Learning Responsibility

‘I have no idea’. My child says again to the laptop full of teenagers, each with their own background in Teams. My other homeschool child exclaims in the class he is in (with just as many children with similarly colorful backgrounds): “Oh, sir, do you mean….”

I’m sitting on the couch reading and smile. Suddenly I realize: both children begin to understand something. They finally get it: I should pay more attention, or: I need more explanation. Despite the failings of the past days, despite the extraordinary dullness of online lessons and the lack of opportunities to get out and about: learning is taking place here. Not a lot of school material, but something much more important: they learn to take responsibility. They learn that they have some influence when it comes to what they learn, what they do, what they leave behind.

The other day I heard my son saying: ‘Where did I leave my jacket?’ Internally I danced. Until recently this child always grumbled when he lost something and blamed everything and everyone except itself, but now he recognized its own role. He finally realized that he is responsible for where something is himself.

In my nearly eighteen years of motherhood, I have quietly  referred myself countless times to my basic task: help children grow up to become responsible adults who know themselves, their possibilities and limitations and in a certain way know how to participate in and contribute to society. This may sound a bit pompous, especially if you are raising a toddler at the moment. But it really helped. Just imagine what it means when the toddler who now always gets his or her way has grown up and is still pushing through. Then you suddenly find – at least that’s how it worked for me – the courage to deal with their behavior after all.

And now three teenagers in my home are very very bored. As I read somewhere: they do suffer from boring classes, demanding or overconfident teachers (apologies to those who teach my kids: really, I’m very grateful), but not the fun of jokes in between chat or frolic with your neighbors, moving from class to class and all the interaction that comes with that. Fortunately, many teachers recognize this (although useless chats during class are not appreciated, I heard at parents’ evening yesterday). They look for ways to keep the children in touch with each other and even ask parents for ideas.

Now that I was reading and heard my children making comments to the laptops, I suddenly understood something as well. Yes, they read a book during class (and then literally hear nothing), they play games (then they miss something less), constantly click their pens, hum and sometimes shout. But comments such as: ‘I have no idea’ and ‘Oh, sir, is that what you mean!’ prove that they are learning something after all.

Hearing them say: ‘I don’t understand’ instead of: ‘how stupid’ or: ‘he doesn’t explain it well’ indicates that they are learning a crucial skill needed to become balanced adults: they stop giving everything and everyone the blame when something goes wrong and they don’t give up. They take responsibility. I feel proud.

First published in Dutch on February 8, 2021

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