My teenage son puts my character to the greatest test ever. My patience are challenged beyond anything I have ever encountered. The stress levels I am currently coping with are as high as any I have experienced in my entire life. This is and has been one of the most difficult times of my life.
But let’s be clear. There is no doubt that he is trying. All of his teachers vouch that his attitude at school has changed significantly. He has improved his grades and has worked on his math with my help for almost two months. With a little luck he will get a very respectable mark in math – which will see him into the university entrance program for grade 11.
So why does the stress and worry continue? Perhaps it’s because I worry that he’ll make one mistake that will jeopardize everything. Frankly there are still times when he does things that compromise himself sufficiently to jeopardize everything. Fortunately he has not been caught. Some days things are reasonably good. Other days are horrible. A good part of the stress is not knowing what I’m dealing with from one moment to the next.
Raising a teenager is one of the most difficult things I have ever done. I’ll concede that this teenager may be a little more challenging than some, but I’ve never felt my life so much out of control as I do now. We went to the movie last night. It was a great thing to do. We both had a good time. After the movie we discussed it for awhile then I went to bed. He stayed up all night – went to bed after 5:00 in the morning – then slept until 5:00 this afternoon. Now we’re waiting on him to do some homework. So what are the chances of him getting up for school tomorrow morning? And so it goes.
Monday: my teenaged son’s friend (see Friend’s Indiscretion?) was texting in class at school and his cell phone was taken away by the teacher. The teacher who seized the phone takes the opportunity to read a few texts and notices discussion about drugs. The school’s zero tolerance to drugs is invoked and before the day is done the friend is expelled… no not suspended – expelled.
Tuesday: it’s our wedding anniversary. When we get back from dinner the expelled friend and another amigo are at our house. Later in the evening the amigo’s mother refuses to come and pick him up… he stays the night. He gets up in the morning and catches the bus to school – on his own. I have it from a fairly reliable source that the amigo is a pretty good student. Where did I go wrong.
Wednesday: I’m still upset because my teenaged son gave me a shove on Monday, still hasn’t done any math and thinks I should be apologizing to him. Oh, did I forget to mention the shove? Well the sh– has come so hot and fast this week I haven’t had a chance to blog, post or even collect my wits.
Thursday: Still no math and we learn that his other friend (see High Risk Friend) has not been at school for many weeks. To further complicate matters we also learn that this friend no longer answers text messages. But I’m not absolutely certain of that because my teenager has not had a phone to text him on since the shove on Monday. My wife and I attend at our son’s counsellor without our son, we’re at out wits end and need some encouragement. We are told that our parenting style is the big problem and here’s how we fix it. Thanks for the help.
Friday: Oh my god. It’s the weekend and now I can’t even go to work and hide for a few hours each day, still no math and I remind myself that it’s all my fault. It’s 8:00 pm and my teenage son is sleeping in his bedroom. If he wakes up maybe he’ll agree to do math. If he does it will likely be sometime between midnight and 3:30 am – for about five minutes. Of course there will be no advanced notice which five minutes he will be willing to do math. Just hang around… I’ll let you know.
So what’s next?
We had a break today – us parents that is. My wife and I took the afternoon off and went out for lunch. Then we spent the rest of the afternoon in a few of the local art galleries. It was pleasant – we should do that more often. It was a nice break from the teenager as well.
Oh yes, my teenager’s math teacher sent home an email. He got 75% on his unit test. That’s a good mark considering he hadn’t done any math for a year and a half. Wow! There is nothing like living on the edge. Now we can get to work on getting him ready for his final exam. One day soon I’m going to stop doubting that kid. Credit where credit due.
I learned a lot about how he learns. For him practice is not as important. He needs to use a new concept three times and he’s got it. He gets frustrated very easily. He gets confused between something he wants for himself – a university entrance mark – and something he thinks I making him do against his will – math. But then he is only 16.
