How my Mother Influenced my Parenting Style
I have this memory from when I was a child. I don’t know why it’s lasted. I was twelve years old, and I needed to finish a seemingly insurmountable school project. It was a research paper, and I had left way too much of it to the last night. I was overwhelmed, and I guess I didn’t have the skills to plan it out better.
My Mom Saved the Day
What I remember from this sliver of my past is that my mother stayed up with me past midnight to help me get it all done. She sat at my desk while I did my work on my bed with numerous books surrounding me.
I think my mom was there mostly for moral support, but I do retain wisps of a moment of her going through a particular book, looking for some key information for me to use, and then writing it down on a yellow note pad.
I think I successfully turned in my project the next day, but that’s not what I really remember. It’s my mom helping me out in the middle of the night, when I couldn’t help myself.
Was that good parenting? Was it the right move to create a study group fueled by the organizational power of an adult? Wouldn’t the lesson of failure due to poor time management taught me more at that early age?
But that’s not how my mom was wired. And for better or worse, my wiring is based on that.
This memory is particularly present, because I recently found myself in a similar situation with our twelve-year-old son. And now I’m the parent.
Our son had a history research project to complete. It was a group video project that he was working on with two other students. And yes, they fell behind. (And I knew with my own understanding of video production what technical challenges they might encounter.)
Fast forward to the night of the deadline… Their video needed to be finished and uploaded by midnight. The three were furiously working together virtually, and they were completely focused. There’s nothing like a looming deadline to keep you going.
Learning Visual Storytelling at an Early Age
A quick aside… I’d like to call out the fact that these seventh graders were editing a 10-minute video, complete with a script, b-roll, VO and music. They had collaborated mostly virtually and built their video project using an online platform.
This blows my mind, because these kids had to figure out how to line up all of the necessary workflows and proper collaboration to get a complex video finished by a challenging deadline. Plus, they needed to lock a narrative and find collective creative alignment.
That’s what I do for a living!!
So yes, I think this was a particularly big lift. These boys were still building their plane as they flew towards midnight.
Finding the Right Level of Parental Support
When our son announced at dinner six hours before the deadline that he would have to work through the night to try to get it all done with his schoolmates, it prompted my flashback to my own homework gauntlet when my mother came to my rescue.
So I told my son that I would stay up with him to help as I could. (No, I didn’t take over the video edit, though a part of me really wanted to offer!) He had his own team to work with. He wasn’t alone, like I was all those years ago.
I was simply there for moral support, and I prepared some late night snacks to help him feel fueled as he burned the midnight oil.
Perfection not Required
I’m happy to report that the team did complete their video, and I was pleased to see my son celebrate their accomplishment, bleary-eyed as he was.
Yes, it was an entirely imperfect process, and the sprint to the finish line contributed to that hard reality. I hope it was a good lesson that will contribute to future improvements in how he tackles these types of challenges.
Flexing a Growing Skillset
The next morning, he premiered his video for me and my wife, and he separately displayed his complex video editing timeline with pride.
His ability to align appropriate imagery and photos to his VO track seemed almost effortless and entirely organic.
I can claim some genetic talent that I’ve passed down, but it’s just my son getting it done using his own talents. Plus, I think it’s an example of his generation growing up with digital technologies. It’s simply second nature to them. Amazing.
No Need to Come to the Rescue
Our son didn’t require our last-minute help. He just needed our support. And I think someone to stay up late in a nearby room.
I camped out on the couch in the family room. And after I brought him his snacks, I actually may have dozed off for a bit. (I had set the alarm on my Apple Watch to ensure I didn’t miss his deadline.)
Remembering my Mother
Sorry, Mom. I know I didn’t have your endurance in this moment. But your grandson, who you never met, didn’t need it. He was just fine as he approached his own finish line.
Thank you for being there for me all of those years ago, because that’s what I needed.
Though I’m thinking a lot about Dad these days, I’ve been thinking about you too.
I miss you.