It’s 8:00 and already one of the twins is having a serious case of The Mondays.
It happens every week and I swear it makes no sense. Third grade is freaking this girl out. At the start of each and every week, she lays her head down on the breakfast table and has a long, protracted sob. “Well, Lanie” you might be thinking, “clearly something is going wrong at school. She might be having problems making friends.” Nope. This little child (and her twin) are actually witchy-magic good with people. They don’t make friends as much as enchant them. Former teachers sneak them presents. Staff come into their class to say good morning. The check out lady at our local supermarket buys them gum and candy. Older children break ranks and allow them to sit in the coveted back seats of the bus. It isn’t making friends that’s the problem.
“Well, perhaps something else is happening…. maybe she gets in trouble on Mondays. Maybe she is chastised by her teacher or had a class that she just isn’t understanding.” Again, you are so wrong. Every Monday since the year has begun, she has returned home with a certificate from her teacher applauding her as one of the top students in her class. Her teacher LOVES her. ADORES her. She has made tremendous gains since last year, moving from requiring tutoring to being in the top reading group in the class. By all accounts, this should be her year. And yet….
That excellence is a symptom of the problem. You see, every Monday they get their homework packet for the week and the anticipation of it just about kills her. Somewhere along the line, she has become extremely timid and terrified of disapproval. Imaginary, hypothetical disapproval. Every Monday the homework packet is a land mine she must gingerly place in her backpack and do PERFECTLY or else…. something horrible will happen, I guess. The sky will fall in, her teacher will call an all-school assembly and openly mock her in front of the children, Santa will put her on the “naughty” list or she will be tossed into the shark tank at the zoo. Seriously horrible consequences to judge from the sobs.
This is where I find my parenting lacking, yet again. Because I managed to be sympathetic for three whole weeks. And then…not so much. I’m operating similarly to the “Mom, there’s a monster under my bed” response. I never offered much sympathy there, either, because I read an article that made a lot of sense to me. It suggested that if you tell a child, “There’s no monster” and then proceed to check for one, you are in fact reinforcing that monsters are real. So, I’d leave the door open, sure. Closet light on? Okay, if it’ll help you sleep. But no way would I crawl around on my hands and knees checking under furniture for the boogie man that didn’t exist, except that it might be hiding down here, somewhere. And that’s the tactic I’ve been taking with the girl. Except that in the face of such obvious distress, it makes me feel like I’m the monster in the room. I’m sorry that you’re upset, but there isn’t a problem, so pull yourself together, missy. Isn’t that just awful? Ouch. My stomach hurts.
So now we both hate Mondays. By tomorrow she will have made her peace with the homework and will be her cheerful self, again. I, on the other hand, will be increasingly doubtful of my ability to caretake so much as a hamster, never mind a growing, vibrant 9-year-old girl.
I think the monster under the bed was easier.