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When to “Let Go”?

Parenting

I know that I am far from a great parent. I’ve made mistakes. I’ve made A LOT of mistakes. That is because no one is ever given a “How to be a parent” manual when they leave the hospital with their infant. You are just handed an itty bitty innocent life and a simple “Good Luck”, or so it would seem.

We survived the baby years, and I think we did OK making our way through childhood. Now my kids are teenagers. Suddenly those 3 AM feedings and explosive diapers seem like a piece of cake compared to the final years when your child is learning to fly with their new found wings in preparation to fly away from the nest.

I have always did what I could to make sure that my kids did well in school. I was in constant contact with their teachers, I made arrangements for them to get extra help when they needed it, and I did what I could at home to make sure they were getting their homework done and studying for their tests.

Our son started school a year before he really should have. We were warned by my daughter’s Kindergarten teacher not to enroll him in Pre-K, even if we felt he was ready. She told us to wait another year. We didn’t heed her warning and we’ve been regretting it ever since. Our son has always struggled at school. Even in first grade his teacher tried to help us get him left back but the Principal would not go for it and she moved him on to second grade. We wanted him left back ASAP because the older he got the harder it would be. Kids can be so cruel. Our son is quiet and shy to begin with. If his classmates knew he was left back they would make his life miserable. That is why we were hoping to do so in first grade.

Sadly our son WANTS to be left back, but not right now. Not at his current school. We’re doing what we can to sell our condo and buy a house upstate where the kids would have to go to a new school district. My son actually said to me that if we move and he starts at a new school to put him back a grade. He’s currently in 8th grade and he should be in 7th.

It’s not that he doesn’t understand what is being taught, it’s just that it takes him a bit longer to get it then his peers.

Report Card

Our daughter used to always be on the honor roll so I never really had to stay on top of her about things. She would study for tests, do her homework right away and would freak out if she DIDN’T do good in school. Of course that all changed when she became a teenager. Now I have to constantly tell her to do her homework and study.

I am guilty of always trying to make thing right for my kids. If they did poorly on a test I would contact the teacher and find out if my child could retake it or do something for extra credit. I used to meet with teachers and the Guidance Counselor to discuss my son and what we can do to help him so he doesn’t struggle as much.

My kids both received their progress reports for the second quarter. My son is FAILING three of his classes.

Math – Current grade range 80-89

Science – Current grade range 80-69

Social Studies – Current grade range 60-69

English – Current grade range 50-64

Italian – Current grade range below 50

These grades do not include physical education and electives.

To pass a class you need at least 65+. As you can see he’s not exactly doing well in three of his major classes.

He hates his Italian teacher, and frankly I’m not overly keen on her either. I only met her once but that one meeting left a “bad taste in my mouth”.

It’s clear that he’s not going to pass Italian. He needs to get out of that class and take another language. I’m thinking Sign Language would be best since he’s shy and hates to talk.

In the past I would be on the phone with the Guidance Counselor right away and discuss this to see what can be done. But this time I didn’t. I told him that he’s old enough now to know what he needs to do. He knows he needs to go to the Guidance Office and talk to his counselor and figure out what he can do about his Italian class. He can’t change now. And sadly if he starts a language next year he’ll be a year behind his peers. Also, the place we are hoping to move to does not offer Sign Language. So we’re in a bit of a pickle.

We told him the entire holiday break that he needs to make the effort to talk to his teachers about how he can improve his grades and ask them if there is a way he can get help or extra credit. He has yet to speak to his teachers or Guidance Counselor.

I’m afraid he’s waiting for Mom (me!) to come to the rescue and take care of everything like I normally do. I keep telling him that he’s old enough to take some responsibility for himself, but apparently he’s not taking me seriously.

Supermom

I don’t know if I should put on my super hero cape and rush to school and make it all right again – or do I leave it up to him to be responsible and be accountable for his actions and have him do what he needs to do to make things right?

As a parent, when do we let go and let our kids learn to do things on their own?

Clearly I DON’T want him to fail. The last thing I want is for him to get left behind NOW. Not when his peers are going to make his life a living hell (there are a few kids I KNOW will make fun of him). At the same time I have to teach him that he needs to be responsible for his own actions. He NEVER studies for tests, even if we encourage him to or offer to help him study. He will tell us he’s done his homework, even going so far as to show us “fake” homework to prove that he did something. Even in his Italian class he knows every Friday they need to bring in a current event from Italy and since school has started he’s only done it twice, and both times he did it the night before it was due. He needs to learn that if he doesn’t do his work he will get a bad grade. It’s not rocket science. Do the work, apply yourself, study and you’ll get good grades. Don’t do your homework, don’t study and don’t give school a bit of effort and you will fail.

He has to learn to stand on his own two feet. How is he going to make it in the real world if he accepts no responsibility for his actions and his mom always comes to save the day?

If I leave it up to him to do the right thing and he ends up failing the 8th grade, does that give me the Worst Mother of the Year award?

I have search high and low through used book stores for a copy of the How to be a Parent manual. Until I find the elusive book I have to “wing it” and hope that I am doing the right thing.

What would you do? Would you come to the rescue again, or let your child learn to take some responsibility for their actions and make the effort to do the responsible thing?