He had his math test today. I asked him how he did on the test. He replied, “Good.” I asked him what that meant. He said that he thought he got all the answers correct except one. He will likely get his mark sometime next week. I wish there was less emphasis on the marks but let’s face it. A certain mark is required to get into the university program. The mark is what it’s all about. The mark is everything. So now we’ll hurry up and wait for the mark. In the meantime we will start working on the rest of the course so that he has a hope of passing the final exam.
Yesterday I posted that the math test would be today – well it wasn’t. Everyone is disappointed, including my son. We had prepped for it, but it didn’t happen. Now we are expecting it tomorrow. It could be said that a delay of one day is a good thing, but it’s not a good thing. My son was ready to write it. Then he had to deal with the disappointment of no test. We will prep again tonight, but that gives us one less night to prepare for the final exam. So here I am once again saying, “Say a little prayer for me.” You’re likely thinking never cry wolf.
Helping my teenage son with his math is sometimes like riding the thankless train to hell. Thankless because even though he came to me asking for the help he often acts as though I am making him do the math. Hell because despite the hard work he may not do sufficiently well to make it into the next level.
But isn’t that the way it often is in life? We set of to do something we believe is worthwhile thinking the only thing we want is a little gratitude, and in the end we are the villains for taking someone on a pointless journey to nowhere. Nevertheless in life it is often the unintended consequences that are the most significant outcome of an endeavour.
On the positive side it has been a whole week – yes a whole week – since he has had a temper tantrum, and he has been in school everyday this week. So maybe the relationship we are building through the math tutoring is helping in an unexpected way.
After school today his friend came over. What should I say to my teenage son? Send your friend home–it’s time to do math? Or should I wait until the friend leaves and then bring up the issue of homework? In the end I went downstairs to where they were playing their video game and announced that homework would start in 15 minutes. My son seemed okay with that.
There are times when I am comfortable that we will make it through this math, and he will have sufficient marks to proceed to the university level next year. There are other times when this seems so far away that I doubt that he will meet that requirement. He continues to surprise me with his ability to quickly pick up concepts. If he had worked a little harder on his math for the past year and a half he would be well above the required marks for university entrance.
I try to stay positive. I try to think about only what we can accomplish today. We certainly have had some difficult days, but he has learned a lot of math as well. Whatever the outcome I will have no regrets. I’m sure these days will be remembered by both of us as some hard work toward a mutual goal. In life the journey is often more important than the destination.
My morning with my teenager starts at 7:00 in the morning. I go into his room and tell him this is his 15 minute warning. The 15 minute warning has no basis in reality. He does not get up after the fifteen minutes; it’s more like 45 minutes. A while ago he said he wanted a 15 minute warning before he was called to get up. I obliged and the ritual is ongoing. After the 15 minutes have lapsed I go in once every 5 minutes until he gets up – usually about 30 minutes later.
As soon as he is up he goes into the shower and stays there until all the hot water is gone. That takes about another 20 minutes. After the shower he returns to his bedroom to get dressed which takes him somewhere between 20 and 25 minutes. I have no idea why it takes so long to put on underwear, socks, t-shirt and pants. I am not likely to find out because he gets very upset if anyone opens his door during that time.
Eventually, he comes out of his room and within 10 minutes we are in the car for the 15 minute drive to school. We invariably arrive at school between 10 to 20 minutes late. His school dutifully reports his tardiness on his report card but otherwise tolerates it rather well. After I have dropped him off at school I feel so good about having done my fatherly duty for the morning I treat myself to a Starbucks. Good job dad!
PS: sometime I’ll blog about getting his homework done.
We are back at it, math that is. Today is Saturday, he agreed to do math two times today. We did a few questions early in the afternoon, then he went long-boarding with his friends. He agreed to be back by seven to some more math – he got back shortly after seven. Even though he has bad days, I must admit he is trying. Can I ask for more?
Right at the moment he’s down stairs working on his math. He wants to go long-boarding again after he’s done. I’m fine with that. Some responsibility on his part should garner a few extra hours of long-boarding. Although there is plenty of trouble he could get into long-boarding, it is good exercise and a lot better the alternative – hanging out.
Now it’s after midnight, he’s back now. A good day I’d say.