Monday, March 14, 2005

No A's in Parenting

I remember my friend Carol telling me over a dozen years ago that no one got an A in parenting but you got an E for effort. I remember thinking how wrong she was. I would be the first parent in history then to get that coveted A. And today I sit here wanting to bail on parenting all together, coveting an E for effort over the F for failure that I feel I am.

Here is the situation. I homeschool my kids. Our oldest son is almost 19. It would be a long story to explain why he is still doing school at this age but let it suffice to say he is still in highschool. Except he is not delivering on the school work. He is a pro at excuses. He is a night owl. He is bright with tones of Aspergers. Can make straight A's with minimal effort. They do school via the internet with a teacher for every subject. It's all laid out fairly straightforward in a step by step manner. For a son who sees no logic.

To me, it feels like we have bent over backwards to try and make this school year work. It ain't. Finally in frustration late last week we told our almost 19 year old he could come up with the schedule. He wasn't following the one I set out for him and tired of getting reminded that he was an adult I figured ok - be an adult - you figure it out. He has spent most of the time since then sleeping or playing computer games. Not one bit of school work completed since last Thursday. My blood pressure rises. It does bad things to my heart. I am a control freak still. I want to go and shake him til his head rattles and he gets with the program. I can't believe I typed that outloud. But I did. Don't worry I won't shake him. He stands 6 inches taller than me. I can't handle anymore guilt anyway.

So this afternoon - it's 1:30 pm and he is still sleeping. I tell my husband we have to do something. He goes and tells this son that he has two choices. He can either get up and make a commitment towards school or he can go get a job. He has til next week to prove he is serious about school or he is on the jobhunt. We will give him 2 months to save some cash and then he can move out. He wants to be an adult - welcome to adulthood. I feel cynical and mean and hurtful. I feel like I am the stepmother in Cinderella with my own kids. I feel like I can see into the future and predict just what he will say to a therapist 30 years in the future. It does not look good for me.

If you are reading this Michael I totally understand why parents could choose to send their kids your way. I desperately want to drop this adult/child of mine off on someone else. Fix up what we broke please. I'm assuming that is the story behind how some of your students come to you.

He interprets our consequences as kicking him out and tells us we always promised him we would never kick him out and furthermore if we kicked him out it would feel like he was no longer a part of the family. He is in tears as he says this. Some kids would be using the tears as manipulation. He is incapable of using tears that way - he works too hard to stifle them all the time.

He thinks that requiring him to show up faithfully 5 days a week for school is asking too much (considering his past record he says) and with no second chances he feels like he is doomed before he begins. He has no concept that he is freely choosing to leave home if he doesn't do the school work. I sit in disbelief. I will never get over the shock of realizing what I taught my kids when I thought I was modelling something else. It bites.

Choose well my son, choose well. His heart is super sensitive...always has been. It has emotional scars on it that are beyond my fixing. I have visions of him 30 years down the road tracing his path thus far to the fateful day we laid down the law for him. It makes me think of myself as a teen. I read once that kids are faithful recorders of history but lousy interpreters of it. I want to claim I was a great interpreter of my own childhood and entitled to all my hurts(perceived and otherwise) but my kids will flunk childhood interpretation 101. This son has no idea I have been praying constantly to be able to treat him with grace for months already. In his mind it won't count anyway. I haven't delivered the goods and that is all that matters in the moment.

I know we are not being unreasonable. I know that real life has real consequences. Tough love and all that. I can see it and I can't. It makes the tears just stream down my face. I know this could be a post about kids doing crystal meth or alcohol or so many things that make my reality pale. I know that. I really do. I hate how this situation makes me feel like a failure. How great my lack of perspective is. Be thankful it is this petty someone says to me. I know it is petty. I know it is the stuff that many parents would take in trade for the more serious things any day. But it still is my reality. And I don't know how to deal with it in a way that is befitting a supposed adult. I can't seem to let go long enough for God to work.

Maybe the problem is that I think I am God. I don't want to give anything over to God to fix. I want to fix it myself. If all I am getting is an E for effort I want to claim it on my own thank you very much. Ah, but you see I want to blame the F on someone else.

I got a set of luggage for my 18th birthday. I am sure my parents were being practical but after hearing for years how my mom couldn't wait until we were grown up and out of the house I took it as a hint that she was chomping at the bit for me to leave. I felt like I got kicked in the gut on my birthday. Her intentions about the gift didn't matter one iota. This is the kind of thing that drives me up the wall in parenting. I can't get past wanting to make sure my kids know the underlying stuff...the stuff that is in my heart that doesn't always get communicated in the heat of the moment. That, my God, son I just want you to make the best choices you can. I think of the years of unforgiveness I had towards my mom. I keep thinking my turn is coming and it makes me a bit batty. I see the hurt in my son's eyes this afternoon and it has me undone. Completely undone.

UPDATE: I phoned my sister Deb and told her not to give me an opinion but just listen to me. Being my sister she didn't listen to me but gave me her opinion. She's the only one I know that I can tell to f off when they tell me the hard truth. Tough love is tough to dish out. Hanging onto it being good and right though. Am open to opinions now. Wasn't when I typed this. Was in too much pain to accept it.

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