Monday, November 15, 2010

Life Lesson Cont’d

This past weekend was one of the few weekends in November (or December) that didn’t have tiny writing in the calendar boxes, meaning my husband and I had two full days to do what we damn well pleased. You know, yard work, chores, laundry, and grocery shopping were able to be completed totally unencumbered by sports games, karate, sleepovers, or birthday parties. Which turned out to be a really good thing since the vast amount of our energy, patience, and emotions were sucked dry simply by trying to deal with our son, who has officially morphed into a sad-morose-glass-always-empty-pre-teen.

Since his birth we knew it was coming.

For those who need to catch up a little bit, I guest blogged on the website Good Enough Mother yesterday, about our son’s impending report card status and what is going to happen when he brings home any grade below a “B.” Which I’m praying will happen because if he manages to eeeekkkk his way into all “Bs” it means one thing: that he’ll never change. He’ll think he can half-ass his way right into college with the same amount of effort he gives to picking up his room and folding his clothes into tight, neat piles. I’m sure you can imagine what that looks like.

Last week he mistakenly thought report cards would come home on Friday, but no, it’s actually Monday. Which meant of course, he had one more weekend of video games, TV, and computer, or to be more precise, three more days to breathe easily before he started flopping around, gasping for air like a fish out of water because he has lost technology. Which he tried to work to his advantage.

Every request this past weekend started with: “Since I’m going to lose video games next week, can I…” or “This is the last weekend I have to watch TV, so can I…” which we went ahead and let him do. We’re not as cruel as he makes us sound. We’re happy to give the kid on death-row a few tasty meals of his choosing. He stayed up late Friday night watching a movie. He spent the night at a friend’s house on Saturday, his last tribute to Halo and bonding with his buddy. Sunday morning came, and he was a tired, moody, mess, and angry I called him home from his sleep over so he could attend Sunday morning mass. Apparently the I-need-to-be-thankful-perspective is a few years off.

Sunday was choppy for us all, and I asked him, “Do you have any homework you need to complete today?” He wasn’t sure. He thought he might have a little.
“Don’t you have quite a few tests coming up this week?” I ask. Maybe he does. He thinks so. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the study guides he needs to study effectively. Besides, he tells me, he can always study Monday night.

At which point I send him off to his room to bring me his backpack and folder, while I walked to the nearest wall and banged my head against it a couple times in a repetitive why me motion. Dealing with my son and his homework habits is a little like picking up a drunk relative from the police station after being arrested for a DUI, only to have that relative ask you to stop at the liquor store on the way home so he can buy more beer. And I’m thinking in alcoholic metaphors these days because dealing with a pre-teen has increased my desire to throw a few back. At the end of this year there’s a good chance I’ll have sclerosis of the liver.

My son brings me his backpack, and I proceed to rifle through it just to make sure he was indeed telling me the truth. That he had no homework. That he was all caught up, almost. That the life lesson he was currently swimming through had pushed his little head out of the water long enough for him to gain perspective of the shore. Surely, SURELY, someone who was going to lose four and a half weeks of technology (anything with a cord for heaven’s sake) would MAKE SURE their assignments were completed, wouldn’t they? Faced with the thought of being holed up in our house with only his books and model rockets to keep him company, wouldn’t that encourage him to make SURE he started the new grading period off with completed assignments and good grades?

Do you see where this is going?

I found the weekly letter in his backpack. The one I’m supposed to read on Thursday when it comes home and not on Sunday, three days later. But I’m mediocre and didn’t ask him for his folder on Thursday—or all weekend for that matter—because I decided to be selfish and organize my daughter’s closet and wash the outside of the windows with the 10-foot stepladder.

In this little note home, I discover that my son has a one and a half page essay due on Monday. That he has a graphic organizer “to help with the assignment” and to “please ask your child about this.” So, per teacher’s instructions I say, “Son? What is this about an essay due tomorrow?”

