In which there are no good solutions.

So many times these past few weeks, I’ve given myself little motivational pep talks that all seem to come down to the same thing: “Just get through it. It’s May, you’re all busy, just push through this last month. One more month, Katie, and then it will be summer break and things will be easier. Just push through it. One more month, Katie, just get it done. Just May. Push. Do it.” Last weekend was Mayfest and Gracie’s dance competition. Next weekend is Gracie’s University Interscholastic Learning day-long geekapalooza competition. This Saturday was supposed to be the girls’ bridging ceremony for Girls Scouts before that got cancelled. And in between is Mother’s Day. Rather than ask for the girls basically all weekend (the bridging thing didn’t get cancelled until practically last minute), or try to swap weekends with everything going on, I figured it would be easier to take a day for myself on Mother’s Day to relax, enjoy the peace and quiet, and then have a big celebratory dinner and presents after the girls’ got back from their dad’s house. That was the plan.

Okay, now, in the middle of all of this – performances and weekends and Mothers’ Day – Gracie was assigned her big project for the semester: choose a project to go along with their James and the Giant Peach section. They could create a peach-themed word search, re-enact a scene in a skit, create a commercial for the book which could be filmed and emailed to the teacher, or make an illustrated cookbook with at least 20 recipes. Go ahead and guess which one my over-achiever picked. No, not the commercial. (That’s what I would have guessed.) She chose the cookbook. With all the recipes. Do you have any idea how long it takes a 9-year-old to copy down a recipe?! A VERY LONG TIME! In fact, after she got exactly one single recipe copied in an hour, I texted her dad and warned him that Gracie had this project, that it was due a week from Thursday, which meant she would have to get most of it done on the weekend. His weekend. Because she was only getting one recipe done per school night.

Gracie was happy to do the work. I helped her get what she needed – she started researching recipes while I stitched together the inside pages of her cookbook. (If we were going to “publish” this, we were doing it right!) I helped Gracie plan out her page layouts and then I got her set up at the kitchen table so I could remind her to focus. She got two more recipes copied Wednesday night, and another one done after she got back from dinner at her dad’s house on Thursday. Three days and only four recipes copied down and illustrated. Oy.

I reminded Gracie on Friday morning that she would need to get it done at her dad’s that weekend. It was the only weekend she had to work on the project. I resisted reminding her dad about it because, you know, we had already talked about it.

Sunday afternoon. I had a big roast beef dinner cooking. (Hey, I could either cook for myself or fight the crowds at the restaurants. I would rather cook for myself and clean the kitchen myself and not spend the night waiting around with fidgety children.) I get a text from Gracie, who has apparently hijacked the Ex’s cell phone. “Can I just do 10? And do the rest there?” She had only finished six recipes. Not finished at least copying all the recipes like she was supposed to. She had all weekend, there was an hour left, and what the heck?! I told her I was sorry that she wanted to go outside and play with the kids, but she was supposed to be done – she would need to keep working on it until she was finished. Then her dad took the phone back. He said Gracie had worked on it “all day and yesterday too.” When I asked if she had really only done nine recipes all weekend, when she had done four the three nights previously, he said he guessed that was it, but it wasn’t for lack of effort. The girls walked in the door a few minutes after that.

I am just… I don’t even know. Mind-boggled. Just…at a loss. I somehow got Gracie to plan and sew together book pages, create page layouts and get 4 recipes completed in the two hours that I had her on Tuesday and Thursday night after her dinner with dad, and the 2 1/2 hours that I had her after school on Wednesday night. Her dad, in the two days and a night that he had her, only made her do 9 more recipes. I asked Gracie how long she spent on it Friday (none), and Saturday (an hour or two before going to the neighbors). The Ex didn’t feel compelled to make her do more than that. He didn’t come up with a plan of how he expects Gracie to finish her very important project – more than half of it – in the two nights that I have her after school, or the one night after her dinner with him. You know – in addition to dinner and showers and her usual homework. Sure, she’s nine; she is old enough to know what she has to do. But he is also the parent, and part of a parent’s job is to make sure your child is getting things done and to teach your child to budget their time. What lesson did the Ex think he was teaching Gracie when he didn’t make her focus on her schoolwork? That schoolwork is only for mom’s house? That she can do what she wants (within reason) when she’s there? That weekends are for fun, and it’s more important to play on the weekends, even if it means staying up late and losing hours of sleep during the school week? I have no idea because he didn’t say communicate anything, other than he guessed she only got nine recipes done, but it wasn’t from lack of effort.

So what do I do with that? Usually we have a really good co-parenting relationship. He drills Bee on spelling words, and has them do their homework on nights when they have dinner with him, most of the time. But I just don’t know what to do with this. I clearly communicated that Gracie had to do her project this weekend because it was the only weekend she had, and she could only get one recipe written on school nights. And he…didn’t care? Thought it was more important to have fun? Forgot? I feel like he does stuff like this, that he is treating me like the safety net. Oh, I don’t have to make my kids do this or learn this because Kate will do it. I feel like wants to be treated as an equal co-parent, but without all of the responsibilities. Why else not care about her whether she did her homework, or come up with and communicate a plan of how it would get done?

What do I do with any of that? If I let Gracie hand in her project unfinished and get a bad grade, is that fair to show her that she can’t rely on her dad? Is it fair to Gracie that I force her to stay up 1-2 hours late each night because her dad didn’t make her do the work on the weekend? Is it fair to do that without making her work on it every available minute after school? I can’t make her skip afterschool because I can’t miss work. There aren’t any other activities that I could cut from her schedule this week.

I was still trying to figure out how to handle the situation when the girls walked in trilling “Happy Mother’s Day!” I was carving the roast beef, hoping to rescue my mood. “Go put your cards and your gift on the fireplace,” I told them. Except, no cards. Or gift. No acknowledgement whatsoever from the Ex about Mother’s Day at all. This is the message he’s teaching the girls about homework and responsibility and Mother’s Day. By doing nothing, he’s showing them that it’s not that important.

Happy Mother’s Day to me.



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One Response to “In which there are no good solutions.”

  1. Kathy Says:

    Oh, I think we had the same weekend. I am so sorry. Happy Mother’s Day to you – The-One-Who-Keeps-It-All-Together.

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