10 January 2012

News From the Front

We are about one week into the renovation. We are still in the discussion and revision phase. It's not unlike when the Captain and I hired an architect to draw plans for an addition on our old house. We gave him our specifications and he came back with his vision, which was over budget and much more extensive than we had planned. It was as if he hadn't heard us at all.

Two is the architect.

Despite much talk about how we are here to help him achieve what he wants, he's not motivated. He's dismissive and surly about any change at all, because he thinks he can figure it all out on his own.
It's sad, really, because he's adrift but doesn't care enough to embrace the changes.

That's unfair; I think he's disappointed in his grades, and probably depressed. But getting him to open up about what he's feeling is like pulling your foot from a snap trap. It's painful and futile.

But it appears Two would rather gnaw off his own leg than accept our help, mostly because he views it as punishment.  I have begun limiting his distractions, and his response has been junkie-worthy. When I ask for his phone, it's like I've ripped the crack pipe out of his hands. When he comes home today and sees I've taken his computer keyboard, I expect righteous indignation.

And yes, I do see the irony in asking him to disconnect from his on-line world, when I spend a fair amount of my day on the Internet. But I've graduated from high school, gone to college, failed out, gone back, graduated with honors, and made a life. I've earned the right to fritter it away.

I wasn't actually expecting any more progress than we've made this early in the game. It's a war of attrition at this point. Or at least a staring contest.

I refuse to blink.


  1. You mean Two is a teenage boy? ;) Just kidding. Sounds a lot like what I get out of my oldest. To him, the greatest punishment in the world is, "Turn off the video game and either go outside or grab a book."

    Keep staring, Mom. You're doing great.

  2. As a teacher, I spend a fair amount of time providing advice that gets roundly ignored. A couple of things routinely happen. Often, after digging a hole they can't climb out of despite their fervent beliefs, they come to me in a panic. "What can I do now?" Build a time machine, baby? It's too late now.. Occasionally, they come to me with shock in their voices and tell me that those things that I said in class were TRUE. OMG :D

    I don't suppose Two would find the humor in you telling him he can have his phone back after he successfully builds a time machine. Or fills out community college apps. (They're great places for those who didn't develop study habits before graduation.)

  3. Good for you, Megan. Being a permissive parent is easy. It's so easy as a parent to say yes, saying no is the hardest. Providing guidelines, giving follow through, talking, tough love, that takes a lot of courage. Your son won't thank you now, but he will later on in life.

  4. Anonymous10.1.12

    Good luck. I know that sounds (looks?) sarcastic, but I do really mean it. Have you tried rewards for doing stuff he is supposed to do?

    My mom said to me what someone said to her once when we were teenagers. A teenager's parents need to be a wall for the kid to beat against, break their head on and provide support while not wavering. It sucks to be the wall.

  5. He does sound like a typical teenager. I don't have any of my own, but I used to teach a lot of them. And by teach I mean "stand in front of the class and try to impart knowledge while they stare blankly/openly converse with friends/write notes/sleep/or text on ill-concealed phones." They hear what they want to hear, remember selectively, and impart judgment on authority figures as if it is their job. I hear that most of them grow out of it....but of course, not without pain.

    The best lesson I ever taught (and I taught French and US History so this is clearly not a real lesson with a Hunter-approved lesson play or anything of that sort), was the difference between privilege and right. You have a right to an education. Having a cell phone is a privilege. You have a right to voice a dissenting opinion in a respectful and appropriate manner. Automatically getting your way without providing a convincing argument is a privilege (that you will not be afforded in my classroom). Rights are given to you. Privileges have to be earned. Just tell Two you're helping him appreciate his rights so that he may earn privileges.

