Life is full of lessons. Some easy, some hard, many unwelcome. I’m 41 years old, and I’ve had a new one just this morning.
These last eight weeks or so my mother-in-law has been sick and in the hospital out of state. She has required someone be there with her constantly. I have considered it a great privilege to be one of her caregivers over these last couple of months. We’ve had some unbelievably sweet moments and have made memories that will cement our relationship forever. It’s been good.
In the meantime, my village has stepped in and picked up the slack with my kids. I’m grateful that so many people have been willing to open up their hearts and homes and welcome in my children. On a moment’s notice, various friends have pitched in and covered for this absentee parent. It warms my heart and humbles me completely.
Feeling filled up and pleased by how “cared for and safe” my kids feel, I quietly patted their dad and me on the back for managing them so well during this difficult time. And then, I sat down to take a look at the online grade reporting system. Reality check- things aren’t going as well as I thought!
My kids are pretty solid students- all As with a very rare B. They are mostly self-directed when it comes to homework and studying. I consider myself a non-factor in their academics. Well, at least I did until now.
In a span of seven days my seventh grader was showing THREE Fs on assignments. Three in a week! And this is a kid that hasn’t gotten three Fs in the totality of his academic career up to this point! “You only thought your kids were doing okay with all of this,” my inner dialogue torments.
The youngest, also a solid student, has more low grades than she has ever had as well. Basic work that she should understand, causing her problems. Concepts that she should have mastered, suddenly too difficult to navigate.
I knew that family stability was important. I’d heard about the studies. I’d heard accounts from families that foster. I knew that it had ramifications for all kinds of things in life- academic success, successful relationships, overall happiness, etc. But until now, I had NO IDEA just how much! I no longer consider myself a non-factor in their academics! Apparently just my presence, just me standing in the kitchen preparing a snack or dinner while they do their homework in the next room, matters. Having mom consistently there, even if it is just so they can ignore me, has an impact.
Now I know that Bs aren’t bad, and clearly in the grand scheme of things, it’s pretty insignificant that they’ll both be getting Bs on their report cards. But what I’ve learned through this, what clearly isn’t insignificant, is the power of the family environment in success. It’s unbelievable to me that in just eight weeks, I can see the toll the instability has had. Even surrounding them with people they are familiar with, they enjoy, and whom they trust, wasn’t enough to leave them unscathed. At best, it still wasn’t home. And clearly, it matters.