“A what?” he asks. “An essay?”
“Yes,” I reply. “An essay. And you have some type of graphic organizer to help you? Where is that?”
“An essay?” he keeps repeating, like I’m suddenly speaking in tongues and he can’t quite make out what I mean, but maybe if he looks all confused and mopey it will buy him some time to come up with another feeble excuse. He rifles through his backpack and drags out a piece of crumpled paper, a notebook with about seven sentences written down, and he says to me, “You mean, my personal narrative?”

At which point I grabbed the edges of my stained couch and prayed, Lord, please help me not kill my son who is deciding to take this moment to dicker with me over the semantics of his assignment. Is he seriously getting into a pissing contest with me over lexicon? Jesus, hold me back.

“Yes.” I reply, sociopathically. “Your personal narrative. When is it due?”
“I don’t know,” he tells me.
“It says here it is due tomorrow. How much do you have written?”
He holds up his notebook and shows me his 1/8 of a page of chicken scratch and I reply, “Well. Looks like you have a busy day.”

The best part of this emotion-suck-lesson however, was when our son’s best friends pulled into the driveway in their van, hoping to take our son back to their house to hang out and have dinner. His rant suddenly stopped, his smile returned, and he looked at me with hopeful, doe-y eyes. Surely, not even I would say no to this outing! There they were in our driveway, just waiting for him, and it would be rude to say no! But I declined on behalf of my son, thanked them for being salt in his wound, and sent them on their way. Our boy needed to finish his essay. And while it would have been so much easier to let him go play—while the thought of not having to deal with his passive-aggressive harumpfs and deep sighs would have made my day easier, I thought about that cold beer in the fridge, and I held my ground.

He managed to finish writing his assignment, and his father and I forced him to type it up, even though he swore up and down that only the rough draft was due Monday and not the final draft. He was worried he’d get in trouble by completing so much of it ahead of time. I assured him, I would be happy to write a note apologizing to his teacher that he went above and beyond and that his father and I forced him to do it. Blame us for having expectations for our son’s behavior, we can take it. He’s just our minion.

Incredibly, he eeeekkkkked out his assignment at the eleventh hour once again. It took about that long too. There was a lot of crying and nose blowing and used tissue on the floor. And although he told me he was “finished” about five times (each time asking if he could now go be with his friends),we kindly pointed out the other things he needed to complete: picking up his room, studying for his test, working on his math, and doing a final proofing and edit of his essay. Excuse me, personal narrative.

He’s my first child, my only son, and I had no brother’s growing up. I get that I’m new to this adolescent game, especially when it comes to dealing with boys. I naively thought the report card status would be enough to change his behavior in one swift motion. Looks like it’s going to be more of a year-long process. Me, my husband, and my bottle of Merlot are ready for the challenge.


Elizabeth Schatz said...

I have just stumbled onto your blog and happen to think you are fantastic! You are so clever and witty and you make me laugh. Congrats on your blog success and good luck with your son!
I have three kids, two who are autistic and I can relate to your pleading with God. If I were a drinking woman, I would be drunk most days...this I know about myself.
But thank you for your humor and wit. I will be smiling the rest of the day!

Rachel said...

Elizabeth, thanks so much for tuning in! I'm so glad you found a laugh in this! I hope you'll keep checking in here to see what kind of drama I'm dealing with next...and let me tell you, at night when I have a glass of wine, I'll have another for you. I know; how selfless of me. But just so you know I'm drinking with you in spirit!!

Deedee said...

You are so clever, Rachel. I have been through this same scene many times in my parenting life. The part I missed was Pam's van pulling in with fun in the offing. Nice touch!! I love keeping track via Facebook. Will we see you during the holidays?

Elizabeth Schatz said...

Looking forward to reading more and glad to know I have a "spirit" drinking buddy!

MBR said...

Once again- this is a laugh out loud blog that highlights your amazing ability combining words, humor and making me pee. Hats off!