“Mean Mom” Arrives on Tuesday

I am sitting outside typing while three of my children spend this beautiful morning rotting their brains with video games.  This is the only week of the summer when there is no camp, work, baseball or piano lessons.  This is also the last week that “Nice Mom” will live here.  “Mean Mom” arrives on Tuesday and hangs around until mid-October most years, though she did linger until Christmas two years ago.

The annual visit of “Mean Mom” began years ago, around the same time that technology started creeping into our lives.  The level of torture is geared to each individual child.  Our senior is allowed to keep her iPhone until we receive her interim report because she has her entire catalog of classical music on there and all of her Chinese flash cards.  The only thing I can threaten her with is lack of access to the piano for days at a time.  Now that Danielle is gone, we don’t even have the nightly ritual of 40 minutes of a DVR recording.  It is really quite boring.  Luckily, there are others.

The boys don’t have it as easy.  All of their electronics and gaming systems will be packed away the day before school begins and they will be returned when I see their respective interim reports in October.  Two years ago I was not pleased with one of the reports so my 6th grader did not get anything back until Christmas.   He learned his lesson and 7th grade started much more smoothly.  When the electronics are returned, they may be used only on the weekend.

As an eighth grader, he will not be allowed to have any play dates (aka hanging out sessions) during the school week and he must attend prep sessions with a tutor for high school entrance exams.   He may very well stay in the public school system, but there is no sin in learning some extra vocabulary, especially in one’s native tongue.  The sessions started this week and when he told me he didn’t want to do any extra work, I used my most nurturing tone and replied, “I don’t care.”  That was the end of that.

Both boys will have lights out by 9:30 pm since they get up at 6:15 am.  I’ve even raised the bar this year by inviting a post-grad student from Mexico to stay here for seven weeks.  I’ve asked her to help me speak Spanish with the boys.  My cup overflows!

On the flip side, the children know that I will never pester them about homework or piano practice as I simply expect it to be done.  Each child has a grade above which he or she never has to show me a test or homework.  The expectations are different for each child and plays to his or her potential.  If an assignment falls below that grade, I must see it, sign it, question it and when appropriate, yell a bit.  They’ve learned it is much more worthwhile to study than deal with me.

On my part, I will stay on full alert as this fall brings us the advent of 6th grade, high school applications and college applications on top of everything else in our lives.   It is my job to keep things calm and help each of them navigate the travails that the start of a new school year brings.  I will be a study partner; a go-between when needed and I will still tuck them into bed, even when I am not asked.    I’m sure many have called me a “tiger mom” and who knows what my kids might call me if allowed. I prefer to think of myself as a “lioness,” sheltering my cubs until they are ready to roar on their own.

I wish all of you a Happy Labor Day and a wonderful end to the lazy days of summer.