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.

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