The first homework of every school year is mom homework. My son brings home a note from his teacher with a list of questions for me to answer. It invariably reads something like "Please help us get to know your son or daughter by answering the following questions":
- Describe your child in three sentences.
- What are his/her strengths academically? Socially?
- What would you like him/her to work on and learn this year?
A couple of years ago when presented with this list of questions again, I decided to apply it to myself. Who am I? What are my strengths and weaknesses? What would I like to work on and learn this year? I realized that back to school could be a great time for me to re-evaluate my own growth and set goals that were possible to accomplish in the span of my children's school year. One year I decided to learn to surf and I have been doing it ever since. Another year, I decided to become fluent in Spanish, but my children are still making fun of my Spanglish. (Languages are definitely not on my strengths list). One mom homework session led me to the need to be of service in a more hands on way, so I got involved with WriteGirl, a creative writing mentorship program. I have gotten to work with amazingly talented teen girls who have inspired me and helped me improve my writing as much as I have helped them.
When I was going through a rough time and I felt like my brain was fuzzy and I couldn't possibly concentrate on anything else, the back to school mom homework sat on my desk. I felt like it was mocking me. Your kids do homework every day and you can't get this one night's worth done. I asked myself what I wanted to work on this year and initially I was flooded with everything in my life that was beyond my control. So I stopped, took a deep breath, and in my head said to myself "just focus!" And with that as my mantra, I finished my mom homework and knew that the year ahead would be about improving my focus and concentration. I decided to master the New York Times crossword puzzles, a task much easier said than done. I have only managed to get through Wednesday's puzzle most weeks, but being able to improve in one area of my life helped me get through the rough spots with a sense of accomplishment.
I have really learned to value and enjoy these (sometimes small and sometimes much bigger than I could ever have imagined) quests for personal accomplishment. Especially in times like now when the world feels upside down and the economy is in free fall, it feels good to create change in my own life and to grow.
So this year, who am I? I am a working mom who just took one child to college, has a teen and preteen and a crawling, (almost walking) 7 month old. I think that my older children are showing me a weakness that I must work on this year, assertiveness. I need to be more firm. My "No's" need to be assertive "No's" that they take seriously. I hope to gain a better sense of my own power and assertiveness through the process of learning Muay Thai. So this year I will be kicking and punching my way through the school year!
What goals, both personally and professionally, will you be working on in this new school year?
Margaret Hyde is an Academy Award-nominated filmmaker, travel photographer, publisher and author living in Southern California with her four amazing kids. Margaret is the author of the Mo's Nose series of books (www.mosnose.com). Margaret has a passion for giving back to the community through sustainability and mentorship programs, and sits on the board of New Visions Foundation, which works to find innovative ways to deliver high quality education programs to underprivileged children. Margaret recently completed the LEED-certified remodel of a craftsman home in Santa Monica, which is one of the greenest homes in America, according to the LEED Certification scale.
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