So 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.