This parenting business…it’s some tough shit sometimes!
Not that this is a huge revelation for anyone who works with kids, but mine have really been driving that message home lately. My second to oldest who will be fourteen this weekend is failing classes. Well, maybe just one class now but he’s not just failing, he is failing in an epic way. Like 16% overall in the class failing…
Go big or go home, right?
The thing is, he’s a wicked smart kid who has been in advanced classes since he’s been in school. He is not out of his depth and this is not a new or extreme level of work that is expected of him. His sister (who’s in sixth grade, he’s in eighth) is doing almost the exact same work and keeping up. This is not a question of ability…or of lacking the resources…or of needing help that isn’t available…or of not having the time (the kid is in no extra curriculars, none whatsoever, and he has study hall twice a week)….or of being told or “made” to do the work. But still the list of assignments that are missing is long and only seems to be getting longer. He literally sits and stares off into space or at his blank computer screen passively refusing to get anything done. When he does have work done he will not turn it in. He is choosing to fail this class. WTF?
It’s beyond frustrating.
To add to it, my ex husband is trying to use this as evidence of my allegedly lax parenting and to avoid paying his half of the fee for this kid’s class trip to Washington D.C. this spring (which is due in less than a week). Even though he gave permission for him to go AND agreed to pay for half the trip, he is now saying the kid can’t go because of his poor grades. Now, I might concede the point here if he is still failing at the end of the term but I’ve already paid my half of the non-refundable cost of the trip and my name is on the line as the “responsible” party for the remainder of the balance. You see, tour companies don’t care about your divorce court order bullshit. Somebody has to sign the kid up and say they’ll make sure the money gets paid; that’s me. It’s always me. They also don’t give you your money back when you decide your kid can’t go after all because he’s not making an effort in school. It just doesn’t work that way. Even though my son attests that he wants to go on this D.C. trip and is aware that him not passing a class makes it more difficult for him to be able to go, he is still not even trying to get caught up in the class he’s failing.
I think we’re in the midst of a good old fashioned teenage rebellion here, people. The good news is (according to one of his siblings (I didn’t ask, they just told me)) the kid is doing the same thing at his dad’s house: just sitting for hours not doing homework. Typing one sentence then deleting it.
That does give me a small measure of satisfaction as I pull every trick I have out of my proverbial hat to try to get the kid back on track. Of course I can’t make him get shit done. Nobody can make anybody do anything. I’m trying real hard to make it pretty uncomfortable for him NOT to choose to do the work though. It’s just one of those parenting storms you have to whether I guess.
Today was a beautiful, sunny day here in Michigan. My one class of the day was over at two and I didn’t have to pick the kids up from school until four. My favorite state park lies between my school and the kids’. I had my running gear AND my new snowshoes that I’ve been dying to try out in my car. It’s only Tuesday and it’s been a long week. Some time in the woods, by myself, doing something active that I enjoy was exactly what I needed. When I left class I was Super Psyched about going to run. A couple classmates were talking about going to get a beer after class and I was like “Hell no! I’m going to run.” (yeah, that earns some strange looks.)
Buuut then the school called; my little guy was in the office with a tummy ache. I tried to convince him that he just needed to poop and he’d be fine. No dice.
“I’m in the office.” he told me when they put him on the phone (apparently the school staff doesn’t want to talk to your kid about pooping for you).
“Yeah, I know. Listen, you probably just have to go potty. Have you had a poop today? Maybe you need to go try.”
“Mom, my tummy reeally hurts.” he informed me.
“Well, why don’t you go back to class and see how it feels in a little bit.”
At that point he pulled out his pathetic sick kid voice; I caved and told him I’d come pick him up. I was out one sunny winter day run and a piece of Me time that I really needed. And, of course, he can’t stay home while I go get the rest of the kids from school a little over an hour later. He’s five. That’s frowned upon in polite society.
By the time we were getting home for the day he had almost fallen asleep in the car at least twice only to be roused by a jab or tap from a sibling that evoked a loud “He Hiiiit Meee!” You parents know exactly what I’m talking about here. And seriously, kids, can you all just not touch each other for fifteen minutes so we can get home in peace???
Meanwhile the ten-year-old pulled the wand he got for his birthday a couple months ago out of his backpack (because everyone needs to bring a wand to school) and realized that it had cracked. Suffice it to say this news was not well received. Dramatic statements about how terrible life was and demands for me to obtain a replacement wand immediately ensued.
But, hey, we got home and it was still sunny and (slightly) above twenty-five degrees so at this point I could still get my run in…if I could just get out of the house before it actually got dark. It’s February, even though I enjoy the cold and snow I miss the sun sometimes.
Easier said than done. The five year old and ten year old had enter into a spitting battle on the way home from school which landed the little guy in No Minecraft zone for the evening. So, of course, as soon as we walk in he’s asking about playing Minecraft or watching Minecraft videos on Youtube or listening to Minecraft songs (Whoever invented Minecraft, I hate you. You’re evil…and possibly a genius.) This was followed by a full out melt down when the answer to all of the above was an emphatic no. His favorite phrase to pull out mid-tantrum is “I HATE YOU, YOU’RE THE WORST MOM EVER!!!!” At this point I retaliate with a tactic I picked up from the behavior therapy techniques we use at my work: planned ignore. It’s exactly what it sounds like. Give no response to the undesired behavior, continue what you’re doing calmly and with neutral affect, do no acknowledging the behavior in any way. This works pretty well in a lot of situations.
It works, the behavior stopped….well, okay, it changed at least. “YOU HATE ME. WHY DO YOU HATE ME???”
Yes, kid, I won’t let you play Minecraft. Clearly I hate you and am depriving you of a basic human right. Alert the authorities, call the U.N. (Please don’t, really, I don’t need that hassle too!).
Eventually he calmed down (ie stopped following me around yelling parental hate statements at me). I was tempted to try for a short nap instead of a run but reminded myself that I never regret a run (that may be my new motivational phrase), put on my layers, and (finally!) headed put to catch the last little bit of daylight.