Homework and Responsibility

When a letter arrived from my daughter's middle school, I immediately began to worry.

"I'm nervous," I confided to my husband, Dennis. "We got this today."

Dennis scanned the letter. "Why is the school sending information in June about a sixth-grade bug project due in September?"

"So the kids can get started now, I guess," I said. "I'm afraid Rebekah will procrastinate."

"She probably will. And?"

"What if she doesn't get it done?"

"Then she learns a great lesson about time management, responsibility and consequences. Seems like a good deal to me." Dennis grinned.

"Are you suggesting we let her fail?"

"Better she fail by her own effort — or lack of it — than to succeed by our nagging. We've taught her how to manage her time and how to break a project down into manageable pieces. Let's give her a shot at this."

I frowned. "I still think she should start sooner rather than later."

"This is more serious than I thought," Dennis mused. "We don't have one problem. We have two."

"Two?" I raised an eyebrow.

Dennis continued. "Problem No. 1: Rebekah is a regular kid who would rather have fun than work. Problem No. 2: Rebekah will not grow out of problem No. 1 if we don't let her try some things on her own."

A difficult start

Saturday over breakfast, I told Rebekah about her project. "You can either collect bugs or take pictures."

"I'd like to take pictures," Rebekah said.

"Great. You can get some neat pictures in Texas at the family reunion."

"OK. Can I play with Aubree?"

"Sure. Why don't you take the digital camera?"

"Mom. It's June. My project isn't due until September."

"I know, but if you use your time wisely now . . . "

Dennis cleared his throat, giving me his "remember-our-conversation" look.

I sighed. "Yes, you can play with Aubree." Rebekah bolted from her chair. Letting go was going to be harder than I thought.

Alone in my room, I prayed, "Father, I don't want my emotional stability tied to a sixth-grader's bug project!"

I turned to my Bible and read Isaiah 40:11, which reminded me that He gently leads those with young. I felt a tinge of conviction. I knew I needed to trust God as He led me through this parenting challenge. Next, I flipped to Philippians 1:6. It assured me that God would finish the good work He began in me. And Rebekah, too, Lord?

I closed my Bible and took a deep breath. "I get it, Lord. I'll cut the nagging."

Progress?

Rebekah needed a grand total of 30 bug pictures. At our July reunion, she netted seven. In August, a sixth-grade mom invited the class to gather bugs or take pictures from her massive garden. Rebekah snapped seven photos of bugs — and 13 of herself and her friends jumping in midair. She thought the day was a huge success. I nervously checked the calendar; she still needed 16 bugs. Time was rushing past us like water over Niagara Falls. I bit my lip.

School started. Over the next several days, Rebekah studied, finished her homework and even told me, "My project is due in two weeks!"

Looming deadline

But on Saturday morning, two days before her project was due, Rebekah was still only half done. She woke up and announced, "I want to have fun all day!" I breathed deeply, pouring another cup of coffee.

Dennis put his arm around my shoulders. "It's hard, but you're doing great."

Several times that day I fought the urge to nag. I made frequent trips to my Bible to remind myself of God's goodness.

The night before the long-dreaded deadline, Rebekah finished her project. She took the rest of her photos, created her PowerPoint presentation and turned it in on time. If I had insisted on nagging her, I would never have known she was capable of completing this project on her own. She earned my respect.

As for me, my emotional stability is tied more to the Lord and less to my kids' school projects. I'm far from perfect, though. I have to hit the Book again for a test I've got coming next week. You see, Rebekah has a book report due in four days.

This article first appeared in the August/September 2009 issue of Focus on the Family magazine. Copyright © 2009 Heather Trent Beers. All rights reserved.

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