May 20th, 2013
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algebraSo I gave my seventeen-year-old son the driver’s wheel on his high school education. Not because I wanted to, but because what I was doing wasn’t working. Supervising him closely and catching all his missing assignments for him to complete just caused him to lie to me and let me be his safety net. With the counselor’s agreement, I took my hands off the wheel, and he is succeeding or failing on his own.

Initially he became uber-responsible, skipping lunch at Arby’s with his friends so that he could go to the library and catch up on work. He came home a week ago saying he no longer had an F in History. I asked him how he managed that. He said he had done well on the test. “Really?” I asked, since he had gotten Fs on the previous three tests. “How did you manage that?” He said, “I paid more attention in class and studied for the test.” Excellent, I told him. Great job, Mom, I told myself, a little too enthusiastically perhaps.


Last weekend he was his familiar disrespectful, yucky self, the same one I would regularly see when he was lying and saying he didn’t have any homework so that he could watch t.v. Being the “Great job, Mom” that I am, I gave him a chance to write an essay about his feelings. I pointed out to him that he was acting the same way he always acted before when he was lying to me about schoolwork. I reminded him that he wasn’t in trouble with me for not doing schoolwork now since it was his choice, but that if he wanted to confess in the essay about missing assignments, he might feel better.

Sure enough, his essay was all about how he’s decided not to do the big Algebra assignments anymore. He still does the little ones in class, but not the big homework ones because he “doesn’t like to use the textbook.” I was the picture of solicitous patience as we discussed his choice. I told him that was a fine choice as long as he was prepared for the consequences, e.g., failing the class, having to repeat it during summer school, not being able to get that second part-time job because he would have to attend summer school instead, etc.  I reiterated that it was his choice to make, but that if he was so agitated about it that he needed to be yucky, perhaps he wasn’t comfortable with the choice he had made.

Then, as the crowning moment of my new non-supervisory level of motherhood, I hugged him, told him he was a good kid, and I knew he would make the right choice. And if he didn’t, well that’s why pencils have erasers.

We shall see what the great independent one chooses for himself next.

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3 Responses to “The Ups and Downs of Independence”

  1. J says:

    Great Job Mom!

    No matter what he decides to do about algebra, he’s learning a valuable lessone – to sink or swim and to be responsible for that. It’s a HUGE life lesson that can’t be taught from a text book. ;)

  2. I made the same decision for my daughter, after trying EVERYTHING to insure she did what she was supposed to do. Ultimately, she had many, many folks in her high school trying to “help” her and she still managed to NOT graduate only lacking 2 credit hours. She had signed up for the Navy and reneged on that, too… no diploma, no Navy. We kicked her out shortly after that and 3 years later her son was born. She’s broke, separated from Baby Daddy, and still the unhappy, negative individual we lived with for 17 years. Her son is now almost 4 and interestingly enough, she finds him challenging! Ha!

    • Donna V says:

      I’m sorry, but I had to laugh that your daughter finds her own son challenging. I just had an imaginary conversation with my ten-year-old son this morning that I would never wish he had a son just like him (like my mother always told me growing up that she hoped I had a daughter just like myself—and may I say as an aside, she had it EASY compared to what some of us moms go through). I told my son, in my imagination of course, that I would never wish that on him because I wouldn’t wish it upon my worst enemy. But nature has a way of evening things out I guess. Haha.

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