Friday, March 2, 2012

Teaching our kids tough lessons is "all our fault".

It's all our fault.  It's our fault that our sixteen year old is failing math.  This was the latest accusation hurled at us from one of our children last night.  We've been accused of not giving them enough to eat, making them fat, spoiling them, not giving them what they want, etc.  It's all very confusing.  This particular allegation occurred yesterday after dinner at precisely 7:17pm MST.  What exactly did Eric and I do to incur William's wrath?  My husband asked our son to show his math work when calculating problems. 

"My teacher doesn't care if I do this."

"William, I've been asking you to show your work since the fifth grade.  I just want to make sure you understand it"

"No, I'm not going to and you can't make me,"  he responded nastily  "it'll take me all night."  This verbal assault came from a kid who just spent the last four hours hibernating in his room, watching TV, and relaxing until dinner was ready.

Eric was trying to keep calm.  I could see this while I was at the sink.  William was angry because he had lost some privileges earlier for comments he'd made to his younger brother.  This was no one's fault but his own and now he was working the room.  He was desperately pushing whatever buttons he could find.

"If you don't stay here at the table and do what I'm asking you, you will have severe consequences.  It's your choice."  I could sense Eric was becoming irate but was keeping his voice as steady as possible.  Austynn, as usual, when things get tense, wanted to leave the room.

William snarled, "Fine.  Go ahead but you do know I'm failing math because of you and mom, don't you?"  Button found.

How? What? Why? When?  This was so utterly ridiculous I actually laughed out loud.  I realize that in my generic parenting handbook, page 322, paragraph 4, line 12 it specifically states: "A parent should never make light of a situation when a child is being argumentative; HOWEVER, the author clearly did not have my children in mind when he or she wrote the book.  Even William couldn't defend this argument. He stuttered, stammered, and stumbled over it.  I, being the sweet, patient, and maternal human being that I am - who, of course had listened to a surly teenager disrespect my best friend for the last twenty minutes - jumped in and began harassing him.

"Oh, yeah right.  We're the ones who sit in class and don't take notes for you.  We're the ones who don't turn in your homework, talk back to your teacher, and not study for tests.  I totally understand how it can be our fault you're failing math, William.  As usual, you're making complete sense.  Way to go!"

As I type this, I can see where my words may have inflamed the situation a wee bit.  Again, not one of my better maternal moments (deep sigh). 

That did it.  I opened the gates of Hell.  Could I have a "Do-Over" moment?  Nope.  I dodged the eyeball daggers as best I could and avoided his stinging, hateful words but to no avail.  Breezy screwed it up again.  "Go to your room, William."  He got exactly what he wanted.  He got out of doing his math homework.    DRAT!

Yes, he'll still receive consequences.  He lost his bedroom TV for awhile.  And ultimately, the biggest repercussion is that he'll fail math, again.  All he's been talking about lately is driving.  Eric and I have laid it out on the line. "C" average grades or no Driver's Licence.  Eventually, tonight's decision will come back to haunt him.  He'll learn the hard way in a couple of years all about "tough love".  That there are no "free rides" in life.  That bad grades will not earn him a decent job.  That a sub-par job will not earn him a good income, and that once he turns eighteen, if he chooses to live at home, he will pay rent, he will do his laundry at a laundry mat, and he will depend on public transportation.

That's right, teaching him that life is hard will also be mom and dad's fault.  Hopefully, taking some responsibility for it will be his.       

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