    And then bask in the sulky silence that will follow for a couple of days. :)

    PS You should never have to justify taking away electronics or anything else even if you use them. Like you said, you earned those privileges. Students always wanted to know what I did on the weekends. After we established it was completely inappropriate for them to inquire, we then established that if I did have alcoholic beverages (which was their aim) then it was my perogative to do so as I was over 21 years of age and responsible. If they want to lower the drinking age they would need to write a letter to their local senator and they would need to come up with better logic than "but my over-21-teacher gets to on the weekends so I should too."

  6. *lesson plan* not lesson play
    I'm not even sure how to script a lesson play let alone how to cast and produce it.

  7. A friend of mind who is a middle school counselor told me once that teenage boys from about 13 to 17 are so overwhelmed with all the changes going on in their bodies that it is a miracle if they can put a coherent sentence together a few times a day. Don't over-expect.

    On the other hand, don't under-expect, either. You're absolutely right to insist that they treat you with respect. This was such a hard lesson for me to learn. My mom was a doormat, being a doormat comes naturally to me. I had to learn to say, "Could you repeat that in a more respectful tone of voice?" "No, I will not make you a snack, I'm busy" (kid is 14 now, entirely capable of fixing a snack) and to stick to my guns when I have a valid point to make. You may not be as bad about it as I used to be-- but at first it felt like I was being mean. I was afraid in some weird way that no one would like me anymore because I wasn't doing what they wanted. But you know, I've discovered to my everlasting surprise (and happiness) that they actually like me better now that I am a real person with real opinions and I don't back down.

  8. He has to EARN the right to compute/text/whatever. It sucks to have to be the one to teach that. And the work ethic/motivation is the hardest part. I'm in crowd control mode with my second grade right now--learning has to come AFTER discipline and motivation otherwise it's falling on deaf ears.

    I wish you luck and patience and wisdom. I have none to offer. HUGS!

  9. Anonymous11.1.12

    Keep staring, momma. Two needs you to care more than he does right now.

    New research tells us that the human brain does not fully develop sometimes until age 24, and later development is more common in males. Two may look like an adult, but he is probably far from being one.

    Can he take an online class? Our public high schools here offer online courses for credit recovery or summer school.

    It also might help to ask Two to write a plan for his life after graduation. Take him to visit local colleges, technical schools, etc...
    Maybe he will feel more motivated if he identifies career paths or post-secondary options that relate to his talents or interests.

    FGBVs to you honey. Keep fighting the good fight.

  10. I have enjoyed reading the comments this morning........ I'd like to add(having "been there, done that") that I am extremely proud of the four of mine that have turned into wonderful adults and fantastic parents, when I truly wondered during their teen years if they would survive them. I certainly wondered many times if I would survive those years.

    It is a well known fact that the teenager does know more than his parents and that nothing is going to happen to him/her and they certainly can take care of themselves and know what is best for them. I believe that equates to 'they have to be saved from themselves'. That's our job as their parents.

    Hang tough Meg. You're on the right path. You come from good peasant stock and it's time Two and Three realize your resolve. ILY

  11. Reading with empathy, interest [in finding an answer in one of the comments], and a hug. You know I'm in the same boat, just a few years further down the path. sucks. :o

  12. I understand the male teenage brain. I bought a National Geographic magazine about it for the Captain to read. We get that it's chaotic and impulsive and immature in there. That's why, after Two uttered one particularly rude comment last night, the Captain asked if he could hit him yet,and I said no. He acquiesced, because we both know Two's going through a difficult time.

    So later I took Two aside and made a pact with him. We would not treat each other like we're teenage friends. I wouldn't call him a dick (as in "So you acted like a dick to your brother...) and he wouldn't tell me to screw off. He looked very upset, so I hugged him (thanks, Robena!) and reminded him that I love him and want to help.

    Today there is still no traction on conversation beyond "I had a really bad day," but I think I've gotten him to acknowledge that his interpretation of how he's doing ("It's not as bad as you think, Mom) and mine ("Dude, you're failing) are world's apart, but mine is valid. Rome wasn't built in a day.


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