Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Taking my foot off the gas...

Last night I discovered that there was a parents' evening for my elder son's year group. He had forgotten to mention this to us and then gave the teachers some cock and bull story when they asked if we were coming. Obviously, they felt the need to see us!

The teachers subsequently sent us an email, asking to set up another appointment, because they are concerned about our son's work ethic. This was my response:

I wonder what benefit there would be to our meeting. We all know what the problem is and we all know what the solution is. Only one person has the power to bring that solution about, and he chooses not to do so. If, after reading the following, you still feel that a meeting would have value, we will gladly meet with you, but I have my doubts.

Over the years, we as parents have done more than most to go to bat for our son. He has been granted more opportunities than most. He has been more encouraged than most. We have always adopted an open door policy with teaching staff. He has been supported in every way we know how. On countless occasions, we have spoken the words, "I believe in you." This young man has stepped into each day off a firm platform of assured parental love and support. And this continues. Even now we are spending a fortune on additional tuition so that he can get a decent grade on the stats re-sit.

The sheer fact of the matter is that (name removed) has not been a good steward of the talents and resources God has so graciously given him. In his early years, it was quite clear that (name removed) was a child of exceptional abilities, some of which were recorded in academic papers. Over the years, he has chosen to squander that, and is now quite happy to settle for mediocrity. We ask him on a daily basis how he is coping with his school work. We ask him on a daily basis whether he is up to date with his assigned work. And on a daily basis, he assures us that all is well. This has now been his practice for some years. (Name removed) has been quite happy to let life happen to him and to be a spectator (and sometime victim) of the event.

I, for one, no longer have the physical or emotional strength to keep dragging that horse to water. As a learning professional myself, I value a good education more highly than most, but if (name removed) does not, that is his choice. He is 18 and an adult, now. He knows that choosing MSN over school work is likely to result in his ending up in an unfulfilling job, but in the final analysis, it is his choice to make. And, while he regularly promises to turn over a new leaf, his action speak for themselves.

We cannot force him to work. We cannot force him to tell us the truth about his workload or what he is not achieving. We cannot force him into the driver's seat of his own life. We cannot force him to care about his future. Believe me, we have tried! We have invested time, money and emotional resources. We have lectured, we have reasoned, we have guided, we have cajoled, we have threatened and we have disciplined. None of it has the made the slightest difference. The only recourse left to us is to take our hands off the situation and let him rise to the challenge or bump his head while he is still in a safe enough environment to recover from it without irreparable damage.

The ball is now in his court.
I wonder how the teachers will respond. How would you respond?


V Yonkers said...

What a great letter. Part of the problem is the age. My nephew went through this, I've seen students go through this, and I fear my own son is starting to go through this.

At some stage, our kids need to take control of their learning and suffer the consequences when they screw up. Interestingly enough, some of my best students were those that say they blew their chance in high school or the first few years of college (16-20 years old). But then they "grew up" and realized that they really liked something and needed an education for it (or not in some cases).

As long as they know you are there for support (moral and love) and to give them a reality check, it's time to cut the strings. I wonder if Bill Gates mom wrote a similar letter when he was in school?

The upsycho said...

@V_Yonkers Glad you think so. I can only hope that he will turn out to be a late bloomer. Having been like a wise old man at the age of 3, he is now more like the 3 year old he should have been then!

I hope he knows that we love him no less as we embark on this new chapter, but my own physical and emotional well-being is at stake here, too - and I have another son who needs me as well. I can't burn myself out for one and deprive the other of the same level of support his brother had at the same age.

Hindsight will tell us if we have chosen right. I hope not to have regrets.

We have since heard from one teacher who wholeheartedly supports our action. This, at least, is a relief. I half expected them to burn me at the stake!

heyscot said...

Wow, that's a great letter. To me, it's obvious you've taken a very active role in your son's life and welfare and that you're truly aware of everything that's going on. You're right, too--he's in control of his own fate. We all are. That's something that's going to take him time to learn on his own, or not learn. As long as he is pursuing his passions (or trying to figure out what they are) and he is told that you love him, I'm not sure what else you could do. Did you ever get a response from the teacher?

The upsycho said...

@scot within hours, and totally in agreement. So we all agree that it's up to him. I should mention that he was copied in on the exchange, too. No secrets. He's an adult and I will not have him 'done to'.

DonGuitar said...

I could be your son. I'm not, of course, I live in a different country/world and I'm older than you. My parents have passed on. Well, for what it's worth...

Dear mom, I'm sorry I caused you so much anxiety. I simply never saw the point you were trying to make until I got married. Then, suddenly, it all made sense. I graduated from trade school second in my class (by a few tenths of a point) and I built a good life for myself. I got a first-hand taste of the pain you felt as I watched my daughter struggle her way through childhood. Now that she has kids of her own, we finally understand one another. The secret to a happy life is simply understanding that love is true wealth and the more you give, the more you will receive. In light of that truth, I've always been very wealthy and that started with you. Thanks mom.

The upsycho said...

@Don Thanks for that beautiful, moving contribution to the conversation!