battle royale

It is 8 am and I need a drink. Preferably grapefruit juice. With vodka.

I have often wished that children came with instructions. Some sort of how-manuals. But never more so than once my kids got into middle school and now high school.

Specifically, instructions for how to handle learning and school performance. How to motivate the unmotivated student. How much to push and when.

These are trying times, my friends.  The Girl Child is a high school freshman this year. For her, school has been a relatively easy road – until the last half of 8th grade when it all went in the shitter due to her social life suddenly becoming much important than her classes. It was an ugly six months of me waiting to see if she came around, then nagging, yelling, cajoling, withholding privileges and phones, all with really no effect. There was just no getting through to her. She would either just not do the work, or do it but never turn it in, and ALWAYS with the excuses. The hardest part about it was KNOWING she was capable of so much more and never being able to get through to her.

This year so far, things have improved, with the exception of one or two bumps in the road where I’ve had to lay down the law. I know she has been trying but finds herself sometimes backsliding into her old procrastination habits. Then out comes the Hammer, the yelling, blah blah blah. This time around I will not be cutting any slack to see if she figures it out herself – high school GPA started a month ago.

Then there’s the Boy Child, my new 6th grader. He has a harder time academically than his sister, things do not come easily for him. He struggles with a vicious cycle of doing poorly on tests, a plummeting confidence and lack of motivation, we build him back up, he kinda gets it, then does poorly on a test. Rinse and repeat. We have tried tutoring a few times, but find instead of helping him, it makes him feel even more like he’s failed. He did not do well on the State tests last spring, and his school has asked that we sign him for “Homework Center”, to give him better test-taking skills and help with classwork. Today is his first session and to say he is less than enthused is a gross understatement.  That feeling is carrying over into a quiz retake that he is doing this afternoon. He has now decided that he “doesn’t care” about the retake even though we’ve been studying and he WAS doing fine. All that is now out the window. My fingers could not be more crossed – if he does well, it could really turn things around. But that is up to him at this point.

My parents had no Source to check, daily if they so chose, for grades and assignments. Who’s to say what I might have done in school with a little prodding – or would I feel like nothing was ever good enough, as the Girl Child is fond of saying .

All this to say I have no freaking idea if I am doing any of this right. I know I have said this before. I don’t want to be “that” parent, the one that has expectations that are too high or who smothers their kid instead of letting the responsibility be theirs. Should I be just letting the chips fall where they may? Is this not my problem? Don’t I have to show them that I at least care? That I am paying attention? Or does that pressure make it worse? Maybe I’ve broken them already. That thought terrifies me.

The fact is they may not want to go to college – it’s not for everyone. But whatever they decide to do, I want them to have the OPTION to choose college, and that means doing well in school. I don’t want them to be asking if you want fries with that because I didn’t push them. Is believing in them enough?

It’s a sticky wicket. I’ve got 7 more years of this madness.

Pass the wine. And make it a double.

walk on

I am what can now officially be called “middle-aged”, at a point in my life when certain things are becoming more and more true. Everything goes by so fast now, like I can feel time running out. It’s become easier to let go and harder to hold on.

It’s been my experience that you can never really count on someone, that at some point, people will let you down, important people, maybe in small ways, sometimes in the biggest ways. Then you have to decide whether the hurt can be fixed, whether it’s even worth the effort. Either way, there is no going back. You move forward together into something new, maybe even something stronger, but never the same. Or for reasons you might not ever know, that relationship simply disappears. You might think about it from time to time, wondering, but there are no answers. It’s off into the wind, almost like it never happened at all.

I am usually an optimist, generally looking and finding the best in people. This is a hard quality to reconcile when someone fails you. Each time it happens, the wall gets a little thicker, the output a little more superficial. It becomes a question of how much more of your real self you are willing to risk. It’s easier just to put out what you think someone wants to hear, and then when they stomp all over you, nothing really is lost. Shrug it off, proof again that the only person you can really trust is yourself.

It makes me sad to even think this way, let alone write it. I am pretty sure I do have a core group of people who mean me no harm, but the problem is – I’ve always thought that and been proved wrong. All I can do is inch out a little bit at a time and see what happens.

Sometimes, support and love comes when you least expect it, when you really need it. That is what reminds me to keep trying, that people are worth the effort, that I have an impact on people – that we all do, more than we realize, good and bad.

I am grateful for a friend’s message today reminding me of this, a surprise boosting me up after a trying time. Out of the blue making it clear that even though some people are through with you, others remain.

So I put the pieces back together, in a different order, dull edges on the inside, shiny ones facing out. And walk on.