At 9:15 p.m., along with “Mommy, I just threw up in your bed” one of the last things a mother wants to hear from her child is “Mommy, I forgot to do my homework and it’s due tomorrow!” Despite reminding her to finish the assigned reading this week, my daughter “forgot” to do it because, to be quite honest, she hates the reading assignment: Ramona Quimby, Age 8.
Most parents have been in a similar situation. Children frequently and conveniently “forget” to do their homework particularly when it is a subject that they despise, like Ramona. I can remember finishing an assignment or two at the breakfast table before school started while my mother berated me for procrastinating. So, despite the fact that she should have already been sleeping, I told my 8 year-old daughter that she had a choice: either stay up tonight and finish the assigned chapter or I would get her up early the next day. Either way, that kid was going to show up for class with the dreaded reading done.
And that’s when she hit me with the “kicker”: “But Mom, I can’t find the book!” Of course she couldn’t; she HATED the book and the assignment. Losing the book was all part of the plan, right?
While she got ready for bed, I looked frantically all over the house and in my car for her missing book. Guess what? I couldn’t find it because, my daughter sheepishly later acknowledged, that she may have left it at school. Another 15 minutes wasted.
Now I faced a real dilemma: in the Chronicles of Mommyhood (as I like to call it) this was an opportunity to teach my 8 year-old a lesson about responsibility. Despite the fact that she didn’t want to do the assignment, it was still due. We all have things that we dread doing in life. LESSON, LESSON, LESSON….bah blah, bah blah, bah blah.
If this was the early 80’s, for instance, my mother would have yelled at me for being so irresponsible and admonished that I deserved whatever punishment the teacher felt was appropriate for my misdemeanor. With that train of thought, if I was my mother, I would feed my daughter to the lions (aka her teacher.) But if this was the 80’s there would also be no such thing as a Kindle, iPad or other e-reading device.
I have a Kindle and with a flick of my magic wand (the internet, a computer and amazon.com) I could make this problem go away for my young child. As I stood at the foot of K’s bed, I thought about the swimming analogy: do I do nothing which means letting her sink and hope that she figures out how to swim (i.e. learns a lesson) or do I hold her up because I know that there is a tool available to me now that wasn’t available when I was a child?
What would you have done if you were in my place?
I suggested to K that I download the book on my e-reader and no one would be the wiser. But I also took advantage of the moment to remark that she was “Darn lucky that your mother is SO smart and willing to help you out of a jam!”
My reasons for helping K were not totally altruistic. It’s important that I reveal that there was another reason for my willingness to commit a “Mommy Crime” and possibly rob my daughter of her future integrity; I needed to observe a Bat Mitzvah on Saturday at our synagogue and I knew that if I helped K that she would be obligated to come with me. I gave her the choice: “I’ll download the book and help you out but then you have to come with me on Saturday. Or if I don’t download the book and you deal with your teacher, you’ll get to chill at Grandma’s Saturday morning.”
Guess what? She asked me to download the book. She read three pages tonight and promptly fell asleep. So much for helping her out. Note: She still has to go to the Bat Mitzvah. Before I downloaded the book, I made her “pinky swear.”
A promise is a promise after all, right? And I have integrity after all.