Award

Kimberly

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About Kimberly

Kimberly Vetrano resides in the suburbs of New York City with her family, five cats, dog, a tank full of fish and snails. She is also a freelance writer and photographer.

Comments

  1. I don’t have children, so I don’t have any direct experience, however, as I finished reading your post, I found myself asking, “What difference would a year make?” He’s doing pretty well in math and science. Does he “fake” homework and studying for those classes? Do those subjects come easy for him or does he like them (or the teachers” better? Would he start studying and doing homework if he had more students his own age in the class?

    In the internet age, finding a current event in Italy shouldn’t be any big deal. He could even use an online service to help translate for him. That’s “free” points he’s letting go. It just doesn’t sound like he’s trying at all.

    My own background: I started school in Scotland, first grade at age 4. When we returned to the States, I was in second grade, but my mom fought to keep me in the grade I was in, and I passed whatever tests that allowed me to stay ahead. I was small for my age as well as being younger than most of my classmates. I know there’s some pressure that comes from that.

    Most of the time, I didn’t have to study very hard to make decent grades. When I was in high school, I started working a little harder, and by the time I got into college, I was making all As and Bs. I realized too late that if I had put in the effort throughout high school, instead of the last couple of years, I could have perhaps gotten a scholarship that would’ve allowed me to go to the private university I wanted to attend but couldn’t afford.

    Finally, when I was a senior, I took shorthand. I wanted to stay in Future Business Leaders of America, which I had joined in 11th grade while taking typing. Plus, my mom had failed shorthand, and I was going to show her up. Mm-hm. The first 6 weeks, I got an A. Then a B. Then a C. There was so much homework, copying and writing, and I wasn’t grasping it well anyway. Mid-term, my mom and I talked to the dean and tried to switch me to a different class. The dean told my mom (and she told me) that I needed to “learn to fail” because so much had some easily to me. Then I got a D. Then I got what I think is my first and only F in high school. Now, at that time, they had imposed some rule that if you got two Fs in any class in your senior year, you would have to repeat 12th grade. I had more than enough good credits, but it was a possibility. By then, though, it was too late. I could never have caught up. It was a relief that my teacher gave me a “pity D” – at least I feel like that’s what it was.

    I don’t know if you’ll get anything out of this comment that will help you and your son, but I thought I’d share.

  2. Donna George says:

    Parenting Teens with Love and Logic is my parenting bible. As a mom of 5 and a 27 year veteran school teacher, I say, yes, let him figure out how to handle this problem. He is choosing to fail. If he passes, it will only be because YOU chose it for him. That sends the wrong message, to me. If he hates his Italian teacher, then so be it. We all have to deal with people that we don’t like. I work in a school with 46 other teachers, not to mention staff, aides, custodians, administrators, etc. Do I adore each and every one of them? No. Do I get along even though I don’t? Yes. Why? Because when I had a conflict with a teacher, my parents let me work it out. I am not saying you should not step in if a teacher is abusive, but unless that is the case, butt out. Ain’t your problem. One thing I love about Love and Logic is that it teaches that usually only one person has the problem. If you own your child’s problem, then why should he have to worry about it. Put the worry straight on HIS shoulders. He may fail 8th grade, or he may not. I say, let that be HIS problem, not yours. He obviously know what he SHOULD be doing if he is lying and showing you fake homework. To me, his is being manipulative, and by not worrying about his homework, then you take away his need to do that. Seriously, get this book. I will REALLY help. (FYI No, you are not the worst mother of the year)

  3. Dear Kimberly:

    I read your post this morning and have been thinking about you all day. I have three boys, but only faced a similar problem to yours with my youngest. Things won’t get better on their own, so you will have to take some action. It’s excruciating to go through these experiences as a Mom, and you are doing the best you can.

    I enrolled my son in a school in another district. It was an arts school, but had a good academic program. It worked wonders, although there wasn’t a bus there, so I had to drive the 20 minutes there back and there back everyday. He was exposed to all new kids, all new teachers, and had a fresh start. Regardless of whether you move or not, this would help your son, because he feels he can’t win in his current situation with feeling like a failure in the eyes of the teachers and his peers, which is everything to kids at this age. That way, he could go back a grade, and the new friends he meets won’t really notice as much.

    Once your son has a small taste of success at school, he can build on it and take it on himself to produce more success. His confidence will grow. My son and I have a deal that he will get reasonable marks and I won’t nag him. If there are any borderline marks he has to seek out free math tutoring, etc at school, or ask me for help to avoid failing. Our dialogue is that if he pays attention and does his assignments he is capable of passing no problem, but if he decides to slide, it’s all on him and he may need to give up computer time or video games to free up study time. He is now in grade 11 and since those painful years in grades 3, 4 and 5, school has been going much smoother.

    He came back to our area to attend high school and re-united with all his old friends and did a lot of growing emotionally. He also keeps in touch with his friends he met at the new school as well.

    I don’t have any girls, but I know boys go through stages, and your son’s age is one of the hardest (age 11-12). I found it was a big change time emotionally for my sons, but he will get through it, and if you provide guidance, like you always have, he will know you care, and he will make you proud, but most of all, will make himself proud, by starting to become a man and taking it on his shoulders, so it’s him that’s doing it.

    Good Luck,

    Ann Hoy. http:// http://www.annhoy.com