedule.

NB: I feel like I have to explain that I’m not upset over what their scores are. Rather, I am disturbed by the downward trend. This could signify loss of focus, forgetting what has previously been taught, etc.

The World is Ending and All I Have to Wear is this Chambray Shirt

I don’t mean to sound apocalyptic, but stuff is getting real. Hurricanes, fires, floods. Rampant overt racism. Plans to round up groups of people and ship them off to who knows where.

Even if you are not directly affected by these events, you can feel the many different holes that are slowly tearing themselves open in the everyday fabric of society. Those who previously existed hidden within those holes are now feeling emboldened to come out and bully others for no other reason than they now feel empowered to come out of their holes and bully others.

Meanwhile, life goes on. I get my kids ready for school in the morning. I put on a happy face and greet the other parents and teachers, wishing everyone I see to have a good day. They return the sentiment to me. Kindness goes a long way.

After dropping the kids at school, I return home to check my Twitter timeline, which consists of a healthy mix of protest tweets against the latest outrageous act of the Trump regime, disaster tweets documenting the newest natural disasters, and moms asking you to answer their poll about whether you would prefer to drive or fly to Disneyland this year.

So what do I, as a middle-class, white, suburban mom, do? Do I continue to play my fiddle as Rome burns? Do I put on a false face and act like the erosion of common decency, the manifestations of climate change, and the scarily backward time-lapse of America isn’t bothering me? Do I put on my chambray shirt and post of picture of myself on Facebook asking people to comment on whether they like it or not?

Or… do I try to close one of those many holes that’s opening? Do I try to block the way, standing strong, chest out, feet wide, hands-on-hips, like some middle-aged wannabe Wonder Woman?

It’s risky (and, yes, sometimes embarrassing not to fit in with the model of what I should be doing as a white suburban mom). But if I posted my own personal Twitter poll about how I would prefer to get from this point in time to some time in the future, I would choose to be a middle-aged Wonder Woman. I’m putting my whole mom-self out there with my needlepoint skills and my Wonder Woman attitude, and I’m going to try to sew up as many of those holes as I can. The future that my kids inherit is worth both the risk and the embarrassment.

I dressed up as Wonder Woman for Halloween one year when I was a kid. Maybe I can find my old mask packed away somewhere and wear it with my chambray shirt.

Teaching Genetics to a 4-Year-Old

If you ask me, it’s never too early to learn something.

My little girl asked me why I have brown eyes while she has blue eyes. I told her it had something to do with the DNA that she received from her parents. (She and her brother are well aware that they each have half of my DNA and half of their father’s.) But I thought I could go a little further with this. Hence, a lesson in the Punnett square.

Though I didn’t use Punnett squares to attempt to explain dominant and recessive patterns of inheritance, I did think that working through a few Punnett squares and making some connection to genetics and DNA would be helpful in her understanding of science later on. (I recall learning Cartesian coordinates in school and thinking how easy it was because I grew up playing Battleship.)

Anyway, above are the Punnett squares my four-year-old daughter and I worked through together. She picked the letters and the color and I helped her fill in the squares. She did the last one almost entirely on her own.

UPDATE: I wrote this post more than two years ago. I was inspired to post it here because my son, 6, asked me the same question that she asked: why does he have brown eyes while his twin sister has blue eyes? This time I did attempt to explain dominant and recessive genes while working through a Punnett square. Not sure how much he will retain, but at least the neuronal spark will be there when he learns about it in school.