Thursday, February 08, 2007

I'm a Bad Mother

I wish I had a picture here of me slumped over at my desk, shoulders sagging and head in hands. It would be a picture of utter dejection with tinges of worry and anxiety coloring it. As it is, I don't know how to convey to those reading this blog how I feel about what's going on with #1 Son these days. Mainly, it's school. At least, that's the most obvious symptom. He goes to his room and claims to be working on his homework all evening, but once in a while we find out otherwise.

Last week, he came home with his third "pink slip"-- which sounds ominous because it is. These are notes to the parents, telling them that their offspring is in trouble. At this school, kids can get in trouble for disrupting class, not turning in homework, and similar irresponsible behavior. They know that this is the case, and they promise when they start each year that they will be responsible, which means doing their homework or at the very least owning up to why they didn't do it (i.e., "I didn't choose to,"), so they can't claim ignorance.

The first pink slip is just a verbal warning from the Vice Principal. The second is a call to the parents. The third gets the kid sent home for the day with the condition that he (in this case) can't come back until one of his parents comes with him and sits with him in his classes all day long. This is a major bummer for the parents, and it might even be embarrassing enough to deter the kid from further bad behavior. It's supposed to be.

Apparently, this was not the case with #1 Son. He had failed to turn in an essay even after a week's extension (which never, ever happens at this school-- usually they just get an F). He had a month or more to write this thing, and I had seen a completed first draft of it after a week, so I know he could have finished it easily. He could have, but he didn't. Even after the week extension, he still only had a first draft plus one paragraph copied onto the back of a piece of notebook paper. I don't blame the teacher for giving him the slip.

So he stayed home one day and worked on the thing. After he'd gotten his second draft done, he showed it to me. Oy. I wish I could say I didn't criticize. But for heaven's sake. You're writing an essay on William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, make sure you spell at least half of those four words correctly most of the time. There was a lot of language abuse going on, which makes me itch. I was mostly gentle about telling him where he really needed to get his spelling and word usage right. Being me, it's hard not to scream. (No, I didn't, thank you!)

About halfway through the essay, there was a random jumbling of words, mostly prepositional phrases, masquerading as a sentence. I could have edited it in a jiffy, but that's not my job as a parent. My job involved putting the younger kids to bed at that moment, but I took the time to explain what he could do to save that sentence (identify intended subject and verb, then untangle what else goes with which) and said I'd be back in a bit after I had tucked his brothers in. Well, when I came out of their bedroom, he'd gone into his and didn't come out the rest of the evening. He didn't bring the essay back to me. The Man (TM) went to school with him the next day and reported that #1 Son had just turned in the 2nd draft as he'd had it and had gotten X points taken off. But he was happy that he didn't get an F, so he considered it good enough.

So ANYWAY-- today, I get a call from the school. #1 Son has gotten his fourth pink slip (they only allow 5 before they start talking expulsion) for what? That's right-- not turning in essays. FIVE of them. Did I mention (I know I did in my holiday newsletter) that the kid won an award for being the "most improved" student in essay writing last semester? We were so proud of him. He was really working hard at it. And now, in less than 6 weeks, he's done this-- simply skipped out on FIVE essays. Maybe he figured that he'd reached the top of his game and had better quit while he's ahead.

Now I don't know what to do. TM wants to pull him out of the school. I want to help #1 Son work on his writing. I'm very good at writing and editing, so theoretically I should be able to help. But I'm not very good at helping. He's 12 years old; shouldn't we be able to trust him to do his homework on his own most of the time? If we have him sit at the dining table to do homework, he gets distracted by every little thing going on. That's why we gave him a desk for his room. And I can't just go sit in his room all evening; I have two little kids who do need supervision, at least sometimes. And TM has his own homework.

I'm ready to just throw up my hands and say, "It's his choice; he'll have to deal with the consequences." But it breaks my heart.

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